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Expert Strategies to Boost the Productivity of Your CPG Sales and Marketing Team

David Pelyhes
February 27, 2024
min read

Business growth is key to success for CPG startups and established brands alike. Still, efforts to grow revenue typically generate a proportional increase to the costs of sales and marketing. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  At the same time, it’s also no secret that increasing productivity can positively impact your bottom line. So how do we shift sales and marketing efforts to be more productive to help offset the associated costs of growth?  

We can’t talk about productivity without first thinking about employee engagement. Engagement is the emotional factor driving commitment and motivation, while productivity is the resulting output (and benefit) of increased work efficiency. According to Gallup, highly engaged employees show an increase in productivity, which also has a direct correlation to profitability, with highly engaged teams seeing a 23% greater profitability than unengaged teams.  

What does this mean for a food & beverage business?  Put simply, building a support system to foster increased employee engagement will naturally impact productivity, more than targeting productivity on its own. Focusing solely on productivity can lead to short-term gains, but it ignores the long-term emotional impact of engagement. Given this, we wanted to dig deeper into the topic of engagement, particularly as it relates to sales and marketing efforts, and asked some of our fractional talent experts at JPG Talent for their recommendations. Together we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you better prepare for growth while boosting sales and marketing productivity.

Engage Sales & Marketing During Innovation

The key to building a strong foundation of engagement is driving motivation through shared business outcomes – in short, enabling your employees to feel effective and that they’re impacting the bottom line. For example, JPG Talent expert Naomi Wiesen looks at more than just getting buy-in from sales and marketing. She advises engaging them early in the commercialization process.  

While marketing is typically already engaged during the innovation process, bringing in roles that often get left out, like insights, category management and shopper marketing, can help guide positioning, ingredients, packaging and manufacturing decisions during the product development phase.  

Sales insights can help identify key accounts for easier wins of new distribution with an added benefit of fee negotiation and pricing. Sales can also provide input on elements of the product concept itself such as packaging format (to meet in store shelf requirements/best practices), case sizes or even front of pack callouts.

Collaborating during early innovation conversations can drive internal inspiration and motivation while contributing to a successful product launch.  


Rethink Your Go-To-Market Strategy

The food and beverage industry is huge – grocery store sales are expected to hit $3.4 trillion by 2026 (Statista.com), and the draw of capturing further market share makes the industry highly competitive on a perpetual basis. In this environment, Sales and eCommerce expert, Andy Rowles, sees increasing opportunities for startups and smaller brands to promote their product to grab share.

In his view “there is constant opportunity for smaller brands to step up and carve out a niche for themselves. Getting a foothold and gaining loyalty by driving product samples and brand recognition through [historically] alternative channels in the digital space – which has now become mainstream – remains a key first step for small brands looking to build a strong consumer foundation.”  These channels and tactics are highly targeted in nature making them more accessible and affordable. They often create more comprehensive and direct relationships with consumers, leading to greater engagement.

By increasing engagement not only with employees but finding ways to engage target audiences as well, you start the process of turning customers into ambassadors for your brand. The digital landscape allows brands to show up authentically through tactics like storytelling and launch loyalty programs that enable brands to reward core consumers for their advocacy.  

Engaging your audience early on will build trust and drive word of mouth awareness, both of which can provide leverage for product placement negotiations in more conventional retail channels.

Bring Sincerity to Retailer Negotiations

You may (and should!) love your own brand and products, enabling you to confidently pitch it to anyone but always remember that retailers are bombarded with new product pitches, nearly every day. Be patient and understand that – even with a great brand and product – you might not get distribution the first time. To increase your odds of success, Andy Rowles emphasizes combining patience, humility, and sincerity about your product and process to craft a dialed-in strategy for sell-in.  

“It’s like asking someone out hoping they’ll be your spouse or partner someday. They won’t become that on the first date; in fact, they might not even go out with you the first time you ask! It may take several attempts, no matter how good of a ‘product' you present yourself as.”  

When you come back and engage the retailer several times, it shows that you’re sincere and committed to launch with them, versus taking the shotgun approach where you’re pitching to everyone and hoping someone will take it.  Just be sure to be clear in your communications with them specifically why they’re that important to you and your brand, which will only enhance the sincerity of your ‘ask’.

Keep your Long-Term Strategy in Mind

It’s often said that the most direct route from point A to point B is a straight line. However, the commercialization process is long and winding, and can be filled with conflicting decisions that have potential to shift your trajectory. To keep your team engaged and results-driven through this intricate path, sales and marketing expert Ellen Watlington of our JPG Talent team advises teams to prioritize budget efficiency and focus on efforts that clearly align with the long-term strategy.

Think about the effectiveness of the activities your team is actively engaging in. Prioritize creating a strong strategy at the beginning of the year, then outline the activation plan to execute the strategy. Use that strategy to determine which projects you’ll take on throughout the year, and then try to stick to this. Have a high bar for justifying variations from the strategy, and make sure the team understands these criteria.  One-offs and short notice requests can be the biggest deterrent of efficiency and hitting strategic goals. Though adapting to accommodate short notice requests can seem nimble and responsive, when relied upon too heavily they often have longer-term costs. Here are a few questions to ask before taking on a one-off request:

  • Is it aligned with your strategy?  
  • Is it measurable, so you can determine whether it was successful?  
  • Is the timeline reasonable?  

Bringing in experts and encouraging coaching and skills training will build on these tools to refine the critical thinking skills your team requires to evaluate these situations and ensure consistency with strategy and general efficiency stay top of mind.  

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