GMS sales agencies: boost your profitability | Sidely

Sales agencies in supermarkets: how to increase your profitability

Margot Bonhomme
February 20, 2024 - 6 min reading

Does your sales agency specialize in sales force outsourcing for brands that sell their products to mass retailers?

This article is for you!

As an agency, you have to deal with both your customers' specific requirements and your own profitability objectives. So offering an outsourced sales service brings its own set of challenges. Fortunately, well thought-out organization and the use of a dedicated CRM can simplify and automate tasks that previously weighed on your efficiency. As a result, you can maximize the profitability of your operations and retain the loyalty of your industrial customers.

But first, let's take a look at the economic context in which your agency operates!

Retail: market reorganization and opportunities for sales agencies

The number of brands on the French market has never been greater. However, this is not the case for the number of sales outlets. On the contrary, after several decades of stagnation, the mass retail market is beginning to concentrate again, with certain chains absorbing new outlets.

Conclusion: it's getting harder and harder for brands to get listed. As an external sales force provider, you're on the front line of this market tension. And to top it all off, several years of successive inflation have worn down the purchasing power of the French, leading some retailers to reduce the size of their assortments to concentrate value on a few references, including private labels!

These are all barriers to entry that make it difficult to prospect for brands present in supermarkets and hypermarkets. The good news is that your agency can benefit from this. But you need to reconcile 3 ambitions: 

  1. Customer objectives: you must first achieve your agent's objectives: sales volume, market share, locations, digital holdings, etc. ; 
  2. Return on investment: you need to demonstrate that the ROI is positive, and that... it's thanks to you!
  3. Reaching your targets: the most important thing is that you reach your profitability targets, by placing as many sales reps as possible, at the best price.

Performance drivers for outsourced prospecting service providers

Your profitability depends on a number of factors. We've grouped them into two areas: the organization of time and resources, and the use of dedicated CRMs.

Organization of time and resources

The first strength of agencies is often their ability to pool resources, through multi-card sales representatives. By defining the right objectives, this cross-functional approach enables you to multiply the value of sales visits. In other words, each appointment can generate value for several customers.

Your first reflex should therefore be to banish blank visits. To achieve this, it's essential that your sales staff make an appointment before visiting the store. What's more, if an impromptu visit is scheduled during the tour, you'll have to make it at the right time. But for that, your area managers had better know their customers! 

Secondly, it's important that each appointment has at least one objective (making sure products are present, placing point-of-sale displays on shelves, checking the installation of a sales event, selling a promotion...). Once you've identified your objectives, it's a good idea tooptimize your sales tour plans to find the ideal distribution of accounts to visit, so that each appointment leads to maximum multi-customer results. We'll see below that CRM can do this at breakneck speed, and with an unrivalled degree of optimization!

Another crucial point is that your sales force must be made aware of the importance of centralizing data. For example, encourage your field salespeople to report data that are important sales signals. Let's say one of your salespeople learns that a department manager is leaving and will soon be replaced. This information is of value to all customers (current and future!) who are likely to offer their products in the outlet concerned. Capitalizing on data is therefore a strategic advantage you have over your customers.

Finally, think about organizing team meetings: the fact that your sales reps are assigned to different accounts could isolate them from each other. But group meetings are important, as they enable mobile salespeople to share problems and identify solutions through open exchange. Don't underestimate the power of collective intelligence: the richness of a multi-sector sales force can also lead to the discovery of best practices that your customers might not have thought of!

CRM, the main performance lever for sales agencies

Let's move on to the main problem facing external sales force agencies: the plurality of KPIs and data collected, which differ from brand to brand. There are two main situations here: 

  • Agencies are accustomed to launching CRMs in order to collect the data requested by their customers. Costly and time-consuming, these tailor-made developments put a strain on the business model and, in the worst cases, turn into gasworks. And that's not to mention the sales people who manage different accounts and have to report to different tools... ;
  • Agencies that avoid the tools debate, and deliver in Excel (or other) format, leaving customers to figure out how to integrate the data (if they have a CRM!). 

None of these options are really suitable: they're neither profitable for you, nor satisfactory for your customers.

So you need to be fast and flexible, which is bound to improve your conversion rate! The solution is to opt for a SaaS CRM (or web-based software), so you can rapidly deploy your customer accounts. The key: customer account creation in a few clicks, job launch and setup (with data ready for integration) in no time at all, and ultra-fast tracking/extraction of performance data.

By opting for a retail-oriented mobile CRM, you enable your sales force to carry out their shelf surveys in an ultra-fast and intuitive way, with customized business and brand forms, pre-configured according to the data to be collected. Gone are the days when your sales staff had to scatter themselves between a multitude of tools, data and reports: all they have to do now is open their app from a point of sale and work on the forms relating to the brands in their portfolios!

Your new CRM enables you to meet both your customers' sales objectives and your own profitability targets.

Business objectives specific to mass retailing Functions your CRM must include
Sales performance / Locations Number of visits, coverage rate, visit frequency, etc.
In-store presence Digital Retention (D.t.N.), Digital Distribution (DN), Linear Share, Data Sharing.
Product performance 20/80 ratio (20% of products produce 80% of value) , Innovation (product launches).
Promotional performance Number of boxes sold.
Merchandising / representation performance POS, shelf height, etc.

In addition, your sales agency's CRM must enable automated reporting: in just a few clicks, you can design results tracking templates that meet your customers' needs. Once these templates are ready, monthly reports are generated instantly.

Last but not least, the sales software used by your staff must work with a maximum number of integrations (third-party applications) and interface easily with existing customer-side workflows. As the triggering of sales and orders has a direct impact on their logistics, your CRM must be able to interact with the business processes and other specific tools used by manufacturers. Ideally, you should use a SAAS CRM with an open API, so that you can develop the necessary integrations with your customer's software.

To help you choose your future CRM/SFA, we've listed the most important criteria in a document.

Now that we've delved into organization and technology, let's turn our attention to sales efficiency. To help you win over your next customers, Sidely has compiled a list of 10 points of concern for manufacturers present in supermarkets, which you can turn into selling points!

10 key arguments that sales agencies can promote to brands

As an outsourced sales force agency in the retail sector, you have many assets at your disposal to convince brands to place their trust in you:

  1. Sector expertise: highlight your in-depth knowledge of the retail sector, including market trends, competition and consumer preferences;
  2. Highly qualified team: highlight the competence and experience of your sales staff, demonstrating your ability to effectively represent partner brands;
  3. Geographical coverage: highlight the reach of your sales team, and show that you are capable of developing the agent company's network, whether in terms of geographical areas, banners or sales outlets; 
  4. Flexibility: demonstrate your ability to adapt quickly to market changes and your customers' strategic evolutions; 
  5. Technology and innovation: highlight the use of modern technologies to optimize operations, improve product visibility and provide quality analytical data. At Sidely, this is one of our credos: offering you an application to boost your performance and that of your customers. Ready for a change?
  6. Proven results: present case studies and concrete examples of past or current success, demonstrating your ability to generate tangible results for the brands you represent. Confidentiality agreements do not prevent you from producing anonymized graphs highlighting the most prized statistics: digital detention, digital distribution etc. ;
  7. Relationships with distributors: highlight your close relationships with major retailers, showing that you can negotiate agreements that are advantageous to the brands you represent;
  8. Ongoing training: make the most of the ongoing training courses you offer your field sales team;
  9. Transparent communication: underline your commitment to clear communication with partner brands, and reassure them by explaining how information will be shared and reported; 
  10. Return on investment (ROI ): show how your agency can maximize brand profitability. Different KPI's can be convincing: compare the cost of a salaried sales person with that of an external sales person, or make a projection based on the customer's current performance. For example, if the client achieves X sales at 20 points of sale, estimate the sales achieved at 30 at the end of the campaign. etc. 

A successful start-up phase is all the more strategic for you, as profitability increases at the end of this phase. Indeed, the greatest training and adaptation efforts take place at the start of the contract. Once your sales agents have mastered the customer's environment, meetings, debriefs and reports are spaced out more frequently, and the transformation rate in the field increases. What's more, if the collaboration solidifies and the customer sees an attractive ROI, there's no reason to back out or go back to recruiting field sales representatives. On the contrary, it's even likely that they'll gradually increase their services!

With these different keys, you should be able to improve the profitability of your sales agency specializing in sales to large and medium-sized retailers. 

If you still have questions about performance in the retail sector, don't hesitate to contact us!

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