DSN webinar weighs in on the future of high-performing sales organizations

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DSN webinar weighs in on the future of high-performing sales organizations

By Sandra Levy - 10/28/2020

The last six months has elevated the stakes and the role of the sales process with all CPG companies. 

In a Drug Store News webinar held Tuesday, Dan Mack, founder and managing director of Mack Elevation, highlighted the new behaviors, capabilities and mindsets of tomorrow’s elite sales organizations.

The webinar featured Jason Reiser, former senior merchant of Dollar General, Family Dollar and Sam's Club, who shared his personal insights into why elite sales organizations think, act and engage differently than the majority of companies.

The full webinar, presented by Mack Elevation, can be watched on-demand here.

Mack’s recent research entailed speaking to 16 high performing sales teams, and 16 retailers, as well as informal conversations with 10 other organizations to help understand how retailers and suppliers can work together amid the current challenges in the industry.

“There are three major themes, or behaviors that are shifting. Companies showing up differently have a holistic mindset. That’s the future. They co-create with their suppliers around a lot of things. The most high performing companies have a commerce mindset, not a retail, and not a digital mindset. We’re living in a hyper, hyper competitive world. It was hyper nine months ago and it is more hyper today,” Mack said.

Mack advised retailers and suppliers that how you think and act matters more than ever and because it’s hard to sustain an advantage, "you have to disrupt and you have to be more vulnerable than ever before with your team and suppliers. There’s more ambiguity than ever before and you have to be more relevant.”

Retailers are realizing that suppliers have choices too, said Mack, citing research that shows that 80% of presentations fail because people talk too much. "I rarely see creative collaborative sessions occurring," he said.

Mack said that only 3% of decision-makers completely trust salespeople. “Trust is a rare thing. 2 in 3 customers don’t believe suppliers understand their needs. There’s a void; there’s a gap. You work together misaligned,” he said.

Mack emphasized the importance of being coachable. “Are you looking in the mirror and truly aware of how you are and are not showing up?” he asked.

The majority of retailers Mack spoke with have expressed that their data expectations have increased, and they expect more from a supplier. Suppliers and retailers need to understand and share information that is uncommon, he noted.

Mack also heard from companies that they are looking for people who are more entrepreneurial, creative problem solvers, and holistic. "It’s a mindset and behavioral shift. The winning organizations have a GM mindset. We need people thinking like a general manager, like it’s your business," Mack said.

Having what Mack dubbed, a co-creation culture, in which suppliers and retailers are listening and creating a better solution together is paramount to success.

Mack encouraged suppliers that a "winner GM mindset means sales is now multi-faceted. It’s a hybrid role. You are a broader thinker. You’re asked to do more. The old models of who you’re looking for in sales is changing. You have to lead in enterprise. You have to be a facilitator, not a presenter. It’s an ecosystem of resources and things you’re bringing to the retail partner. You’re managing a set of relationships, multiple relationships. You’re a matchmaker connecting department to departments. That’s a unique skill. You have to create a piece of art that’s interesting to a retailer,” he said.

Mack also emphasized that suppliers are an ambassador for the retailer. “You have to help bring companies together to understand gaps, needs and risks. Your job is to be a catalyst, an ambassador.”

Finally, Mack said it's also important to embrace speed, and experimentation and make faster decisions. "You have to figure out how to break hierarchies; you have to be adept at building relationships digitally. This is not going away even after COVID,” he said.

Reiser discussed the best way for elite suppliers to build relationships with retailers, emphasizing that honesty — especially amid COVID-19 — is most important. "Communication is the key. Our customers are depending on us. We’re operating on a zero-defect world. Ignorance is not bliss."

There are numerous benefits of informing retailers of disappointing news as quickly as possible, said Reiser, including providing time to react, strategize, and respond. "Surprises are the absolute worst for a retailer. You need time to react,” Reiser said.

Reiser also advised suppliers to “think about the retailer from their lens and not your company’s lens."

Reiser said that the best sales organizations are open to co-create with the supplier and are very skilled at bringing the right people together from their organization, not just the salespeople, to address the retailer's challenges.

"How do I make things easier, faster, and cheaper? Deeply look at an all-in approach. Think holistically about that supplier relationship. Think longer-term, how I can strengthen that relationship? Co-creating is putting your best people in support of the retailer’s business," he said.

Finally, Reiser said, "This is and always will be a people business. if you know you have someone not doing the best job representing your company in the best possible way, you are doing yourself and your company a big disservice. You’re not being honorable and that’s critical in leadership.”