Surviving foodservice industry’s merger mania

Food manufacturers and distributors that merge, purge, right-size and organizationally change are so common these days that we sometimes forget tens-of-thousands of people in our industry are in upheaval at any given moment.

U.S. Foods’ announcement that it will launch an IPO is the latest shift after its wedding to Sysco was called off.  The business wheels roll on as they must even though changes can be tough for those on the inside trying to stay focused while their jobs may be shifting all around them.

Ironically, the chaos can be a good time to shine without increasing the risk of getting your head chopped off.  In fact, being pragmatically proactive just might help save your butt.

Organizational changes often cause the most confusion out in the sales force.  Customers raise questions that reps can’t answer.  Or company reps and brokers look for ways to shift conversations back to business rather than organizational matters.

Heck, I hear stories all the time about reps who are told to start pitching product lines they didn’t even know their company owned!

We marketers can help a bit:

  • Nobody discourages training. You probably will have a more willing audience than ever if you proactively offer sales training to your field teams.  They’re looking for anything to help solidify around a positive message they can deliver to customers.
  • Be the hotline. Being an easily accessible resource for stressed-out reps is short-term pain for long-term gain. Once things settle, those reps you help will be loyal brand champions for those slow-moving broccoli turnovers you’ve got to move down the road.
  • Create the “sales pitch.”  New reps that are absorbed by your company often don’t know what they don’t know.  Throwing them product brochures will only go so far.  Offer up some short videos as a life-line that they can share with customers about why your products make sense until these newbies can get their own product pitch smoothed out.