Food Sales Presentations: Avoid These 4 Epic Fails

If there’s one drum you’ll hear us beat consistently at NewPoint, it’s the reality that your product alone won’t close the deal on your food sales presentations into the retail chains.

Buyers need and expect much more from their suppliers than just another SKU.

As challenging as this reality might be, when you understand and account for it, you have an advantage over the other food company sales representatives who still make professionally naive assumptions and, thus, fundamentally embarrassing blunders that torpedo any chance of getting on the shelf.

Here are 4 epic fails that, while seemingly obvious no-brainers, are nonetheless shockingly common among the worst food sales presentations.

1. Failing to Sample Your Own Product

No, wait. This is absolutely true.

Virtually every retail buyer has a story about taking a meeting with a food sales rep, only to have that rep demonstrate a lack of category knowledge so egregious that he or she can’t even speak to the characteristics of their own product.

As a matter of fact, in interviews, buyers have confessed that the conversation will reach a point when they’ll flatly ask the rep, “This stuff you’re trying to sell me, have you ever tasted it yourself?” and the answer is, “No.”

If you can’t be a champion for your product at this moment of truth, how can your ensure the retailer that your product is effectively positioned for a competitive marketplace?

2. Failing to Walk the Retailer’s Store—as a Consumer

Every store is different. If you present a buyer today with the same sales pitch you made to another buyer yesterday, it’s a fail.

But the key is to look at your target retailers from a perspective outside of your own sales view. Instead, do your reconnaissance work as a shopper, and learn the angles your prospect is taking to engage you, as a customer.

How are they cross-selling? Are they offering meal solutions? Expanded fresh? What kind of campaign themes are they promoting? Are they big into local PR?

See how you can fit into these efforts and how you can bring new ideas that add value.

3. Failing to Lead With Your Strengths

Given their very limited time and very limited real estate, buyers would tell you, if you have a product line, make sure you bring the right items to the table.

Which ones move off your warehouse shelves? If you have an item that’s already moving 200 cases a week through another retailer or even another channel, that’s your lead.

If you have a shot-in-the-dark idea or something that’s turning over at 10 to 15 a week, make that a back-pocket or a “by the way” pitch at best.

4. Failing to Ask, “How Can I Help You?”

This boils down to sales 101—and, yet, according to buyers, it’s still an oversight among so many food reps they encounter.

Buyers have needs and forecasts unique to their situation and make purchasing and inventory decisions accordingly.

They’re looking for partnerships with their suppliers—relationships whereby both parties work together to mutually grow their businesses.

At some point in the meeting, it’s time to put the slide deck away, close your laptop and listen.

The Bottom Line . . .

Buyers are observing an industry trend that suppliers are getting worse, not better, at doing the research necessary to make compelling food sales presentations. Generally, the reps they see are short on experience and heavy on assumptions.

Maybe your company isn’t yet big enough to have an outside sales force or the turnover challenges that often put new people on your sales staff who don’t have intimate knowledge of your brand. Maybe it is big enough, and these epic fails sound familiar.

Either way, the knowledge you can gain from mistakes made on the front lines, at the point of contact with retailers, is invaluable.

If you get a meeting, go in prepared to answer all the inevitable questions about your category, how your brand fits in it, and how you can adapt to the retailer’s needs.

Otherwise, not only do you risk killing the sale on the spot. Worse, you leave an impression that weakens your potential for other opportunities down the road.

Strengthen Your Food Sales Presentations

If you’re ready to dig in deeper and honestly evaluate how you can make a better impact with buyers, check out my book: Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain™ or give us a call at NewPoint, and let’s talk.