Less than a decade ago foodservice operators who were seeking new products would either see what long-standing partners had to offer or they would base their decision of whether to go with Supplier A or B based almost exclusively on product quality and price.
For manufacturers and distributors selling into the foodservice space, surfacing actionable sales intelligence was extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. The “spray and pray” approach was prevalent and only sometimes worked to produce valuable leads.
Over the past several years, we have witnessed a seismic shift in foodservice sales. In an industry with fierce competition, where failure is far more common than success, operators have increasingly turned to the stakeholders within their ecosystem for any help and support they could offer beyond the product itself – content, recipes, marketing tips, display ideas, etc. The need for this support was accelerated even further with the pandemic. With restaurant dining restrictions in place indefinitely and little certainty about the future, the need for support from the ecosystem became more than a differentiating factor, a nice-to-have; it became essential to continued survival for many foodservice establishments. Although field visits and sales meetings ceased altogether, manufacturers and distributors strived to find innovative ways to support operators.
As operators continue to seek partners that present themselves as knowledgeable consultants, it is becoming a requirement for manufacturers and distributors to embrace this consultative role. For those hoping to forge new operator relationships, this means coming to sales meetings with a thorough understanding of the operator’s specific challenges, the overall market, and local competition to recommend new growth opportunities and ways to save the operator time and money.
Fortunately, the tools and technology available to the foodservice industry have evolved in the last several years. Food and beverage suppliers now have unprecedented access to actionable competitive data, robust consumer and market research, and high-quality operator intelligence to help them be more successful. Below we outline seven ways that actionable data can transform foodservice sales.
To be effective in today’s world, salespeople have to be strategic while also being efficient and productive. But successfully stepping into a consultative role that spans beyond traditional sales can be a challenge and takes more effort. Good operator data and intelligence platforms have proven to be foundational ingredients that provide additional research and help make sales preparation effortless. It’s NOT just about finding the vendor with the best data. To extract true value from data, it is critical to find a data provider that transforms millions of seemingly disconnected data points into clear, actionable insights.
Gone are the days of endless, random cold-calling against a purchased lead list with so-so quality at best. Enter universal operator databases that are updated with frequency to ensure accurate, quality data. However, it’s not all good news. These databases, especially those that span across all the foodservice categories, including restaurants (QSR and full service), healthcare, lodging, retail, and convenience stores, often contain millions of individual locations. To maintain efficiency and avoid boiling the ocean, ensure that your access to these vast databases is through an intuitive, user-friendly interface with filtering capability. Selecting attributes that are meaningful to your business – restaurant type, specific geography, annual sales volume, existing menu items, etc. — allows you to quickly hone in on the most promising leads and growth opportunities in real-time. Some of the savvier data providers offer a lead scoring model to further prioritize leads based on additional factors.
Here’s a simple example to demonstrate what a well-designed platform will allow you to do within minutes. Let’s say you are trying to sell cheese to pizzerias in Southern California. Your lead database has nearly 900,000 records with basic filters that can narrow the operator pool based on restaurant type and location down to 500. A market-leading sales intelligence platform would also allow you to set additional parameters, with merely a few more clicks, to narrow the pool down to only pizzerias with full-service seating, free delivery, calzones on the menu, an average entree price point between $10-15, and annual sales of at least $500,000. Suddenly your list of 500 pizzerias is narrowed down to 10 highly promising leads.
Focusing on fewer, high-potential opportunities makes it possible to do more thorough research and preparation for each. The best place to start is by looking at operator profiles and understanding what information the prospect would find most valuable, such as the larger competitive landscape, local market dynamics, recent menu launches, and relevant consumer trends. Don’t just bring a “bag of product” to the meeting, bring a “bag of knowledge”. Demonstrating that you’ve done your homework will provide valuable insights on challenges and opportunities facing the operator that will help you sell with empathy and deliver value-added recommendations that transcend the product itself.
Being able to retrieve all this insight in one place saves valuable time, both in terms of the actual research time as well as in piecing everything together. To further save time, some data providers actually let you export professionally and beautifully formatted data charts and graphs directly into your presentations and sales collateral.
Leveraging your pre-meeting research in your conversation with the operators allows you to present yourself as a sales consultant instead of a salesperson. This not only elevates your personal brand, but also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and value-add, which can go a long way in building the trust that leads to lasting relationships.
For instance, back to the pizzeria example, imagine the operator’s reaction if you not only shared a full report of the pizzeria’s local competition but also relevant consumer insights or emerging trends that could help shape menu offerings. And, if the operator is among the top chains, you could share brand analytics, such as NPS score, to help your customers identify strengths and address weaknesses that will strengthen the restaurant’s overall performance. This is a win-win from a revenue perspective and will undoubtedly translate into trust and build stronger loyalty in the long run.
Data can be transformational for your business, but it can just as easily be counterproductive. The difference lies in how well the data is transformed into insights and how easy it is to leverage those insights to elevate your performance. Selecting the right provider and product is integral to realizing an ROI. Here’s what to look for.
+ Breadth and depth of the database
+ How easy it is to set parameters and filters to hone in on your most lucrative opportunities
+ Quality of the operator profile (and how often the information is refreshed)
+ Access to broader market, competitive, brand, and consumer insights
+ How data can be exported out of the platform
+ Location-level data on over 9 million foodservice operators across 60 countries
+ Prospect scoring model with easy-to-use filters for 100+ attributes to rank sales prospects by purchase potential
+ Downloadable and easy-to-share radius reports that help you get a full 360° view of the competitive and consumer landscape, such as relevant flavor trends, competitors’ dynamics, and consumer insights
+ Personalized target lists that focus on ideal customer profile characteristics, such as geography, type of cuisine, and menu daypart
+ Whitespace finder to uncover immediate selling opportunities and monitor market share in the universe of operators