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Merchandising, Team Building, CPG Team Management, Merchandising Brokers

3 Strategies to Retain Your Strong Merchandising Talent

How can you attract top talent to your field team and retain them? It’s no question the effects of the pandemic have brought unprecedented challenges and obstacles throughout 2020 and into the calendar year. Many companies were forced to re-examine how they work and operate from the top-down, and quickly pivoted operations to digital platforms out of necessity to stay in communication with one another. But one challenge, in particular, has many field managers scratching their heads in search of answers. Finding qualified talent who want to work.

Due to U.S. and Canadian unemployment laws and benefits, many qualified workers are choosing to stay at home rather than work in the field. So how can you attract top talent to your field team and retain them? Increasing wages seems like the obvious answer, but it requires more than just a few extra dollars for your strong merchandising talent to feel excited and engaged.

We spoke with a handful of CPG experts to help us unpack this difficult yet crucial conundrum, and the leading minds agree: relationships and leaning into technology have always been key to the success of their reps and their businesses regardless of all the external factors that could impact their daily working routines. While Covid-19 has certainly shifted the mindset of many companies and expedited the need for digital transformation that had taken years to adopt, the business that survived, and even thrived, during the pandemic were already prepared with retail execution platforms to pivot and adapt to meet new challenges.

 

Empower Reps to Connect and Collaborate

In a time when engagement and culture could not be more difficult to capture, this Toronto-based beverage company is finding ways to leverage its tech stack to maintain its culture and morale. Meet Greenhouse Juice Co., which leverages its retail execution platform for crucial data, but also as an engagement tool, giving the team visibility into the other reps and enticing them to friendly competitions across territories and regions.

“Our reps can see each other’s wins and can humble brag about their placements, and ultimately, can support each other and share new ideas,” said Kate Teeter, Field Merchandising Manager at Greenhouse. “It’s something that we're really pushing for this year. The team's been great at using it in the past, but we’re making that an even bigger focus in 2021.”

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Kate explained that their retail execution platform allows the reps to see into each other’s stores for performance comparison, and will reach out to each other for support. “The reps can exchange ideas about what they’re talking to managers about by reviewing each other’s notes, commenting back and forth on posts, or by using the group chat function on the app, which we’ve created for each region, as well as one for the entire team,” Kate said.

For example, when someone wins a great secondary placement, they’ll comment, “This is so bold, this is great.” The Greenhouse field team is constantly using their retail execution platform to highlight wins and share best practices creatively.

 

Build Community and Engagement

For Sara Clarkson, President of Storesupport, communication has always been in the DNA of her teams. The major shift amongst businesses in the past year and a half has provided validation for the methods she’s found success in as well at Storesupport. “My word of advice – and especially during this time – is if you think you've communicated enough, communicate more,” Sarah said. 

“Communication is huge. Not only through the systems you already have but live or virtual as well. Occasionally, we do town halls, we try to do that to have some live component so they can hear from people.

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I just find that, again, because we are a third-party merchandising team and we don't have people all over the country, same within the U.S., these people are out on their own island when they're starting, and to over-communicate with them during this time is incredibly important because it's really easy for someone to say, ‘there are so many jobs out there. I don't like this, I'm going to another job.’”

“Communication is key and making sure that you're engaged with them is huge. People need that. Money talks, but you know what? If you're at a company that provides really good customer service to your employees that helps a ton.”

 

Celebrate and Recognize Wins

One of the most globally well-recognized energy brands – Nutrabolt – has also uncovered additional benefits from using their retail execution platform by promoting connectivity and recognition throughout the entire company.

Nutrabolt’s field teams posts photos of their wins in the chat for the entire company to see, giving the entire organization visibility into the market. Hagen Panton, VP of Global Retail Development & Training at Nutrabolt, explained that while their retail execution platform helps provide visibility for sales leaders and executives to understand what’s taking place in the field, “the biggest benefit we’ve unlocked for our team, especially this year, is connectivity and recognition of the amazing work our field team accomplishes,” he said.

Hagen with Nutrabolt Team-1

 

Nutrabolt has also discovered that by making their retail data easily available to everyone in the organization, it’s enabled many team members to proactively pull reports when and where they need them, and quickly pivot with that data in hand. And through the comment and chat functionalities, Nutrabolt’s entire organization can celebrate and recognize their field team wins.

“A day in the life of a field rep can be a lonely role, so when a VP or manager comments on their work, regardless of it being positive or negative, at least they feel their work is being recognized,” Panton said. “I love commenting ‘Hey, that’s a killer display!’ That recognition and feeling like someone is taking an interest in your work and celebrating your wins truly makes all the difference. None of that happens without our retail execution platform. It’s made everybody better, recognizing that someone cares about their success and is noticing their work.”


Interested in hearing more strategic changes field teams took this past year that greatly benefited their business? Check out this free on-demand webinar for an inside look at the resilient and innovative changes made in the field during COVID-19 that you can apply to your brand today.

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Ben Weiner

Ben is Repsly's content marketing manager, focusing on digital storytelling through blogs, video and podcast production, and social media. He recently served as Bullhorn’s senior content marketing specialist and is also the founder of InVision Media, a video production company that helped small businesses promote their message. Before joining the workforce, Ben was the captain, president, and social media manager of the men's ice hockey team at the University of Maryland. In his spare time, he enjoys rollerblading with his dog Chewbacca, watching the Boston Bruins, listening to classic rock, and playing competitive games of Settlers of Catan. Follow Ben on Twitter: @bennybyline.

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