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Overcoming the sales talent crisis within the food & drink industry

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The last few years of disruption have rattled the sales labor market.  

Like many industries, the food and drink sector has faced a growing skills shortage for years, with an aging workforce and a tight supply of younger skilled workers, resulting in a talent crisis.

Not only is there a shortage in the sales talent pipeline, but a large portion of veteran sales talent is deciding now is a good time to retire. 

The disruption has many facets, including people choosing to take voluntary redundancy and early retirement after the impact of the pandemic. According to a study at ONS, some economic recovery drove up demand for workers by the end of 2021; the movement of workers into redundancy, including voluntary redundancies and retirement, nearly doubled for those aged 55 years and over compared with the previous year. 

COVID-related issues, health issues, childcare challenges, and disinterest in going back to work have kept able individuals from entering the workforce. A large percentage of people also cite a mysterious “other” as their reason for not working.  

Another factor is the low number of applications and lack of qualified or experienced applicants. Data from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) indicates that over 50% of businesses are reporting a shortage of workers that said they were unable to meet demands. 

With conditions such as these, it’s no wonder food and drink sales teams are wondering how to meet the opportunity for growth now that restrictions are lifted. Instead, they are now facing a talent crisis, and therefore, any potential growth opportunities could be missed. 

Such a talent deficit doesn’t mean you should put a hold on growth. There is sales technology that delivers actionable insights, supports automation, optimizes sales opportunities, and improves efficiency, all without disrupting current productivity but instead by enhancing it.  

While you search for the next great team members, your existing salespeople can optimize their efforts, serving even more customers – better. That same technology will help you usher in new hires faster and more efficiently. 

Power Up Your Existing Sales Team 

In a labor shortage, it’s all about increasing productivity per person. Sales productivity isn’t a simple science – but it becomes even harder if you’re doing all the work by hand.   

Nothing is more counterproductive than manual, redundant processes that can be automated. 

What’s wrong with “how you’ve always done it”?  

Spreadsheets and manual processes mean salespeople must (if they spend much time on it in the first place) tediously sort through data to find anything valuable to target the right customers with the right talking points and products. This is inefficient and wastes time – a precious commodity in a labor shortage.   

Then, when salespeople identify opportunities and risks, the data has changed and may be irrelevant. For instance, a customer at risk of churn may have moved on to a new supplier before the salesperson even identified the red flag. 

As labor shortages endure, your staff will be forced to choose between spending time on administrative tasks and manual data collection or helping customers.  

Each salesperson gets a substantial power-up when you introduce better sales technology into the equation. 

The right sales software tool can drive up to 60.75% growth for food and drink businesses as it has done for Miller Food Service.

The Power of Time

The time savings from using sales technology and automation are remarkable. How much time does your team spend on administrative tasks, such as data collection and preparation, reporting, and communication, at your organization?

Consider the potential of your finance and sales teams to get that time back to dedicate to revenue-building activities, customer relationship-building, and sales. Would it relieve the pressure of finding multiple new hires? Would it, in fact, improve productivity without adding more team members?   

The Power of Insight

The right technology can identify the most promising prospects from the data, identifying who a salesperson should call next and what to sell them based on behavior, segment, and other factors. Such priority-based selling means salespeople will spend less time on low-quality leads, and each call will be more meaningful – and successful.   

The Power of Oversight

Technology can also help short-staffed teams keep a pulse on the entire customer base. Salespeople can only nurture customer relationships one at a time. Technology can catch and flag key indicators of risk and opportunity in the customer data, alerting your team as needed. Sales teams save time in analyzing the data, and they are alerted in time to be proactive and prevent losses. 

Give New Hires a Fast Pass to Productivity  

In this market, sales leaders are thinking outside of the box for recruitment. They’re hiring more entry-level salespeople, as well as experienced individuals from other unrelated markets and verticals.

This can be scary in the face of high demand and plentiful opportunities. However, if your technology supports rapid onboarding and is easy to understand and use, you can reduce onboarding time from up to a year to a matter of months or even weeks.  With the right technology in hand, sales reps can offer relevant products and services while still familiarizing themselves with your business.  

When you are successful in your search for new hires – whether you’re hiring two new reps or a fleet of 100 – having technology that is intuitive and elevates their capabilities and customer knowledge out of the gate makes a big difference.  

It reduces your time to success and improves outcomes, increasing the speed of onboarding and making more effective salespeople right away. Automation will help them be more productive with their time, eliminating redundant administrative tasks.  

Labour Challenges Don’t Have to Stop the Clock  

Technology is giving food and drinks businesses the ability to drive sales productivity like never before – and overcome headwinds such as the loss of knowledge that comes with retiring pros, the steep learning curves of entry-level hires, slim pickings in the labor market, and high customer expectations.   

Implementing technology that reduces redundant work and delivers relevant insights is key to achieving growth with limited resources. If you’re dealing with staff shortages, or if you’ve gained customers faster than you can expand your team, you need to optimize employees’ time.  

You want to provide them with the tools to be efficient and productive, letting automation handle those tasks that don’t contribute to revenue growth. You also need to enable your sales teams to make the most of each call.  

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