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CPG Companies Need to Broaden Sales Skill Set to Meet Retailer Needs in Today's Challenging Economy...

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The relationship between retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies has significantly changed and CPG companies need to broaden the skills of their sales forces to meet retailer expectations, according to a new study released today by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Network of Executive Women (NEW) and A.T. Kearney. Titled Talent Triage: Raising the Bar on CPG Sales Force Talent Management, the study also reports that CPG sales and human resource executives rated their talent management activities as “highly effective” only 9 percent of the time, but 68 percent of these executives plan to increase investment in their sales force talent management programs.

“This study reveals that many CPG sales executives see a significant opportunity to improve upon the effectiveness of their own talent management programs,” noted Brian Lynch, GMA director of sales and sales promotion. “New opportunities exist in a low growth economy and those companies who are willing to invest in the best and brightest sales force will be well positioned when recovery commences.”

The executives surveyed for the report also identified aligning talent with customer needs and effectively evaluating performance as primary talent management concerns within the CPG industry. Workforce diversity is also a priority for CPG sales teams, according to the study.

“This study confirms what NEW has always believed – that a diverse workforce delivers better business results,” said NEW Executive Director Joan Toth. “The study finds that many companies are gaining access to new talent pools, improving customer relationships and even increasing productivity by embedding diversity into their corporate DNA.”

In addition to supporting diversity, Talent Triage notes that successful companies are fostering sales talent by balancing formal, standardized talent management programs with less formal, individualized employee attention and support. It also asserts that the role of the CPG sales person has evolved from a product sales representative to a general manager able to interact with and make decisions across a range of retailer functions – from merchandising to supply chain to logistics and finance. Retail customers now expect CPG sales teams to bring strategic merchandising insights to the table in addition to traditional sales competencies (e.g., lead generation, forecasting, negotiation, etc.).

“The survey and interviews we conducted show that leading companies are creating holistic talent management programs that engage all players, and focus on retention and development as much as recruitment,” said A.T. Kearney Partner Beth Bovis.

Donna Stella, A.T. Kearney Partner, said, “A high-performing sales team can drive top-line growth, increase access to customers and reduce acquisition costs. Developing and managing that talent is just good business.”

Talent Triage: Raising the Bar on CPG Sales Force Talent Management is based on insights gathered from the following sources:

  • A survey of 164 executives and customer-facing salespeople from 34 consumer packaged goods manufacturers and sales and marketing agencies in the United States.
  • Thirty one-on-one interviews with academic experts and executives from CPG manufacturers, sales and marketing agencies, and retailers representing the mass retail, national grocery, regional grocery and drug store segments.
  • Analysis of publicly reported company data and other published materials of sales talent trends and success factors, including A.T. Kearney expertise.

It is available for download at