Darren Lockley, head of region for Electrolux Professional in the UK and Ireland, comments on his firm’s new structure, which will provide further support for distributors in what’s becoming a very fast paced market.
With consumer spending picking up in the UK and the foodservice sector continuing to grow, kitchen equipment manufacturers are focusing on how they can capitalise on this trend. Therefore, we at Electrolux have decided to appoint product-specific regional category managers (RCM) to extend our product expertise across the business and provide a more robust support network for our distributors.
Internally, their role is to feed directly into our global product management team to learn all there is to know about products and market focus. Locally, in the UK and Ireland, they will use this knowledge to supplement the work of our area sales managers (ASM) who are in constant contact with our network of distributors. We have an RCM for each of our key product areas – Simon Lilley for prime cooking, Sneha Mashru for refrigeration, Stuart Flint for cook and chill, Bradley Creese for dynamic preparation and Steve Bowler for warewashing.
Each category manager’s role is vast and involves working with the product development and launch teams, specification specialists, technical support and marketing departments simultaneously to accurately position Electrolux products in the market. We recognise the ASMs’ role in collaborating with our distributors to push our volume products, but we also know that we need to utilise expertise within the business to push our wider range.
As a full foodservice manufacturer with the capacity to fit a product in most areas of a kitchen, this is often a huge advantage. However we’re also aware that we’re competing for market share with other brands whose entire product range sits around one category alone. This is where our RCMs come in to make our lower volume products accessible to the market, ultimately enabling our distribution network to maximise its potential.
This team works behind the scenes consistently to gain market insights and find angles to aid our distributors in successful specifications, while meeting the demands of all customers and end-users. However, their work is far from being completely behind closed doors, as our RCMs are also a resource our network can call upon to carry out site visits and meet potential customers.
We’ve increased the size of the team that is available to our distributors, but we want to assure them that their ASM remains the primary point of contact. Part of our ethos is making sure we’re as easy as possible for distributors and end-users to deal with, so we want our partners to know that this additional support is available, without us changing the winning formula of them working with an ASM on a daily basis.
It’s all about raising awareness – if they want to try something that lies outside of the expertise of their ASM and they wish to explore our vast product range, their ASM will recommend they speak with their relevant RCM. The aim is for our category managers to seek opportunities for our distributors to expand their current product portfolios by helping them to position products in the marketplace, and also feeding through sales leads. [[page-break]]
We have already had distributors comment on the increased support they feel they have through the category manager structure – especially in terms of training and how they have been able to utilise our Center of Excellence. We developed the hub in Luton in order to create tailor-made hands-on training with professional equipment, plus demonstrations and practical workshops for menu enhancement.
This philosophy ensures visitors are open to exploring how the different equipment features can be used to enhance their operation and quality of output and it’s good to see some of our distributors really making the most of this resource. We’ve had a dramatic increase in footfall over the last 12 months and hope to see this continue to rise.
With a full working kitchen, the Center of Excellence has also begun to increase in stature as a venue for a growing programme of workshops and demonstration days – each with a clear focus on a specific topic, for example education sector events, and food safety HACCP forums. We’ve seen distributors use this to their advantage as a real flag-bearer for our range of products and the additional support we can offer.
We are also extending this arm to assist our distributors in the far reaches of the map with our ‘Great Kitchen, Great Results’ initiative which has seen us join forces with four distributors in key geographic regions to host a programme of local events targeted at caterers from every sector.
We hold sessions for distributors who are keen to have product training on something new, or a particular cooking technique, or even a sector they are hoping to break into so they are more adept when upselling products to end users and buyers. Additionally, distributors can use this as a resource to bring potential customers to. This can be arranged directly with us for a bespoke package to be designed, or alternatively they can bring potential customers along to our sector-specific demonstrations days such as the High Productivity demonstration on 7 July.
There is a difference in the career backgrounds of our category managers and we have carefully harnessed their experience so that as a collective they come together to provide expertise and decipher new market opportunities. For example, Stuart Flint, category manager for cook and chill, and Bradley Creese, category manager for dynamic preparation, are both trained chefs. We appointed them to this area strategically, not only because of their expertise but also because both product areas lend themselves towards live demonstrations.
By contrast, when you look towards other product areas such as warewashing and refrigeration, these areas are more geared towards technical solutions and our choice of RCMs for those areas reflects this. Lastly our prime cooking category manager has extensive experience in this specific area and is helping to firmly establish our Thermaline horizontal cooking range in the market. There can’t be a ‘one profile fits all approach’ here as each category requires a different mix of skills and we have built a team which can pull on the whole group as an entire resource.
I’d like our network to know that this added value is there to be utilised by them as much as possible. If there is a question that seems too specific for an ASM then don’t be put off: request the advice of one of the RCMs. There is now more support than ever across our network, and it’s there to be shared.