Julian Shine, the MD of Newport-based distributor Shine Catering Systems, details how his firm’s sales teams are increasingly viewed as an extension of the construction team on commercial kitchen projects:
Over the past 10 years our time to market has been progressively squeezed by the demands of our clients and their reluctance to commit to our early engagement for integration of the catering facility’s design intent package within the program of works, data release, logistics, building fabric and building services plans. Inversely, during the same period, our contractual liabilities have extended as client-side resources are being stripped back and, unadvisedly, the foodservice consultants are increasingly not being novated to the construction teams.
We have never seen this change more aggressively expressed than over the last 12 months. What has become clear is that to survive and flourish within this new environment, the business of incremental changes year on year is no longer good enough.
Our clients’ risk appetite has typically diminished, and our sales activity is becoming much more consultative as a consequence. Not on facilities design, but about the efficient integration and delivery of a catering facility within their construction project. Our sales team are presenting alongside our clients to their clients as an extension of the construction team, and in some cases the features and benefits approach has been displaced by a sales team fully conversant with our strategies regarding safe and efficient delivery of quality and protection of the environment.
We spend more time selling our well-established systems for the mitigation of risk and the enhancement of ‘whole life’ benefits than if we have a closed or open cooking system or the attributes of a whole foods or cook chill ethos. However, these more traditional areas still remain essential understanding for the more holistic approach to the sales process that we undertake.
Our sales and operational activity is becoming more integrated and the sales interface with our clients more expert in our delivery of services and more specialist in the management of our intellectual property (IP). More than 50% of our resource is spent prior to delivery of any equipment to site, and selling our ability to manage this very complex stage of the overall process is key. Appointments have and are being made that now sit increasingly within the sales team that would never have been considered as such previously.
Continuing to provide this wider service to our clients, as we have over the last year, has kept us well placed for the eventual resumption of ‘normal times’; whatever they may be! As new clients have been pushed towards our sales team due to this maintenance and enhancement of service, we have been pushed towards our supply chain that has maintained a service. Those that have or had gone into hibernation have lost ground. When our sales team need information from our supply chain, invariably we need it now. Empty offices and messages that ‘X’ is on furlough Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays may protect net worth but will do nothing for future trading prospects, as supply has already been switched.
Selling features and benefits and fit for purpose is no longer good enough. Times have changed and we now have to sell innovation, specialism and expertise. We are a vital cog in a very complex machine and selling this will avoid being commoditised.