Teamwork concept

“I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.” — John D. Rockefeller

Not only has the pandemic made for increased anxiety for the collective, it has created stress for firms that sell into restaurants and onsite foodservice. Last year at this time who would have known half the U.S. Foodservice Market would be closed?

Firms that sell to retail and foodservice are better suited to hedge and place more emphasis on supermarkets and mass merchandisers. Manufacturers with a sole focus on the foodservice industry haven’t been as lucky. We have observed – and helped – foodservice-focused firms to pivot sales, marketing and operations efforts to take advantage of retail through our advisory services and lead generation programs.

Here are three ideas to consider when selling in a challenging climate:


1. Sell into Current Customers

It costs 25 times more to acquire a new client than to keep an existing one. Existing clients are familiar with your products, representatives and overall reputation. When it comes down to two similar products, the firm they trust will likely win the business.

During the pandemic, it is increasingly important clients keep your firm top-of-mind. Prior to any effort, do your homework. Take an interest in your customer’s customer, and even crack a 10-k or two to learn what strategic challenges they face. Honest and altruistic actions will lead to further trust and additional business when the time comes. 


2. Extend the Length of Agreements

In this uncertain time, buyers are likely concerned about long-term contracts because of the outlook of their own firm and of the industry as a whole. 

Your customers may resist because they don’t like making long-term commitments right now. But if you can make them see why it’s of value to them during this crisis (such as price-locks or delayed payments), both you and your client will win.


3. Ask for Referrals

The best way to earn the trust of a new customer – or an existing one trying a new product or service –  is from one of your own clients. In this environment, firms must exceed client expectations not only for repeat business, but to count on them for referring your firm to peers in the industry.

A referral about your excellent products from a client to a potential prospect is also more powerful than coming directly from your marketers or salespeople.


“This Too Shall Pass”

The Covid-19 crisis is like nothing the modern industry has faced, but as the saying goes, “this too shall pass.”  

In the meantime, avoid quota fears and experiment with different business development approaches to generate organizational excitement and optimism. Think of it as a business school case study and tackle it as a team. Zoom meetings have never made it easier to gather a group at a moment’s notice.


Tim Powell is a Managing Principal of Foodservice IP. Tim serves as a trusted foodservice adviser to management at several food companies.

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