In the final year of my Management and Finance degree at the University of Aberdeen I began applying to numerous graduate schemes with a focus on Sales and Marketing within global blue chip organisations.
The Kraft Foods Graduate Management Programme was of particular interest to me as it was one of the few programmes where you could complete several assignments in different areas of the business.
I chose Sales because I felt that it would be the best place to find out what really drives success within a global company.
Since joining Kraft Food’s Graduate Management Programme, I have completed six different assignments across the Sales and Marketing functions. I have gained experience of working with many different customers and have worked on a variety of Kraft Foods brands.
New business project
One project which typifies the type of work you might complete as a Sales Management Trainee at Kraft Foods was when I was tasked to win some new business within a particular business sector.
Understanding the market and the consumer
In sales, it is absolutely crucial that you understand the market and your consumers. My first step was to meet with our Marketing teams in order to understand our brands.
As a salesperson you act as an ambassador for your company’s brands so it’s imperative that you know enough about the products to speak with confidence and enthusiasm in front of a customer. It’s also useful to know information about consumer demographics, competitive products, market trends and new product developments. In addition, I spent time out of the office, visiting retailers and learning about the competitors’ product offerings, promotions and pricing.
Putting a proposal together
After gaining a clearer understanding of the brands which would work well in this sector I began putting a product range proposal together.
In order to make sure my suggested range was profitable for Kraft Foods I worked with our category planning team to evaluate the commercial impact of my proposal: e.g. Understanding cost prices, recommended retail prices, margins and which promotional mechanics would be most effective. As a salesperson it is very important that you are comfortable with numbers as you will be calculating the commercial figures daily.
Visiting a customer
In this particular project, I was following up on a lead which meant I simply had to contact the customer and arrange an appointment to meet. The advantage of working at a blue chip company like Kraft Foods is that when you contact a new customer there is a very high chance that they have heard of your business and will be excited about the prospect of selling your brands in their store.
In the weeks leading up to the meeting I put together a presentation which I could use as a sales aid during the meeting and researched the customer in more depth. Going into the meeting I felt comfortable that I could present to the customer as I had been on several training courses since starting at Kraft Foods which have given me the skills and confidence required to help me think on my feet.
During the meeting I achieved my objectives of understanding the customers’ needs and then used that information to effectively gain distribution of our products. Thankfully the customer was very interested in selling our products and was positive about our brand plans for the year. I successfully managed to take orders for all the products I had proposed and within a month they were on the retailers’ shelves.
The best thing about sales is that you can very quickly see the fruits of your labour. It is a great job for someone who is self-motivated and results driven as nothing will happen unless you make it happen.
Once the customer has decided to list your products, it is then the salesperson’s job to make sure that everything runs smoothly. One key aspect of this is forecasting. Every month, I will pull together a forecast of what I expect my customer to sell during that period. This gives the factory an accurate amount of product to produce each month. In addition, I will update those numbers each week so that the business always has a clear picture of what is going on with regard to sales volumes. Again, in sales, it is crucial that you always know your numbers!
Structuring and proposing promotions is another key part of a salespersons role. In the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, more than half of products are sold on promotion.
The challenge for all FMCG businesses is growing revenue while maintaining profitability and this responsibility largely lies with the sales teams. A large part of a customer manager’s role is to develop promotions with a customer which will help them to increase their sales. To do this, I will work with our marketing teams to ensure the promotion is in line with their media plans and product launches.
The category planning teams will provide advice on which promotions will work best and will ensure we are consistent across our large customer base.
Problem solving is also a key component in being a good salesperson. Situations can sometimes create problems for your customers – problems that you need to respond to. For example, there could be a breakdown on the factory line which could mean your customer would not be able to have stock for a period of time. In this type of scenario, communication between Supply Chain, Marketing and Sales is key to ensuring that an effective solution is found as quickly as possible.
Graduate Management Programme – Sales
At Kraft Foods the Graduate Management Programme is all about getting exposure to different parts of the business, while having the opportunity to take on challenging roles and projects. In my two years at Kraft Foods I have been involved in some really exciting projects which have allowed me to learn a huge amount in a relatively short space of time.
I have also been part of a team that organised a family fun day for 2,000 employees, presented several new initiatives to senior management and taken on three different job roles across Trade Marketing, Field Sales and Customer Management.
Working in sales has been a fantastic place to start my career and I have gained first-hand experience of the way big companies work.
The most valuable lesson I have learnt since leaving university is that when building a career, the only person that can truly determine your future success is yourself.