FMCG sales hiring – Change your mindset, change the game

Clients often put it to me that there’s a scarcity of quality professionals looking for that second or third job in the Sales and Account Management space in FMCG.

If you’re struggling to hire National Account Executives (NAE) and Junior Commercial talent, there are some hard truths to face in the key reasons for this:

·  Not prepared to reward appropriately – it might seem obvious, but where an individual has had over a year’s exposure to P&L, they need to be adequately rewarded. Especially if they have the right skill set! It’s rare these candidates can be secured for packages lower than £40k per annum.

·  Candidates are in demand – those who want a £10k pay rise and will only work for a top 20 FMCG brand might sound bold, but in reality this is a reasonable market rate and requirement when it comes to salary change.

·  Candidates have greater choice – it isn’t all about the top brands, though. These days there is a whole new world of choice in the SME space. The next wave of Innocent drinks copycats may entice with a cool office, flexible working, and other perks, and there’s nothing to stop candidates stepping outside the sector into Consulting, Finance, or Tech, to use their client-facing experience to command a premium.

·  Limited entry opportunities – not that many people want to trek round the country in a branded mini for a couple of years to get the chance to secure an admin-led NAE role. Yet that’s often the entry point for those who want to enter FMCG sales outside of graduate schemes! What gives?! Field sales experience is useful, but is rarely a springboard into national accounts these days.

There’s a solution!

Invest in grad schemes / programmes and you’ll hold on to your talent for longer. Candidates who enter the sector earning at £30,000 can easily be progressed within 2–3 years to a larger role earning up to £15–20k more and it’s often at this point they need a career move to smash through the glass ceiling to the next level.

 Aside from this, my advice to FMCG hiring managers is that you must, must open your eyes and understand there is a huge pool of talent outside FMCG. You can do so much better than only hiring people who have worked in FMCG (moving from retail buying doesn’t count), doing the same role in a similar business. Great talent is desperate to get into FMCG and can be attracted from some of the sectors mentioned above and elsewhere.

Unfortunately the industry is still blinkered, and mainly hiring from within. The bulk of hiring managers want candidates who ‘tick every box’ (cringing phrase). Get real: that candidate will be bored in three months and looking for his next step in 12 months at the latest, and there’s always someone else prepared to offer an extra £10k and a bigger job.

So, forget the industry and focus on the person – find the right competencies, the right personal attributes, which match your brand values, and train the rest! In three months, that person will be a far stronger, positive employee and genuinely grateful for the opportunity your business gave them.

If you want to read more about this topic and understand why sales professionals are moving from retail to supplier side more and more, check out my colleague, Richard Bowen’s most recent blog.


David Jenkins

Managing Director

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