You should have a yardage book for every customer - SKUFood
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You should have a yardage book for every customer

You should have a yardage book for every customer

It is spring in Canada and most parts of the country are shifting to summer activities like golf. Although some fortunate golfers in moderate climates can play all year, most Canadians have to wait until April or May. It is also the week of the RBC Canadian Open , the PGA tour’s only Canadian stop. My mind has been on golf with some warmer weather here in Halifax.

I had the opportunity to attend the PGA tournament in Bay Hill this year. When you have the chance to see something in person it is different than the TV coverage. My takeaways from Bay Hill were:

1. The preparation required to be successful

These golfers obviously have incredible natural ability, but they also put in so much work to be prepared. The tool they use on the course is a yardage book. They all have one, for every course they play.

2. The support they have in place

Every player out there has a team behind the scenes to ensure they can perform the best. On TV we see the player and the caddie but there is more to the story.

3. They are dialed in

Attending a PGA tournament is bit like going to a carnival. There is a lot happening, but these players are focused on the task at hand. They acknowledge the crowd, but they try very hard to stick to their plan.

A yardage book works in food and beverage too

The preparation professional golfers put in gets summarized in the yardage book they all carry. You will see it in their back pocket. They chart every hole, so they have a plan to achieve the best score possible. They know the distances from every place on the hole, so they can make the right decisions about club selection. There will also be many details about the hazards like water and sand. The yardage book will include a drawing of the green with all of the elevation changes. This helps them decide where they want to aim on the green to be in the best position for success. When they get on the green, they will consult the yardage book to help read the break of the putts.

These are the best players in the world and they play these courses many times during their career. Regardless, they all have a yardage book for every course and they consult it before every shot. Many of them make notes and track their club selection for every round. This allows them to refer back to previous results and make the best decisions. They also have a caddy who has their own book.

The concept of a yardage book has a lot of applications in what we do in food and beverage. If you want to be successful you need good relationships with retailers. You need to understand them as well as these golfers understand the course they are playing. You need to be prepared and make the best decisions.

Think of every customer as a different course. You should have a yardage book for every customer.

Shane Lowery referring to his yardage book

Hideki Matsuyama making notes in his yardage book

What should be in your yardage book

The overall business

The first section of your yardage book should include overall positioning and go to market strategies of your customers. They are all different. You can learn about these factors by going to their stores, researching their website, reading media articles and trade magazines, talking to people who work for the retailer and others in the industry.

You should understand their position on sales vs. margin, service level, sell through, sustainability, local products, food safety standards, fees and any other considerations that impact your business. These can change so it is important to stay up to date and monitor all of these channels for information.

Make notes of any discussions you have with business leaders. You never know when it will help your cause.

Note the yardage book in world #1 Scottie Sheffler’s back pocket

Sam Burn’s caddie checking the yardage book before a tee shot

Key decision makers

There are certain people within the retailer (or perhaps distributor if you are selling to them) who control the decision about your product being on their shelf. You need to get to know these people and develop relationships. This takes time and effort on your part. They are all different, so you need to understand what they are focused on and how they make decisions.

They do not always align 100% with the business they work in. They each have different criteria they will use to assess your products, your business and whether you should be on the shelf. Some might be very conscious of sustainability where as others are trying to make a name for themselves by delivering more sales growth than any other category. It is part of your job to figure this out. Track your findings in your yardage book.

Make notes about meetings and any other interaction with these people. You might meet them at an industry event and they mention an opportunity or an issue.

They are all people, individuals with a life outside work. When you learn things about their family or their interests make notes in your yardage book. The next time you meet you can ask how their daughter did in the dance competition she was entering or how the family vacation to Niagara Falls went. These will not guarantee you get the listing but they will always increase your chances.

You will meet a lot of these key decision makers on your journey. Some will come and go and some will come back. When you have a solid business relationship with a person and they change jobs or go to another retailer this can open opportunities. It can be years down the road but when they are back in your world you can pull out that yardage book and pick up where you left off.

Other influencers

Retailers can be large complex organizations. There will be opportunities to interact with people in different departments such as:

  • Operations
  • Food safety
  • IT/EDI
  • Distribution
  • Public Relations
  • Marketing and Advertising

You should make notes in your yardage book about all of these people you interact with. I can’t tell you how much time I have wasted looking for a person’s name when I interacted with them 3 years ago. I am searching back through emails and folders trying to find them. You will probably work with them on a project for a short period of time so it is easy to be forgotten.

If you have them in your yardage book you can refer back and hit the ground running. It is possible these people change jobs too. You might find them at a different customer which can be beneficial. If they know your products and your business, it can help. You will be ahead of the game when you have some notes regarding your last interaction.

It takes time to keep a yardage book for each of your customers, but it will also pay a lot of dividends. I think the golf pros see it as a sense of security as well, it helps them with confidence. Most of them have played these courses before, but they still check that book every shot. It is a routine for them. Before you visit every customer, this can be part of your routine. Check the yardage book to ensure your approach is right and that you have included some points that will keep improving the relationships. This should put you in a more confident position before your meetings.

Golf is not for everyone, but we can always learn things from the best. If the best golfers in the world have a yardage book to help them deliver the best score you should consider it for your food and beverage business.


SKUFood Recipes for Success Podcast

The response to our SKUFood Recipe for Success podcast has been great. We want to thank everyone who has been with us as a guest. So many interesting conversations about our industry. We had a great comment on Linked in this week about our discussion with Eric Biddiscombe from Algoma Orchards. In my reply I said we could have had a marathon podcast-so many things to talk about! If you haven’t heard Eric’s perspective, you can listen here.

Restrictive covenants are in the news

The major retailers have been blamed for food inflation. Our perspective is we should be looking at the entire value chain, including the retailers. First, is Canada higher than our major trading partners and second, if we are then where is it happening in the value chain?

Lack of competition in retail is one factor being communicated from Ottawa. No doubt, competition is good and always forces everyone in the market to get better.

Restrictive covenants are common in many sectors including food retail. If a retailer is making the commitment to invest millions in a location, they use their leverage with the landlord to include clauses in their lease that restrict the landlord from signing leases with competing retailers in the development. If you are Loblaw and you plan to invest tens of millions of dollars in a new store and plan to drive traffic to the development, you will do everything you can to prevent a Walmart from opening in the same parking lot.

There could be changes considered that would prevent retailers from blocking smaller independents or department specific like butchers, from the development. We always need competition, but we also need strong sustainable retailers to ensure we have food when and where we need it.