Setting Execution Standards in Emerging Markets

When engaged in the consumer goods industry in emerging markets, it is important to establish what success looks like for the sales team, even for small grocery outlets.  Execution standards are set standards to guide the sales team about which products to sell (not all products sell in all channels), equipment to place (e.g. racks), at what prices, and how products need to be displayed and merchandised.

As Drucker noted, what gets measured, gets done and it is often wise to start with the basic standards first.   Below are a number of issues to consider when setting and implementing execution standards:


Visibility – Identify the brands and SKUs (stock keeping units) that need to be visible in the outlet and channel. Determine where you would like your products displayed, consider traffic flow and complementary products.

Standards – Understand consumer and customer insights. Set minimum standards by channel. Determine the amount of space you would like to control in the outlet, including equipment and display space. In emerging markets, also consider the complexity the channel and distribution partner can handle and the space available (e.g. limited space in small grocery) in the outlet.

Equipment – Determine the right equipment required by channel (e.g. how much space is available?).  Also keep in mind visibility and merchandising standards.

Number of outlets – Consider the channel contribution and  number of outlets to track. Determine the frequency and start with a manageable number and scale.

Compliance standards – Review the budget and set minimum compliance standards. Implement an incentive system for the sales team and outlets linked to the standards.

Visual Communication – Determine how you will communicate success with the sales team. Consider pictures, videos, planograms and checklists.

Report – Consider the report and how results will be communicated. Is the report easy to understand for all stakeholders?

Audit – Implement a tracking system to measure standards and track compliance. Consider an independent audit team. However, create a standard template for the sales team to conduct internal assessments. Make “searching for opportunities” part of the business culture.

Collaboration – Ensure close collaboration between the audit and the sales team and build a trust relationship.

Technology needs – What technology is necessary to track the execution standards?  Often in the early stages of the roll-out, technology can be a hindrance as the sales force is focused on the tool (e.g. handheld & software) rather than on communication with customers and building relationships.  In emerging markets operations that are less sophisticated, evaluate mid tech solutions. Also consider integration issues with existing software.
Patience– How much time do you have?  Ensure you have management buy-in. A roll-out requires patience and a continuous improvement mindset. Small incremental changes can sometimes go a long way.

Training – Provide on-going coaching & training. Train sales staff how to place and position equipment and how to handle objections.

Activation – Set clear timelines for outlet activation and consider activation teams to speed up the process.  Ensure standards are met and equipment is merchandised.

Action – Once opportunities are identified, there needs to be an action plan with clear next steps and follow-up e.g. increase displays.

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