MINNEAPOLIS -- General Mills here has revamped its sales organization structure to better tailor its approach to individual retail accounts.
Under what the company is calling its "personalized sales structure," sales, customer service and distribution are being integrated into teams devoted to individual accounts.
General Mills spokeswoman Pam Becker confirmed that the field sales force is presently discussing the new approach with its accounts in field presentations. She said the company declined to discuss the new structure further.
The company also described the Personalized Sales Structure in general terms in a series of advertisements it has run in industry trade papers. "You get increased efficiency, coordination and a greater sharing of expertise," read part of one ad.
"Even our marketing divisions are efficiently aligned around shopping behavior and corresponding categories," the ad continued.
Industry sources said the announcement marked the nationwide extension of an account team approach General Mills began testing as early as 1992 out of its Fontana, Calif., regional headquarters with selected customers on the West Coast.
"They set up the first prototype in southern California at Ralphs," said Burt Flickenger 3rd, director at Management Horizons, New York.
Later that year the company also began testing, out of its South Buffalo, N.Y., plant, full-function supply-chain integration for major customers, he added. Those activities have been steadily expanded each year until now.
"The test was so successful in the East that it helped them gain share leadership in key weeks in some markets. Now Mills is neck and neck in the race with Kellogg," Flickenger said.
Currently, the company's total go-to-market system is based on multifunctional teams, he said.
While the teams are not yet being compensated on a profit and loss basis, the company has put some of the purse strings in the team's hands.
Paul Kelly, principal at Silvermine Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., expressed some skepticism at what he called the "mad rush" to customer teams. "One thing they don't seem to have considered is whether the trade really wants all this attention," he said.
"Many brand marketers are putting boxes into their organization charts like 'category management analyst,' but then they have a hard time filling the boxes," Kelly said.
Flickenger had a more positive outlook: "This program can help General Mills get closer to share leadership, because it is a fully bundled program for the trade with exceptional consumer support. It will present a huge challenge to Kellogg, to Kraft's Post Cereals and to Ralcorp."