The Importance of Storytelling in CPG Sales

Will Salcido

by Will Salcido

December 17, 2021

Convincing storytelling is the foundation of selling consumer packaged goods (CPG) into retail.  That’s because CPG sales teams are in a constant state of convincing. Convincing retail buyers to see their product as something more than just one of several on a shelf. Answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”


CPG sales and marketing teams, in particular, do this by putting data at the forefront of their presentations, unlocking insights that will show the product or products will meet the retailer’s needs. They use data to show things like a product’s brand, market, velocity, promotion, shares, pricing, distribution, and ranking. 


While people see statistics from data, they feel and are moved by stories


Never Enough Analysts

The consumer packaged goods industry has many more variables now than it did years ago. Marketplaces have changed. Consumer demands and expectations have changed. Technology has flipped how consumer packaged goods are being bought and sold online and has transformed the way brands interact with product data.


It’s getting increasingly hard to predict what consumers will want and what retail buyers are looking for. Countless data sets come in weekly with a bigger mix of information – far greater than what people can process. While data itself has always been messy, most of the global 25 CPGs have solved this with large IT departments hiring third-party vendors to set up data lakes and manage databases. 


They use those analysts to interpret the data so they can understand their business performance and create a winning pitch to retailers. However, small to even large CPG’s don’t have enough analysts to extract and decipher the right insights. They want to contend with those global brands that have in-house armies of analysts at their disposal, but they can’t afford the millions per year required to be both a consumer good brand and moonlight as a tech company. So how do they compete? Without a highly stacked data analytics team, technology is stepping in to help level the playing field with syndicated consumer and retail data. 


Retail buyers are looking to stay ahead of consumers’ needs or else they know they will lose them to other big-box retailers or specialty shops. They are hungry for any insights that will help them understand the success of your product and the failure of a competitor’s. It doesn’t matter how they’re derived — analyst or cutting-edge technology — the brands that can tell the best story by continuously integrating, harmonizing, and visualizing data from various sources will be the preferred partner for retailers.


Winning Prime Real Estate

Shelf space is an expensive investment. Retail buyers are like venture capitalists. They think of their shelf as their business and the brands as their portfolio. It doesn’t matter if they own 4-feet of real estate, or an entire aisle, they are very selective of who lives there. Oftentimes, their selections are locked in for six months, so if it doesn’t sell, it’s six months of a wasted opportunity when they could have chosen a different brand that clicked with their consumers.


Knowing the importance of these decisions, there are several questions CPG manufacturers must answer in their stories when pitching a buyer:


How Will This Grow the Category?

How Will You Get New Customers Into My Store?

How Will You Delight My Customers?

How Will You Tell Consumers About Your Item?

Why Do You Want to Shelve Your Product in a Specific Location?

What is Your Promotion Plan and Investment?


Common Stories Told in CPG Sales

They should always start with the end in sight: what are you trying to achieve? Launch a product, discontinue a competitor, increase velocities, or grow distribution? 


There are common narratives that are told in CPG sales that help drive insights. Some usual suspects are new item introductions, growing ‘share of shelf’ or number of stores (distribution), persuading price promotion, or the good ol’ fashion story of taking away a competitor.


Other top stories told through impactful visualizations include:


  1. Showing Your Strength 

Of all sales stories retailers need to hear, the most vital is how your product compares to others in the same category. You can frame this answer in terms of dollar or unit sales, velocity, or other critical measures that show how an item drives category growth. Or prove your product makes more margin than the competition. Perhaps it’s recession-proof. It doesn’t have seasons. It sells faster than its competitor. 


  1. Gap Analysis

If you have no story or good angle, and the competitors are stronger, you go for the ‘gap’ story. You prove there is a consumer demographic that wants your product but can’t find it unless the retailer makes space for it. Retailers will need to know that your product represents a good fit for their category — just like you must be sure a retailer is the right opportunity for your brand.


  1. The Growth Rate

Retailers don’t just want to know that a product is performing well — they want to see that sales are trending upward. This detail is especially vital for young, emerging brands looking to prove that an item’s performance is expanding within a given market.


No matter which angle of the story you choose, make it worth their time. Make them care. Walk them through a sequence of data events that lead to a final, focused insight. The elements, graphs, charts, and slides you provide, and the order you place them in, are crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the buyer.


Just like a good movie takes the viewer on a captivating ride to the perfect ending, convincing a retailer to shelve a product is done with the right storytelling framework. At the end of the day, brands have to convince retailers why they should occupy that real estate. The goal is much easier to achieve when brands have access to complete data and can transform it into dynamic selling stories.  Talk to us to learn more.