When I first started as a KAM at Unilever in 1997, Category Management was just emerging in Canada and quite frankly was the domain of a few people in the sales team that were gathered in one corner of the office surrounded by mountains of AC Nielsen data books. That’s right – literally huge binders of panel data that were sent to the offices once per month and stored in rows upon rows of cabinets.
Heaven forbid if you took a book and didn’t return it to its correct spot – especially as a KAM. The CatMan people would hunt you down and scold you.
With the arrival of Workstation software on my computer things changed forever. Unilever was very forward thinking in having all their KAM teams to be proficient in Workstation and have at least the fundamental Cat Man skills so that they could find growth opportunities with their clients and be full participants in Category Management Projects.
Cat Man analysis was firmly embedded in the KAM role whether it be for business planning, business reviews, opportunity gap analysis or full blown CatMan projects.
Today, I am surprised at how the level of proficiency in CatMan skills is on the decline in the KAM population. Often KAMs are not even able to use basic CatMan concepts that would help them grow their business. I often get blank stares when I talk to participants in my KAM Training courses about simple concepts like CDI and BDI. Yikes!
Of course, the true spirit of CatMan is an objective approach to the category that is not influenced by one particular supplier’s view on the category and brands within. The goal is to “grow the pie”.
But for a KAM, CatMan skills can be used offensively to find opportunities to drive their brand growth.
In today’s tough economy where every sale at retail involves an intense battle – KAMs need to have these analytical skills to keep ahead of the competition and find opportunities for them to grow their market share within their customer.
In working with over 1000 KAMs from 80 countries around the world I have developed a list of core competencies of a world-class KAM and Category Management Skills transcend several of these competencies including: Thorough Business Planning, In-Touch With the Retail Reality and Fact Based Selling.
Interestingly, we have a world-leader in Category Management training right here at home. Category Management Knowledge Group, based in Calgary, offers high value on-line Category Management training that won’t break your training budget. Their training has even been approved as part of the accreditation process by the industry-leading Category Management Association.
CatMan is not just for the CatMan department. What is your plan to sharpen your CatMan skills?