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We’ve built a comm platform for frontline employees, suggestions on who to talk to at chains?

I've been working on a communication tool designed to help improve communication flow between front line workers. Think about being able to have a barista in San Francisco who may have a problem get advise from a peer in NYC who had a similar problem and solved it. Submissions are upvoted or downvoted, or is there is no traction around it the suggestion expires and get achieved after 7 days to keep the environment clean, and the employees are guided through how to submit their suggestions so they are quick to read, and productive.

The system includes tools for managers to discover trending discussion happening through their teams, the system filters upvoted topics to the top so managers can take action if needed and recognize employees contributing to continuous improvement. They can also send out polls and surveys to their team quickly to get instant feedback.

We're getting traction with ad agencies, where ideas flow is currency, but we really think retailers would benefit from the system through continuous improvement, more engaged employees and talent discovery.

I'm having a hard time identifying the point of entry within chain retailers. I would think HR would be interested since the system helps engage/retain employees and improve moral. However, HR dept generally don't have budgets and rarely purchase products. IT would be involved because it is a comms system, but I'm not sure if that's the right entry point either. Anyone have experience selling tech to these types of businesses?

4 Replies

Lucas Jaz
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Lucas Jaz Entrepreneur
Cofounder at Westeros
Don't know what you've tried thus far, but a couple things come to mind
- Dont start with the big guys - the sales cycle is long, even after you find the right person.
- to small or medium sized folks - even if they only have a few stores - you'll learn a ton and it will be much easier to find the person there who can make decisions
- saw your profile and I don't see that you're looking for an advisor in this arena - I think it's worth look at FD:Advisors for those that know retail and retail technology - not to sell to them but to talk to them 1:1
Tamas Kalman
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Tamas Kalman Entrepreneur
Consultant at Squidcode & Co-Founder at Tryp
stackoverflow.com ?
Richard Pridham
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Richard Pridham Entrepreneur • Advisor
Investor, President & CEO at Retina Labs
I sold into retail for 10 years. Here are some suggestions for penetrating accounts:

1) For what you are selling, you may have multiple stakeholders to approach:

- HR & training, performance excellence, org development...
- To a lesser extent, store operations (every multi-location retailer has a people in store ops)

2) Get a subscription to the Chain Store Guide (chainstoreguide.com). CGS is a database (like Hoovers or Sales Genie) but specific to retail (including restaurants). It has relatively up-to-date contact info for just about every retailer in North America (including small <50 store brands). Want to know who your key contacts are at Target, it's all there plus a whole lot of info on each retail account (contacts, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, locations, sales, etc...). You can search by retail category, size, geography and filter by job title, role, etc...export your list and use for lead gen campaign. It's an indispensable tool if you're selling into retail. Well worth the $2K annual subscription.

Regarding the issue of targeting large or small retailers, I have mixed feelings. If they're too small they often don't have the financial resources to pay for what you're selling and you end up spending a lot of time evangelizing. There's also the critical mass issue. Some business problems are far more acute at large scale. A chain with 50,000 employees is going to have different pain points than one with 5,000. In my experience, sometimes selling to smaller retailers took just as much time as the big deals I've done. But going big takes a lot of time and you have to use a TAS (Target Account Selling approach). There's big (like Staples, Container Store...) and then there's "really BIG" (Walmart, Starbucks, McDonalds...). Yes, these are tough to penetrate. For solutions I was selling, I had a lot of success in the mid-market tier (chains with 250-1500 locations). Deal sizes were good and sales cycles reasonable plus you could get to decision makers a bit easier. Then there's the retail category. They're not all the same. The problem you're solving may be more acute, for example, in eye-ware retail than in grocery. So I guess it's the Goldilocks syndrome...find the market segment that's just right.

Sankar Patel
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Sankar Patel Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at UpCurrent, Advisor, Invester
Thank you Richard and Lucus for the great advise, very helpful.

Lucas, I am absolutely looking for advisors in this space and am updating my profile to reflect this right now.

Happy to discuss further.
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