Managing B2B Sales Accountability

I have noticed that the value of having a catering sales manager has certainly shifted after the pandemic. I don’t need to rehash what we already know, the pandemic was one of the most impactful disruptions we have seen in our industry for decades.

The B2B channel or catering channel was significantly impacted, and for most of 2020 and 2021 we saw huge declines in catering or B2B sales.  However, in 2023, and going forward restaurant operators are telling a very different story and sales have reached pre pandemic levels and optimism overall is very positive.  I will reference the great report that ezCater put out in 2023 that highlights this information as just one of the great sources that have highlighted the return of B2B sales.

ezCaters – Feeling America’s Workforce

However, I often hear a continued reluctance to invest in outside sales resources.  I can understand this reluctance as it is a significant investment, and one that may or may not be easy for brands to fully understand its ROI and effectiveness.

In my experience leading catering sales teams, I struggled with some of the same issues and had many conversations, some very challenging, with my finance teams regarding the cost vs return.

I want to offer up some ways in which I was able to overcome these obstacles and get my team on board and support the B2B channel.  BTW, the program I helped to create, 10 years later still sees a significant ROI on this investment with over 22% of total sales coming from the B2B sales channel, post pandemic and includes a major downscaling of supporting resources.

I would encourage you to think of it in a similar fashion to opening a new restaurant.  You have costs that are solely part of the start up along with ongoing costs that are a part of doing business each month.  Get these all budgeted out and create a budget or proforma for the next 12 months minimum and up to 3 to 5 years.  The OPGA has a great budgeting tool to help structure and forecast your costs and revenue for B2B sales channel.

There are three key components to creating the needed financial and performance visibility that will help you better understand the cost vs return.  Although there are metrics that are hard to fully measure completely as there are certainly some soft benefits as well as financial, this process will get you most of the way there.

The three components are as follows; budgeting, activity metrics and sales metrics or performance metrics.

First off, I just want to say that catering is an investment and like many projects there are upfront costs that are not going to pay off in your first several months or even in the first year.  Building and supporting a B2B channel takes time, energy and resources just like opening a new restaurant.  

I would encourage you to think of it in a similar fashion to opening a new restaurant.  You have costs that are solely part of the start up along with ongoing costs that are a part of doing business each month.  Get these all budgeted out and create a budget or proforma for the next 12 months minimum and up to 3 to 5 years.  The OPGA has a great budgeting tool to help structure and forecast your costs and revenue for B2B sales channel.

Also, Lunbox just posted a similar tool which you can access here.

However, if you want to understand the basics around ROI for a catering sales manager you only need two pieces of information, total compensation and net profit margin for this sales channel.  Once you have these you can determine how much sales are needed to break even. Below is an example for a 5 unit restaurant chain. To summarize you would need to generate about 3 orders per store per week to break even.

5 Unit Restaurant BrandTotal Year $$Total Monthly $$Total Weekly $$Per Unit $$
Yearly Catering Sales$200,000.00$16,666.67$4,166.67$833.33
Catering Manager Compensation$80,000.00
Net Contribution40%
Net +/-$0.00

So the other big aspect of this exercise is managing the sales person and understanding the work that they are doing.  This should take place by measuring two types of metrics, the first is activity metrics and the second is performance metrics.

If you actively measure and discuss this with your CSM you will know and understand how hard they are working (activity) and how well they are doing (performance).  

The goal is to understand the outreach or sales related activity that is being completed.  Here are the items that I measure, although not comprehensive they provide detailed insight when having conversations.

  • New lead acquisition – Number of new leads generated and entered into your CRM
  • Call/Email Activity – Number of phone calls and emails sent, also easy to track in your CRM
  • Canvas Visits – Number of actual physical visits to clients, primarily offices and equates to in person outreach
  • Sales Visits – Number of scheduled follow up appointments to sell your product and services
  • Conversions – Number of 1st time buyers that converted from prior contact

These metrics help me understand the quantity and type of outreach being performed and the level of success that is occurring for this outreach.  This makes it easy to understand if you need to work on increasing activity or ability to close that activity.

Bonus measurement: In many cases my teams will perform what I refer to as activity visits, which is simple engagement with existing customers to help build relationships and also generate referral business.  When programs are further developed this can be a significant and prosperous activity and should be measured.

  • Closed/Won Sales – Total number of orders for the time period measured, weekly and monthly
  • % of Sales vs. LY – Percent increase of catering sales vs. same time last year
  • % of Sales vs. Budget – Percent increase of catering sales vs. budget
  • Discounts – Any promotions or discounts on the totality of orders for the measured time period.

Bonus measurement:  An outside sales person can also have a positive impact on your other sales channels as they help drive awareness of your restaurants overall.  Measure sales growth over LY for the restaurant as a whole.  Although there are many factors driving this if measured over time you should be able to see some positive impact from the work they are doing in your community and trade zone.

These performance metrics are easy to track and provide perfect insight on results.  Reporting weekly on these metrics and using them as a basis for your weekly meetings provide all the needed information to have constructive and insightful conversations with your CSM.  Using some version of this three stage financial process over a 10 year span was my perfect recipe for providing insight and leadership, not only for my sales team but also for the leaders that were engaged in supporting the business and understanding our progress, hurdles and outcomes.

If you are interested in learning more, The OPGA has numerous tools to help you create systems like this. Whether you are one restaurant or a hundred the process and results will be similar and positive.


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