From grocery stores to mass merchandisers, drug stores to computer specialty chains, Ex-Sell services Canadian retailers far and wide. Not only do they provide brand education and training to diverse retailers, Ex-Sell Sales and Merchandising also sends brand ambassadors, merchandisers and other field reps to stock, set up and sell at client retail stores.

What’s the secret to successfully managing off-site employee work for such an extensive client base? Ex-Sell CEO Ron Apel says it all comes down to trust. Natural Insight recently spoke with Ron about how he manages the client and employee trust that’s kept Ex-Sell successfully promoting stores for the past 25 years.

Hi Ron, how does Ex-Sell establish client trust?

Most field reps’ tasks take place at client stores and are largely unsupervised. While Ex-Sell managers have working relationships with employees and trust them to do their work, our clients don’t usually start with that level of buy-in. To show clients that our reps are doing the work we promised them, our employees record each shift with Natural Insight’s GPS-backed check-in/check-out feature. To verify that the execution is up to par, employees take pictures of each task they complete, and we review it for accuracy. This helps us keep work quality and client confidence high while establishing a foundation of trust built on proven performance.

We’ve also developed a self-auditing system: we send our newest employees to act as secret shoppers – they check the output and consistency of field workers on the job. This shows new employees what a real day on the job would look like and establishes a sense of accountability in employees, even when they’re not under direct supervision. We still review all completed tasks, but retail auditing and compliance tools allow us to move more quickly and scan for red flags.

How has Ex-Sell developed manager-employee trust?

Back before retail execution software helped companies track work and automate payroll, workers had to wait about six weeks to get paid. A month of unreimbursed out-of-pocket work and travel expenses didn’t contribute to a trusting employee base and did little to offset high retail industry employee churn.

Now, Natural Insight enables us to pay employees about a week after they complete a job, which helps us build a foundation of trust right off the bat. Also, Natural Insight’s Workforce Health rating system shows employees that we value their hard work, and helps managers identify high-performing employees for preferred shifts and complex assignments.

What was the road like from the "paperwork days" until now?

We used to track and verify all retail and merchandising tasks – from accurately stocking stores to tracking employee tasks and hours – on paper. A lot of paper. Aside from the risk of manual errors or lost paperwork, the process of tracking was so slow that it was a challenge to catch problems early enough to fix them. If a store received an incorrect stock shipment, for example, it could take weeks to file the report and rectify the order. By that time, the items would have gone out of stock and the store would be losing money. 

When we first decided to automate these processes, we tried building our own system. However, we soon realized that a clunky home-grown platform wasn’t much more promising than sluggish paper trails, in the eyes of potential clients. So, we switched to Natural Insight, and haven’t looked back. Natural Insight gives us the credibility we need to bring in new business and helps us live our values of honesty, quality and trust. Not many platforms can do that.

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Caroline Lane photo
Caroline Lane is the Director of Marketing at Natural Insight. Prior to joining Natural Insight, Lane was a senior marketing manager with Aquicore, an energy management software system for real estate portfolios. Lane was one of the company’s first ten employees hired and was responsible for building Aquicore’s marketing strategy from the ground up. Lane also previously worked at Renault - Nissan where she helped the automobile manufacturer penetrate more than 14 Asian and African countries. She has a Masters of Science in Management from EMLYON, one of Europe’s top ranking business schools located in France.