April 2024

Elevating value in Direct Store Delivery: Sales Representative

by Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins

Back to insights

Elevating value in Direct Store Delivery: Sales Representative

April 2024 by Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins

Back to insights


There are many players in the complex system of Direct Store Delivery (DSD), where suppliers and retailers must partner to achieve mutual success. In this article, we’ll look at a contributor who often takes center stage—the Sales Representative.

Far beyond the idea of conventional salesmanship, these Sales Representatives have a pivotal effect on the value equation within DSD. Let’s delve into the multifaceted role of Sales Representatives, exploring their impact on value creation and examples of the behavior exhibited by a good, better and best Sales Representative.

This knowledge and implementation of advisement are a core part of The Gap Partnership’s consulting services.

The role of the Sales Representative: Beyond transactional interactions

Sales Representatives in the context of DSD are not simply conduits for product transactions, they serve as strategic cogs of value creation. Their role extends from understanding store dynamics to aligning Joint Business Plans (JBPs) and creating displays that amplify value for both suppliers and retailers.

The good Sales Representative: The fundamentals

A good Sales Representative lays the groundwork for value creation by ensuring the fundamental aspects of product placement and relationship management are executed efficiently. Their behavior covers:

  • Basic operations management: Ensures the store operates smoothly, meeting daily tasks like inventory management, staffing and compliance.
  • Order accuracy: Ensures orders are accurate and aligned with the retailer’s needs.
  • Basic communication: Maintain regular communication with Store Managers and staff to address any concerns or requirements.
  • Promotion execution: Facilitate the execution of promotions, ensuring that displays are set up as planned.
  • Problem resolution: Promptly address any issues or challenges that arise, maintaining a smooth flow of operations.

While a good Sales Representative fulfills essential responsibilities, their impact remains largely transactional, with a focus on meeting basic requirements.

The better Sales Representative: Adding strategic elements

The better Sales Representative elevates the role by infusing strategic insight and a proactive approach. They grasp the nuances of the retail landscape and utilize their understanding to enhance value. The behavior of a better Sales Representative consists of:

  • Strategic promotion planning: Collaborate with the retailer to plan promotions that align with customer preferences and sales trends.
  • Customer relationship building: Build strong relationships with Store Managers, tailoring their approach to match the retailer’s goals.
  • Data-driven insights: Analyze sales data and customer feedback to identify opportunities for assortment optimization and sales growth.
  • Cross-functional collaboration: Engage with Merchandisers and Key Account Managers to ensure cohesive execution of strategic initiatives.

The best Sales Representative: Value creation

At the zenith of the Sales Representative spectrum stands the best—the architect of strategic collaboration, value creation and mutual growth. Their behaviors go beyond the fundamentals, reflecting a deep knowledge of the retailer’s business. The best Sales Representative’s behavior incorporates:

  • Innovative joint business plans (JBPs): Actively contribute to the co-creation of JBPs, aligning retailer objectives with supplier priorities to drive shared value.
  • Strategic display creation: Craft displays that intertwine innovation, high-margin products, and customer preferences, creating a high-value blend of sales and profitability.
  • Retail ecosystem integration: Immerse themselves in the retailer’s landscape, understanding local dynamics and using this insight to inform strategic decisions.
  • Collaborative problem solving: Collaboratively address challenges and opportunities, leveraging cross-functional collaboration to find innovative solutions.
  • Value-added customer engagement: Offer insights to the retailer on customer preferences, market trends and promotional strategies that resonate with the local audience.

The best Sales Representative’s actions are strategic, comprehensive and aligned with overarching business objectives, creating value that resonates throughout the supplier-retailer partnership.

Inside their head: Nikhil the #1 vendor

Nikhil, a Sales Representative for PepsiCo, had just taken over a new territory and set out to introduce himself to every Store Manager in the area. Nikhil’s manager and mentor encouraged him to get out in front of his customers, but specifically urged him to win with Walmart. If he could unlock the potential of the Walmart Supercenters in his territory, he’d have no problem achieving his annual goals.

Assigned to a store where Coke reigned as the ultimate vendor, Nikhil didn't back down. He approached the Store Manager, asking them who the best vendor was and what he needed to do to surpass them. This Manager's candid response was a formidable obstacle—Coke's twice-daily merchandising outshone Pepsi's once-daily service. Undeterred, Nikhil adapted his strategy, stretching his budgets and rethinking his approach to customer service. By adjusting his plan and making some sacrifices, Nikhil was able to increase merchandising service to twice-daily.

Over time, the Store Manager recognized Nikhil’s efforts to understand and fulfill their needs and began to reward the partnership and commitment. What used to be one pallet displays transformed into two pallet displays, single endcaps evolved into double endcaps and back-of-store displays migrated to prime front-of-store real estate. Nikhil’s unwavering commitment to surpassing expectations not only earned him the respect of Store Managers but also showcased the transformative power of the best Sales Representative in the realm of Direct Store Delivery.


In the realm of Direct Store Delivery, the Sales Representative is a creator of value that extends beyond transactions. A good Sales Representative lays the foundation, ensuring the fundamentals are taken care of. A better Sales Representative adds strategic dimensions, looking to collaborate and drive growth rather than just doing their job. However, the best Sales Representative is a strategic partner, understanding a retailers needs and goals, driving innovation and partnering to create points of value throughout the store. Encouraging the potential of the best Sales Representatives becomes paramount, ensuring that the creation of value appears not only in the aisles but also in the enduring success of suppliers, retailers and the broader customer base.

About the authors 

Nick Capuano, Senior Consultant, The Gap Partnership

Nick Capuano is a results-driven Senior Consultant at The Gap Partnership, based in Philadelphia, PA. With a career spanning over a decade, Nick has honed his expertise in business development, account management, and strategic leadership across various industries. His exceptional proficiency in delivering and facilitating core development workshops, coupled with his talent for building and maintaining positive collaborative relationships with clients, are fundamental drivers of his success.​

During his tenure as the National Business Development Manager at PepsiCo Foodservice, Nick led national new business initiatives in specialty retail, amusement, and fitness sectors. His exceptional abilities in prospecting potential customers, developing relationships with C-suite executives, and structuring national deals across all lines of business were pivotal to the company's success.

As the National Account Sales Manager at MFO Restaurants, Nick cultivated relationships with national customers, including renowned concepts such as Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s, Jersey Mike’s, Dairy Queen, and Capriotti’s. ​

His proficiency in understanding and managing customer organizations, utilizing personal influence and knowledge to achieve goals in a matrix environment, greatly contributed to the company's growth.

With a proven track record of success in strategic business development, relationship management, and leadership, Nick Capuano is a dedicated professional committed to driving excellence and achieving impactful results in every endeavor.

Jordan Mullins, Senior Consultant, The Gap Partnership

Jordan has spent the last 10+ years working and growing within the CPG industry, spending time with multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Coca Cola, Kraft Heinz, and Colgate Palmolive. During this time, he realized his passion not only for negotiation, but his desire to help his co-workers become the best versions of themselves, which led him to the Gap Partnership. ​

During his time prior to joining The Gap Partnership, Jordan was tasked with improving the processes for multiple national sales programs and being able to successfully train and deliver significant financial results across the organization simultaneously. Jordan has achieved a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration as well as a Master's in Business Administration from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.​

Jordan is currently a Senior Consultant and is responsible for delivering our portfolio of workshops brilliantly across all sectors such as CPG, Retail, Oil and Gas, Automotive, and Pharma. ​

Jordan finds passion for helping all of the participants find who they need to be during these workshops while helping them implement these behaviors and reap the benefits of the program.

About The Gap Partnership

The Gap Partnership is a management consultancy specializing in negotiation. We help organizations drive profitability, increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Negotiation is an integral part of everything a business does. It exerts a critical influence on the profitability and market value of the organization.

At The Gap Partnership, we provide development programs and negotiation training to our clients. We work with you to understand your challenges and performance needs. Our negotiation consultants come from your industry and will support you with a 'complete' solution that embeds learning, measures capability and delivers sustainable change.

We hold ourselves accountable for your success. 70% of our business comes from clients we have worked with for over five years

If you require further information on how we can help you and your teams make the most of every negotiation, or simply need to ask us a question - just call, email or complete the form.

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Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins