Exerting influence to make it happen Learning the best way to go about influencing colleagues and customers is a huge challenge for the grocery industry's newest recruits. That's why it was the topic for this year's Leading Edge Member of the Year competition. Members were asked to draw on their experiences at work and answer three questions: who had they influenced for a positive outcome in the past year? What were the key influencing issues faced, and how were they dealt with? And what were the benefits of the outcome? All members were asked to submit a report, with a lucky few being called to give a presentation to a panel of judges comprising Julian Hunt of The Grocer, Harpreet Grewal of McVitie's and Jane Whitely of IGD. Clearly the assignment struck a chord with Leading Edge members ­ as this year's competition attracted a record number of entries. Standards, too, were high, which meant it was a difficult task for the judges to decide on a winner from the five shortlisted entries. But after much deliberation the judges named Nicki Johnson, a national account manager at Manor Bakeries, as Member of the Year with her presentation dubbed Snack Wars. In her presentation, Nicki explained how Manor Bakeries worked closely with Tesco for the launch of a new snacking concept ­ Cake2Go. Nicki says: "The sign that somebody has been successfully influenced or persuaded is when a course of action is taken which would not have occurred with the influencer's intervention." She adds: "As part of a team I influenced Tesco at a store manager level to break with tradition and give cake a siting away from the cake fixture in the sandwich/snacking area of the store." By August last year, the Cake2Go products were ready to roll; four special display units had been developed; Tesco head office had given the thumbs up to the project ­ which by then had been widened to include McVitie's products; and all that remained was to ensure it happened at store level. That sounds easy. But as store managers have a degree of autonomy they needed to be persuaded of the benefits of installing one of the units. As a new member of the Tesco account team, Nicki was set the task of putting a snacking display unit in 75% of Tesco stores in England, Scotland and Wales. And that meant heading up an implementation team that, in the end, visited 600 stores over two months. This team of six was given a helping hand by 20 other Manor Bakeries staff (including the md). And Nicki herself visited 150 Tesco stores meeting the trading manager in each one. Before the team got on the road, however, Nicki drew up a comprehensive plan for the installation of the units. The plan covered basics such as ensuring stores knew in advance that Manor Bakeries had head office authorisation for the project. It also included putting together a brochure that explained the features and benefits of the new units ­ which could be fitted into relatively tiny spaces ­ as well as the snacking initiative itself. A host of issues cropped up during the rollout. But Nicki says: "Any issues that were faced were resolvable; it was a matter of matching the benefits we could offer with the needs of the store." The rollout of the units was gruelling. But their appearance in 95% of Tesco stores helped ensure the success of the Cake2Go launch ­ as demonstrated in our Star Products feature published in our July 7 issue. Nicki says the project was a win:win experience for all concerned. Tesco generated incremental sales from space that had not previously been used. Manor Bakeries, too, benefited from extra sales. It also achieved an immediate presence in the snacking arena. And as the roll out was relatively hassle free for the Tesco head office team, that bene-fited its ongoing relationship with the multiple. As for Nicki? Well, she raised her profile within Manor Bakeries. Her implementation plan became the blueprint for the rollout of Cake2Go with other retailers. And she was promoted to national account manager. "I now have strong experience of project management and team leadership," she says. "Managing this project also gave me an opportunity to sharpen my persuasive selling skills. My internal networking was accentuated as I enlisted the help of various people. And I fulfilled a personal ambition: to drive a 3.5 tonne truck with confidence!" n {{LEADING EDGE }}