Retail Execution

Understanding Retail and Key/National Account Teams

Understanding the structure of retail and key account teams within the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry is crucial for anyone looking to make a mark in this field. These teams are the backbone of a brand’s success in the retail space, each playing a distinct but interconnected role in ensuring products reach the shelves effectively and efficiently. Let’s break down their structures, functions, similarities, differences, and the challenges they face.

Note: This post isn’t all-encompassing, and has simplified the organizational structure that varies by brand, as well as the responsibilities of each role. Contributing author is Dan Ray, Director of Customer Success at Wiser Solutions.

Retail Teams: The Frontline Executors

Retail teams are the frontline workers in the FMCG industry, directly responsible for the physical presence and availability of products within retail stores. These teams are meticulously organized around geographical territories to ensure efficient coverage and management of stores within their assigned regions. The structure typically looks something like this:

  • Sales Managers: Oversee specific territories and are directly involved in the day-to-day operations within stores. Their responsibilities include ensuring products are correctly shelved, promotions are accurately displayed, and any stock issues are promptly addressed. They are tasked with surfacing incremental selling opportunities such as (1) cutting in a new SKU (aka replacing a competitor tag with one of your product tags), (2) selling and building new displays, and (3) finding any and all opportunities to increase shelf presence above and beyond what’s already planogrammed. In larger organizations, responsibilities might be broken up into two different roles, where merchandising tasks are separate to selling.
  • Regional Managers: They manage a group of sales managers, overseeing larger geographical areas. Regional managers are crucial in strategizing the placement and promotion of products within their jurisdiction. They also play a pivotal role in managing relationships with local distributors and regional chains, ensuring that the brand’s products are favorably positioned.
  • VP of Sales: At the top of the retail team’s hierarchy, these executives are responsible for setting overarching sales strategies and ensuring that these strategies are implemented effectively across different territories. They ensure consistency in execution and performance across the board.

Key Account (KAM) / National Account (NAM) Teams: The Strategic Negotiators

Key Account Managers (KAMs) and National Account Managers (NAMs) are the strategists behind the brand’s presence in major retail chains. Unlike retail teams, their work is less about day-to-day execution and more focused on forging and maintaining strategic relationships with the brand’s most important retail partners. Their structure and function include:

  • Negotiating Contracts: KAMs and NAMs negotiate the terms that will govern the brand’s product listings, promotions, and pricing within key accounts. This involves a deep understanding of both the retailer’s needs and the brand’s capabilities.
  • Strategic Planning: They are responsible for planning and implementing high-level strategies that ensure the brand’s products achieve optimal visibility and sales within key retail partners. This includes promotional planning, product launches, and ensuring alignment with the retailer’s goals.
  • Cross-Functional Coordination: KAM/NAM teams must coordinate with various internal teams, including marketing, supply chain, and retail teams, to ensure that strategic plans are executed seamlessly at the store level.

Similarities and Differences

While both teams are crucial for a brand’s success in retail, their roles and responsibilities differ significantly. Retail teams are all about execution— 80 percent to 90 percent of their role is making sure products look good on the shelves and that promotions run as planned. The remaining 10 percent to 20 percent of their time is spent identifying and capitalizing on incremental sales by store. Key account teams, on the other hand, focus on the bigger picture, owning the relationship with the retail buyer, strategizing how the brand interacts with major retailers, and negotiating the best possible terms for product placement and sales.

Collaboration and Communication Challenges

The primary challenge lies in ensuring effective communication and coordination between these two pivotal teams. With retail teams focused on the granular details of in-store execution and key account teams engaged in high-level strategic planning, aligning their efforts requires efficient communication channels and tools. Moreover, individual members of the retail team are focused on very specific geographic areas, whereas the NAMs/KAMs are focused on the entire chain, which can be national or multi-regional. Thus priorities can be at odds.

Technologies such as shared digital calendars, mobile applications configured with store-specific promotions, and easy-to-use reporting tools can significantly improve this communication, enabling both teams to work together more effectively toward their common goal.

The integration of these tools and strategies into the daily operations of retail and key account teams not only enhances their collaboration but also ensures that strategic plans are executed precisely, leading to improved in-store presence, better promotion execution, and ultimately, increased sales for the brand.

Optimizing Organizational Alignment

By fostering enhanced collaboration through technology, Wiser’s advanced analytics tools and shelf-level insights empower KAM teams with the necessary skills to meet evolving retail partnership demands, facilitating a deeper understanding of retailers’ business drivers for more effective strategy tailoring. Further enhancing KAM capabilities, Wiser’s approach improves strategic planning and leverages real-time insights for prescriptive decision-making, preparing FMCG brands to move beyond traditional account management.

In operational terms, Wiser streamlines communication and data sharing between key account and retail teams, addressing the challenge of missed updates due to email and document clutter. Its mobile app directly feeds relevant information about promotions and product tasks to retail teams, ensuring important updates are not overlooked and that in-store execution aligns with strategic plans. This system not only enhances the responsiveness of retail teams to in-store challenges but also allows key account managers to create and assign tasks directly within the app, cutting through the inefficiency of traditional communication methods.

By providing tailored retail strategies through its insights and enhancing the planning and execution process between teams, Wiser is key to FMCG brands achieving better alignment and responsiveness. This comprehensive support ensures brands can effectively adapt to and capitalize on the dynamic nature of retail partnerships, securing sustained success and a competitive advantage.


In the dynamic FMCG industry, the success of a brand heavily relies on the seamless interaction between its retail and key account teams. By understanding their distinct roles, challenges, and the importance of effective communication, brands can better navigate the complexities of retail sales and partnerships, ensuring their products stand out in a competitive marketplace.

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