In The News

David Sables, CEO, and the Sentinel Team appear regularly on and in various media, commentating and giving insight on industry issues. David is a regular columnist within ‘the Grocer’ magazine, as well as being a contributor to Forbes.

For press enquiries, please contact our UK office. call: +44 (0) 1753 867979 or email

Are major retailers easier to deal with than wounded animals?

By David Sables / April 25, 2014

We are witnessing a major shift in buying habits away from the big supers and into convenience formats. It’s probably the biggest change to your sales operation in working memory. The share shift into the multiples was much more gradual. The rise of the hard discounters is well documented, as is the success of Waitrose and M&S at the premium end. Commercial functions are having to adapt to the new... Read More

Make it pay while the sun shines - strategic and sensible selling

By David Sables / March 22, 2014

How’s the weather been for your business recently? Blustery customer rhetoric, floods of delisting threats and tidal waves of year-end demands? It’s been a winter of discontent for most of the multiples, exacerbated by truly awful Christmas trading. They’ve had year-end pressures and you have felt the rain. But the days are getting lighter. We are in that short spring season when, for most of the big five buyers, the... Read More

Calamity can provide an excellent customer service opportunity

By David Sables / February 22, 2014

I'm writing this in Datchet, Berkshire, where I'm stranded at home due to the flooding. My mail will not get here today, nor will there be a collection. The roads in and out are blocked. Occasionally, the power comes on so I can boil the kettle, but I have no milk for my coffee as supplies have not reached the local independent store. The Tesco Express is shopped out but... Read More

The Big Four all had a Disastrous Christmas – Beware The Fallout

By David Sables / January 27, 2014

So how was Christmas for you? You were hoping for an iPad, and got a cookbook. Well, maybe you didn’t get what you wanted but still, look on the bright side, you could be Dalton Philips. The pressure facing Morison’s now is palpable. It’s not incredible that a lead retailer can underperform in the key season. What is unusual, however, is that it seems the top four have all had... Read More

Stop Guaranteeing Retailer Margin! You don’t Decide the RSP

By David Sables / December 14, 2013

Right now, many suppliers will be arguing with customers over payments for the joint business plan. Commitments weren’t met, and results failed to generate the money you are being harassed to just pay anyway. Too many suppliers pay up because not to do so would affect the deal for the next year: a spiralling nightmare. So here it is JBP season, everybody’s having fun... It gets worse though; suppliers are... Read More

Ever Been Caught New-Skilling A Buyer? You Sounded Insincere

By David Sables / November 16, 2013

Communication skills are trainable, yes, but with any new skill it takes practice until you get proficient. If done effortlessly and totally naturally, then your technique will be dynamite. Like when learning to drive a car, you know you've got it when you don't need to think about it. Unconscious competence, they call it. It's a long way from conscious incompetence where you know you can't do it, but at... Read More

The Art of Selling Hasn't Died - It's Just Changed Shape a Bit

By David Sables / October 19, 2013

Here's a thing. Have you noticed that astute young sales directors and wise old experienced ones seem in agreement that the 'art of selling' has died in grocery? Both types see that our current sales forces are technology-obsessed, process-driven and that their sales skills are diluted across such heinous disciplines as finance and logistics. They would argue that amid this horror show the importance of wowing a buyer and developing... Read More

Selling Requires you to Adapt your Style to the Situation at Hand

By David Sables / September 21, 2013

Seeing the despairing face of the Asda food hall manager, I paused. He was sitting at his desk, looking at a hand-written report. I always waited for a nod before walking in. This guy was a nightmare - the type who'll keep you waiting an hour then shout at you for being late. That day he was clearly under pressure: this could be explosive. As I took one step into... Read More

Trust, Commitment and Insight Needed for Joint Planning

By David Sables / August 24, 2013

Looking back, visionary joint planning has proved elusive. Suppliers have never really committed to it because it's never long before the customer starts demanding short-term gains and the whole thing collapses. Many want to take a longer-term collaborative view, but retailer pressure is inevitable.  We employ many ex-buyers as part of the Sentinel team. Gamekeepers turned poachers, they are perfectly qualified to teach planning, selling and negotiation. I've noticed they... Read More

Without Indomitable Spirit, You may not be cut out for a Sales Role

By David Sables / July 27, 2013

I'm often asked what makes a good salesperson. It's obvious, isn't it? Great salespeople are likeable, respectable, not up themselves, positive, persistent, skilled communicators, great with facts, persuasive with figures and ambitious team players. Plus, you need an element of dynamism and cynicism. Shall I continue? They are tough but caring, flexible but strong, and it helps if they have good product with relevant short-term proposals and a long-term plan... Read More