Publisherís Letter March Repertoire
Edition: March 2003 - Vol 11 Number 03
In last monthís publisherís letter, we talked about the qualities and characteristics that seem to be common to successful distributor sales reps. Things like product knowledge, relationship building, uncovering and fulfilling customer needs, were just a few of the criteria that seemed to be prevalent in those who consistently performed well in the sales arena.
And as we all know, distributors cannot be successful without an array of quality manufacturers and products to support them. So if turnabout is fair play, we examine in this monthís letter what it takes for a manufacturer to stand out as a leader. What do the leaders do that separates them from their competition?
This is almost a given. No rep is going to continue to sell a product that causes problems time and again with the customer. (Itís funny how customers only seem to have long memories when it comes to problems. They seem to forget the times you delivered an order after hours or on a weekend.) On the other hand, it isnít always the best product that captures the market. Great marketing, service and customer value are all key elements as well. If these other pieces arenít in place, quality alone wonít win the day.
The leaders all seem to have made investments in their own people, understanding that that investment will produce returns year after year. Building manufacturer-distributor relationships are as vital for manufacturer success as the distributor-customer relationships are to the successful distributor. Many of the leaders are so because of the strength of the relationships that exist at the field sales level.
Product Knowledge and Training
While many sales are customer driven, the sales that bust the quotas are driven by the supplier/distributor. Without training and product knowledge, the selling process gets derailed and too often the customerís query as to ďWhatís new?Ē is met with silence or idle chatter. Leading manufacturers know that a trained rep is a selling rep and invests quite heavily in sharing that knowledge with the distribution reps who own those customer relationships. They are the companies that support the industry trade shows and the distributor meetings. They are the ones you will find building EOL modules. They are the companies looking for ways to make distributor reps more productive. They understand that every way they can find to deliver their message to the field gives them a leg up on their competition, too.
Collateral Support and Visibility
The leading manufacturers also tend to be pretty well rounded. They try to leave no stones unturned in making it easy for distributor reps to do business with them. Product literature, excellent customer service, follow-up and response times are just some of the areas to which these leaders pay a lot of attention. These are the companies that are visible throughout the marketplace. They aim advertising at the distribution market to create awareness and confidence in their products and their brand. They support that effort with trade show attendance and visibility with the end users. Creating pull- through makes your job as a distributor that much easier.
While reviews the keys to success as described above and in last monthís issue, it is both pleasing and instructive to note that pricing is not a factor in either list. In identifying leaders, nowhere is it mentioned that having the lowest priced product or service contributes to that ranking. Perhaps, it says that leaders are, in fact, leaders because they have found a way to prevent price from becoming an issue.
Companies that are recognized leaders from the manufacturing community and the distribution leaders both follow the same paths to success. They understand their customers, they fulfill their customersí needs, and they do it in the context of a relationship that produces and sustains satisfied and loyal customers.
Brian Taylor and Chris Kelly