B2B distribution and manufacturing sales has been compared to the game of golf. Your account manager stepped up to the tee box placed the ball and hit it down the fairway. They hacked, whacked, and with skill and practice got the ball to the green and in the hole for a successful sales call. Then they moved on to the next call and played the next hole.
As a distributor or manufacturing sales leader you had control of the process, and your best salespeople were the stars. You probably coached them to make some minor improvements (swing adjustments), but you could just send them out to the course day after day and count on the performance.
Today, Manufacturers and distributors are in a period of rapid growth in terms of the way many of their functional groups, like marketing and supply chain, operate. They are leveraging new tools and technologies, adjusting their strategy to stretch themselves into more innovative models. Yet in many of those same companies, the sales teams are lagging (stuck in the sand trap)–operating in a legacy model that no longer serves them as well as it should.
Geographic sales models still make sense but playing that traditional sale golf game is outdated. Your Traditional Sales strategy needs to evolve.
Winning now requires enhancing your sales strategy with persona-based profiles, solution selling, territory-specific prioritization and an outbound inside sales team. These enhancements do not come by simply ‘playing more golf’. Nope. You must go back to driving range for more practice. And now think about that ‘practice’. It is way more sophisticated in today’s environment as any golfer with swing tech will tell you. And the good news is you now can be as sophisticated. It is time to take advantage of product-specific market demand, end customer targeting data, and business intelligence and incorporate them into your sales strategy for better insights.
The Legacy Sales Model: It isn’t dead, but it does need some oxygen
The traditional geographic sales model had some inherent advantages. It was easy to manage, and it enabled your sales team to forge strong, long-lasting relationships with the buyers in their region. This belly-to-belly relationship model was effective, but what do you do now that customer values the solution more than the relationship? Your customers just don’t have the time or desire to see your account manager as much today.
The majority of manufacturers and distributors are still operating their sales organizations in much the same way they were twenty years ago. Even the companies that are adopting progressive sales tools and technologies aren’t necessarily leveraging them to their fullest capabilities. This leaves the organization paying full price for a very expensive system that is only partially optimized. The system itself cannot generate sales. There must be frequent training and complete adoption by not only the sales member but also by their leadership.
Here’s the point: You don’t need to fundamentally upend your traditional geographic sales model in order to improve your sales team’s performance. But you do need to advance with the times and identify the ways to compensate for the gaps in their existing approach.
Enhancing the Geographic Sales Model
If you want to empower your sales team to work more effectively and efficiently — and grow your business in the process — start by enhancing your existing geographic sales model. Even just a few tweaks can yield big changes. Here are a few basics to help jumpstart your thinking:
- Utilize Persona-Based Profiles. For salespeople representing broad product portfolios, persona-based profiles are a game-changer. These profiles help your sales team drill down and understand the different types of core customers. For example, there is a big difference between selling to a chooser vs. a user (e.g., safety manager vs machinist). Persona-based profiles help your sales team understand what matters most to each of their customer personas and what problems they are most commonly trying to solve. This allows your reps to be more targeted and more effective in communicating the true value of your offerings. Persona-based learning and selling is iterative. The longer you do it, the more your solutions will resonate and differentiate your team. The sales, product and marketing teams need to consistently aggregate intelligence at user persona level, by end market to stay most relevant.
- Practice Solution Selling. Solution selling might be a buzz phrase you are quite sick of, but it is here to stay. Another way to think about it is through the eyes of your end users. What are they trying to accomplish? What is the job to be done and how will they leverage your solution to solve their pain? This goes beyond being able to recite the features and benefits of your product. Your sales team must identify with their end customers business and be able to deliver value added services and solutions back to them. A few examples of a value-added service include assessments, testing/lab services, performance optimization configurators, etc. What are yours?
- Identify Territory-Specific Priorities. Product demand across geographic territories is never going to be even. So, it makes sense that sales incentives and targets should likewise vary from region to region. This allows you to prioritize your team’s goals and incentives based on proven metrics that ladder back to your broader corporate objectives. This approach will keep your entire sales team energized and focused. Should we add more detail around leveraging data. Product-driven market demand by MSA and account. Territory playbooks? Data will guide resources to the highest potential opportunities.
- Invest in an Outbound Inside Sales Team. Finally, back up your sales team in the field with an outbound inside sales team. The inside sales team should be assigned by their expertise rather than territories. For example, they can engage in customer wellness by following up with existing customers after a sale. They can drum up demand in dormant customers that might be too low of a priority for an outside rep. Investing in an outbound inside sales team can do wonders to stimulate demand and qualify leads, freeing up your field reps to be more effective and efficient. To increase effectiveness, ensure that inside and outside teams share intelligence bidirectionally such as learning and trends with personas pain, account pain, success stories, competitive gaps, etc.
B2B Distribution and Manufacturing sales isn’t as simple as it was 10 years ago where you hired an outside face-to-face seller every time you needed to grow sales. That traditional sales/golf game needs adjustment for the modern age and it’s time you made some adjustments.