The past few weeks I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of face-to-face time with distribution leadership teams working with them on their go-to-market sales plans.
I have some advice and counsel to share. If you are just refreshing your 2010 belly-to-belly selling playbook, I would recommend you consider some slight adjustments for 2023.
Your end customer is short on staff, time, and resources and they are ever evolving in how they want to buy. Our recent Dorn research shows that impactful sales call interactions (where you get a chance to discuss long term contracts and future business opportunities) have dropped by at least 35% in the past few years.
The pandemic drove some of that big shift to “Kitchen Table Zoom Call Selling” and although that have to sell from home process is over, we are not going back to the good old days of relationship selling on the golf course.
The pace of change the past few years happened so fast that distributors are often bewildered and unsure of what should they do next. If you have been in the distribution business it’s hard to admit or sometimes even realize the changes that are occurring and adjust, but one way to evaluate if you have an organizational problem is to look for the two big warning signs.
Warning Signs that you might need to adjust your approach
You are constantly hearing – I hate these changes feedback – If your sales team gives you ever growing feedback like – my customers don’t have time anymore to take calls, Its tough to get an appointment, they don’t value the relationships like they used to, twenty years ago customers were so much more appreciative, it’s all about price,……etc. etc.
Your organization believes the only to grow sales is to make more personal calls or add more outside account managers
Even just a few years ago it was still an account manager driven world. Your account managers controlled the relationship, and they made sales happen because they delivered face-to-face product and technical support that their customers could only get at other competing distributors. The landscape has changed and the way customers do research, get technical support, and purchase is continuing to move from face-to-face to digital.
Your Account Manager ruled because the customer had to depend on them for the knowledge and technical support to get the work done. The customer now controls the relationship and they have a growing self-service digital mindset. They can research more products and solutions online and the list of what they used to have to go to your account manager for is declining every day.
Everyone is working longer & harder just to stay even in a digital world, and having time for face-to-face interactions and personal relationship building is diminishing. You don’t have to like it, but today it’s a Customer Rules world.
To thrive in this world I suggest that you consider three things
- Look at your sales coverage plan – Today you need to realize you have 3 sales channels- inside, outside, and digital. Yes, three sales channels. Your digital channel is not just about direct online selling it is about using your digital and marketing programs to grow your standard inside and outside sales.
- Double down on those hard to digitize “value added” services that distributors excel at like assembly, kitting, technical support, and services, etc. These moats are critical to protecting your core distribution business now and in the future.
- Stay on top of the trends and learn what other distributors are doing to build their digital platforms and further develop their hard to digitize services.
It’s true that things are changing, but good distributors can, and will win and grow in the digital age. In most cases it doesn’t require blowing up your sales coverage plans but making smart adjustments.
As always, we would love to get your feedback, so please feel free to comment below or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org