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Working with Distributors – Back to Basics

In this article, we unpick some of the common complexities of working with distributors; getting back to basics.
Contrary to most organisation’s belief, it’s possible to improve a distributor relationship and make an impact through simple solutions which don’t necessarily require a lot of resources, yet are easy to implement and highly effective. To do so, it’s worth taking a moment to review your current distributor arrangements:

  1. Does your distributor partner have the tools to do the job? Despite best intentions, people and portfolios change over time which means the distributors sales team need to have up to date training to sell your products. Without understanding the features and benefits of your products – which can overcome objections or create the customer need – they are likely to fall into price based discussions.
    When was the last time you implemented a formal training programme for your distributors in your key drive and development markets?
  2. Is your sales and product information relevant? Product information supplied in an unusable format or language is amongst the top three complaints from distributors. What sales material do you currently provide? Have you surveyed your distributors to ask what works for them? When did you last review and update the support package Rectifying the above is low cost, and a big impact distributor support area. It can work as a silent sales person for your organisation long after your market visit or last communication. When was the last time you reviewed your support material for its relevance and applicability?
  3. How often do you have contact with your distributors? Contact is an indication of commitment and trust builder. It keeps your organisation top of mind, is key in retaining share of mind and share of voice for your portfolio within the distributors every day business. The better you plan this area the more effective your contact will be — for instance, a quarterly market visit, with monthly phone calls and weekly e-mail leads to a positive relationship driven through the market manager.
    Do you use a contact plan? This can increase contact effectiveness even more. Try to include others within the contact framework, e.g, market visits from other functions, planned monthly calls between functions and e-mail, developed against an internally agreed contact plan. In this way the distributor and contact within the business are receiving a regular and consistent level of communication that ensures your organisation stays top of mind.
  4. Do you incentivise the performance you desire? It’s amazing how often this area is overlooked or badly managed. To ensure you engage retain the attention of your sales team, make sure you incentivise and reward the areas you want to see work for your portfolio, and don’t get side-lined into a catch all programme.

To summarise, organisations often overlook the simple and basic things in pursuit of the silver bullet or change of relationship. Take a step back and look at your distributor relationship anew, review the basics, fix them or refresh them as needed.

If you only do one thing… Look at the basics before your next market visit and have a plan ready to address any shortfalls.

If you would like to discuss this with Mark please contact us via   or   Or Contact us at hello@customerattuned.com

Mark Hollyoake

Mark is a co-founder and Director of Customer Attuned Ltd. He is currently studying for his Doctorate at Southampton University, focused on Trust as a dynamic within business to business customer relationships.

His is an expert in B2B Customer Experience and Customer Management. This includes CM strategy development; execution of improvement plans (incl. organisational modelling for customer management); programme design; and partnership & alliance development.