Many B2B companies sell their products through distributors’ channels and know the relationships they have with them are key to revenue growth. However, most companies lack in doing a great job of communicating, educating, and engaging their distributor community. And due to this, they fail to build a strong bonding.
Manufacturers selling their products through distributors’ channels benefits them by adding scale, reach, and specialization to their sales efforts. Manufacturers get more and they can focus more on innovation, engineering, and product quality while relying on their distributors to take those products to market. Generally, manufacturers will assist with marketing and sales efforts, which include joint promotional activities, customized incentive programs, and shared sales leads for the distributor to act upon.
There are few unique challenges along with these benefits. Distributors are separate channels that can sell many different products from various companies, which means regular engagement and training are important to ensure that the products remain a top priority. As no individual company manages the whole process lead-to-revenue, information gaps are pervasive, and missing out on revenue from delayed or no follow-up activity on sales leads is a real possibility. The various systems and workflows in place between the manufacturer and their distributors further make the situation complex.
EXPAND YOUR DISTRIBUTOR NETWORK
For manufacturers, the lack of information and visibility is the real pain. It becomes a challenge for manufacturers to understand distributor sales performance and insight into follow-up rates and response time on shared sales leads is virtually impossible to obtain. Creating and updating a unified view of sales opportunities to find out actual-to-plan performance across distributors becomes a challenging task, requiring many spreadsheets and even extra working hours. The end result is still ambiguous, as it does not reflect a real-time view of what is going on and how opportunities are progressing. With no clear visibility of the results of the lead generation spend and how it is impacting the sales pipeline, measuring return on investment in this marketing spend is virtually impossible.
To deal with these challenges and to get the most out of both existing and new distributor relationships, the following steps must be taken:
#SIMPLIFY THE FEEDBACK
Continuing to aimlessly provide sales leads to distributors, without understanding or indication of their value to them, is a waste of money and frustrates all. Plan to implement a simple and dependable way to let distributors provide their feedback on the leads they are receiving—including value and quality. This can be achieved via an automated system that shares and tracks the lead, as well as capturing feedback for reporting and analysis by the manufacturing companies.
#ADOPT TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
In today’s competitive business technology is best used to enable a defined and optimized process. So kick off with the process, but make it a reality with technology to achieve your goal. Enable a quick and easy feedback system from distributors from where and how they work. This means choosing a solution that can be accessed on smartphones, tablets, and computers, ensuring that the end-user experience is familiar and easily understandable. At SalesBabu, we leveraged features in our product design, making user usage frequent and adoption rapid.
#PRIORITIZE YOUR LEADS
All leads are not the same, and sometimes they are not leads at all. Having a defined and agreed to create criteria of a set of qualification builds a shared understanding between distributor and manufacturer. To make it more effective and take it a step further, set up a prioritized listing of leads for distributor action. This process will assure that rather than just a list of leads by date generated, the distributor will know which leads require immediate attention and which leads present the highest probability of conversion.
#LEAD MANAGEMENT AUTOMATION
Rather than just collecting leads and sending them as an excel sheet attachment in an email, the distribution of leads should be automated to improve tracking and follow-up. For example, at SalesBabu, we use the Lead module in our CRM solution to share new leads, that contains all of the relevant information as well. This is a part of the broader system, so all information updates and actions take place in one place as opposed to various spreadsheets, documents, or inboxes.
#MAKE DATA DRIVEN DECISIONS
The benefit of bringing together all of the collection, sharing, and tracking in a single system is the ability to make decisions based on actual data. The lead quality is tracked over time-based on substantial feedback of the distributor, making trends and historical performance is known. Lead-to-opportunity rates are also known and monitored to give more informed reporting and to allow the best-performing programs to receive more investment when marketing budget decisions are made. This clear view is only possible because a single system is managing the lead-to-revenue process across all distributor’s networks.
Depending on the structure of the distributor’s business, it’s important to develop relationships at several levels within your distributors (e.g. CEO to CEO, sales rep to sales rep). Building one-on-one relationships fosters in-depth discussion and will provide greater insight into the wants and needs of distributors.
#Product launch packages
Provide your distributors the information about your product they need to present them to their customers. Always make sure your distributors are frequently updated with product collateral such as technical datasheets, demos and prepare a launch package while launching new products. These packages in addition to the product information may contain an overview of the activities you are undertaking to launch this product in the marketplace.
To bring all of your distributors together, schedule a regular sales conference. Scheduling frequent conferences to serve as great platforms for the new product launch, discussing company updates, educating distributors on new technology, and reviewing systems and processes, and making processes more efficient.
A unified, system-based approach is required to get the maximum performance from distributors. You can increase communication and collaboration with distributors by following the above steps, and it will increase revenue and amplify the benefits of a distributor-based sales model.