Distribution Sales 2017: Relationships Matter More Than Ever

More has changed in the world of distribution sales over the last five years than has changed over the last 30 years. Changing technology and access to options for online sourcing have permanently altered the selling landscape. Many distributors see this as their most pressing challenge in 2017. How will you compete against online vendors? How will you respond to the changing technological requirements of both your customers and your sales reps? How will you compete for attention with customers who are bombarded by messages everyday?

A recent study by Forbes and MarketingSherpa entitled, “Relationships Matter,” highlighted some of the ways selling has changed. According to the study:

  • Change is difficult: 60% of sales teams believe that changes in the buying process were happening faster than their organization’s ability to adapt.
  • Buyers know more than we do: having access to information on the internet has given buyers a wealth of information that in some cases makes them more informed than our sales reps.
  • Improvement is hard: 64% of sales reps say that their call results have not improved in three years.
  • Social media isn’t the cure: 55% of those surveyed said that social media did not improve their selling success.

Yet, the best distributors see these changes as an opportunity to become leaders in the markets they serve. They know that golf games and expensive dinners are no longer the key to success in new accounts. What works in this new world is knowledge that leads to value through informed conversations.

We recommend you start the year focusing on relationships in these ways:

Use technology to find and manage new contacts.

Many distributors are taking the first steps to making it easier for buyers to find them through technology, typically through search engine and e-commerce initiatives. But without a proven, technology-driven process to record and track those new leads, those new potential buyers never move forward in the sales cycle. SMP gives you all the tools you need to manage your relationships, activities and sales information all in one easy-to-use solution. When you automate your follow up, you spend less time dealing with lists and administration of information and more time talking to new leads.

Take the time to nurture existing relationships.

Your relationship with your customer is the one differentiator that no online source can take away from you. Take the time to really understand your customer, ask smart questions about their needs and concerns and then carefully record that information inside of SMP. That will enable you to have even deeper, more meaningful conversations the next time you meet instead of spending time covering old ground. We also suggest using visual storytelling through our business intelligence tool.

Be proactive in developing new relationships.

The same study indicated that sales cycles were 20% faster when conversations could be had through digital channels. Email marketing is the key strategy you need to use to demonstrate the expertise you’ve built from your client relationships. Email campaigns allow you to share relevant information to your targeted lists. One-to-one emails allow you to cost effectively continue your conversations around your client needs. Also make sure your reps have mobile capabilities in the field. Giving your reps mobile access to information inside of SMP allows them have much better conversations in person as well as through email.

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