Top Distribution Sales and Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is right around the corner. We wanted to share the top trends that we’re seeing driving successful sales and marketing teams in the distribution industry.

Enabling Field Sales

Your sales people need mobile tools to be as successful outside of the office as they are inside the office. Distributors are looking to provide their teams with mobile tools that allow for data sharing to keep everyone on the same page. Customer expect your reps to be prepared for anything while they are in face-to-face meetings and mobile access to CRM facilitates that.

Customer expectations are driving mobile sales tools because one of the most important aspects of your relationship with your customers is an in depth knowledge of their needs and purchasing histories. It can be hard to keep so many details straight across so many customers, but SMP provides a connection between your CRM and ERP information so that your reps can connect the dots. With SMP mobile, they can have access to the most important customer information in the field where they need it most. Your reps can access purchasing history, product information, activity history, contact information and more right from their mobile device. Preparing for customer meetings has never been easier.

An Increased Role of Data in Sales and Marketing

Data and self-serve analytics has become more important than ever in distribution sales and marketing. Sales and marketing teams need to understand exactly how different offers and messages are performing so they can make the necessary adjustments to drive even greater success.

Unfortunately, many distributors find it to be an enormous challenge to even get to their data, let alone analyze and act on that data. We’re starting to see more and more sales and marketing teams demand their own self-serve analytics to drive better decisions. It’s not enough to rely on canned reports, smarter teams need more flexible data analysis tools which allow them to create unique and sometimes unconventional insights for better differentiation.

Top distributors are giving their teams tools for self-service dashboard creation, where they can drag and drop to create their own visualizations with the help of the IT department. These visualizations allow your sales and marketing people to create flexible, interactive data visualizations and explore data in ways that make sense to them.

Self-serve data has many very tangible and tactical benefits to sales and marketing teams:

  • Creating a profiling unique lists
  • Generating new insights from customer behavior to drive future sales
  • Shorter sales cycles by providing customer insights from combined CRM and ERP data
  • Utilizing competitive information to create replacement campaigns
  • Capitalizing quickly on trends you see in your markets before your competitors even notice a trend is happening
  • Sharing trends with vendors for more support in training, product introductions, events, meetings, comarketing and more

The Role of Your Marketing Team is Evolving

Successful distribution companies are expanding the role of marketing faster than ever before. Every distributor faces a growing list of challenges every day, such as new competitors, shortages of talented employees, changing buyers, commoditization, online competition and more. The key to succeeding during rapid change is to align your teams to solve your sales issues and improve your marketing positioning.

We’re starting to see distribution companies turn to their marketing teams for more than just email blasts and promotions:

Marketing teams are being brought in to help recruit and develop new employees. Companies are starting to realize that they need to position their strengths to prospective employees as skillfully as they position their strengths to prospects. You marketing team can help you create and deliver a recruiting strategy that emphasizes your unique culture, technology, customer service, training and more.

As more and more purchasing moves online, your marketing team can help you compete in an omni-channel world. Competing against online sources is about providing their level of convenience with your unique level of individual service. Your marketing team can help clarify that message in a form that online buyers will understand.

Sales teams are turning to marketing to help them create very narrowly defined lists and offers. More and more distributors are turning to account based campaigns to succeed.

Getting Customer Centric

If you’re like most sales and marketing executives, you’re probably already tired of hearing phrases like:

  • “account based everything”
  • “rise of the customer”
  • “one-to-one marketing”
  • “customer experience design”

But the reason you’re hearing so much about customer-centric marketing is that is a powerful driver of profits. This is particularly true in the distribution industry where customer experience has become the primary driver of preference among B2B sources. The reason a customer chooses you over another competitor or an online catalog has to do with your understanding of your customer’s needs, strategies and priorities.

Distributors are getting personal in a number of ways in 2018:

  • Profiling. Distributors are using data to make the exact right offer to the right group of customer at the right time. This puts your customer’s needs first rather than simply promoting your current offers.
  • Account-based marketing. Distributors are combining all of their corporate knowledge about individual customers to get a full 360 degree view of each customer and make unique offers to close deals. That’s something that an online shopping cart cannot do.
  • Customer-centric business design. Distributors are putting their customers first while planning new programs for 2018. Distributors used to design their businesses around their own needs, profits, lifestyle or systems and work to keep their customers just happy enough to not lose them to a competitor. That’s not enough in 2018. When you’re looking at new business practices and initiatives, you need to mine the data in your systems to find new insights that your competitors couldn’t even imagine and go to market in 2018 with a customer-centric business they cannot live without.

Focusing on Open Bids and Quotes

When we polled a recent focus group about their top sales priorities, 90% surveyed said that closing more open bids and quotes was one of their top priorities. There are quick sales to be had in our open bids but we often lack the ability to track and execute on them effectively.

We have found that having a better process in place for following up on open bids and quotes – like the process that is built into SMP – can increase close rates by as much as 25% to 30% on average.

That’s why we created a special process for SMP users to follow up on open bids and quotes and the results have been astounding. In fact, sales teams are increasing their close rates by 25% to 30% on average? This kind of process helps in many ways:

  • Automatically creating follow up activities for your sales reps for any bid or quote over a certain dollar amount
  • Increasing visibility into your pipeline
  • Bridging the gap between inside and outside sales
  • Coaching your team to wins on important bids and quotes
  • Improving customer follow-up
  • Keeping your sales team accountable for your most valuable sales opportunities

SMP allows you to focus on all of your sales tasks to create systematic, traceable and measurable processes around your quotes. Your team is freed up to focus on revenue-generation rather than running down quotes, reports and paperwork.

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