How Distributors Improve Customer Retention A common rule of thumb in distribution is that it…
Are You Reinforcing the Right Sales Behaviors
An often overlooked benefit of using SMP is the ability to reinforce sales behaviors that improve your bottom line. The truth is, not all behaviors are created equal – some are better than others at winning revenue. You ability to track and manage those behaviors can make the difference in meeting your annual goals.
Distribution sales isn’t what it used to be. One of the biggest changes is the ability of B2B buyers to conduct a lot of their sourcing research online. In many cases, buyers come to us with their own ideas, data and solutions long before they ever pick up the phone or walk up to a counter. Additionally, sales cycles have become more complex as sales reps have to interact with more people at each customer than ever before. All of this makes it more difficult to forecast sales, set the right goals and close more deals.
Distributors are turning to SMP to combine CRM, ERP and business intelligence to address these new complexities. One of the key tactics forward-thinking distributors are employing is a careful analysis of the specific activities that drive sales forward. It’s about making your reps as effective as they can be and adding some motivation along the way. It’s not necessarily about forcing your reps into certain behaviors by cracking the whip. It’s about showing them the simplest path to victory that supports your revenue goals. Showing them a faster way to revenue is very motivating, assuming their compensation model is in alignment with the success of your company.
Here are a few areas to look at in terms of sales behaviors that address emerging purchasing trends and can positively impact your bottom line.
If your customers see you as simply providing products, then you’ve already lost the sale. In many cases, it is simpler to just “buy products,” from online sources at lower rates. You need to develop your differentiation by developing relationships, not just with your reps but with your entire team. Your offering isn’t just a product, it involves your value-added services and relationships well beyond the purchase event.
Many customers see their distributor as a partner who can help them architect specific solutions for their own customers. This can be through technical expertise, setup and installation, education, product support and more. The best distributors are advisors to their customers giving them ways to succeed in their own businesses.
Understanding the many people and products that make up a solution for your customers is a key behavior in winning deals. Many sales managers still focus entirely on their account managers who are responsible for finding and closing new deals. That is understandable, as they are the ones managing the sales to revenue. But it can be just as important to create and manage sales tasks for others in your company who help provide solutions, from inside sales to technical support to vendor reps all the way to customer support post-sale.
It’s not hard to understand that the distributor who builds the most relationships inside of their company and their customers’ companies do the best at avoiding competitive encroachment. Despite the rise of online sourcing, humans still buy form other humans and want to foster a cooperative relationship. Creating and managing a sales process that involves a team selling approach can drive new sales and keep those customers happier over the long haul. Some distributors have even developed sales compensation models for their technical and support teams based on meetings, performance and revenue contribution.
Sharing the Load… And the Rewards
The flip side of team selling is sharing goals and rewards. When you involve more people in a deal, you have to find a way to get them to work together with the least possible conflict. You have to spell out the rules of engagement on every deal. This is especially true if you have more than one geographical rep or team or several branch managers who have to coordinate their sales and delivery efforts. How do you determine who contributes what and manage potential conflicts if you don’t carefully manage your sales process? Running SMP is key to understanding the many meetings, tasks and other contributions that add up to revenue across all of your locations.
Too often, distributors avoid these conversations because they lack the data to really back up their decisions. That only leads to more confusion, more conflict, less coordination and thus unhappy customers. With SMP, you can quickly analyze sales contribution. That further motivates your team to track their processes and contribute to future deals.
Focus on Efforts Before the Close
It’s easy to analyze closed revenue, so many distributors focus solely on closed deals as a success factor. But that’s a little bit like coaching a touchdown instead of the play. With more sales complexity, more competitive encroachment and overall longer sales cycles, managing the entire sales process is more important than ever.
You have to keep your sales reps focused on the long game, not just the close. The way to do that is carefully track and manage all of the activities in their sales cycles. SMP allows you do quickly analyze all of the tasks and behaviors in each account to help coach your reps through the entire cycle. This keeps your reps motivated by allowing them to show the success and progress of each deal rather than just paying attention to the end of the cycle. Too much can go wrong with a deal before it reaches the finish line – SMP allows you to diagnose and solve issues long before they become insurmountable.
By helping you analyze all of your sales quickly, SMP also helps your reps achieve balance in their customer base. Many reps like to focus on large customers, believing that keeping those customers happy is the key to driving the lion share of their quota. But as a company owner, can you be sure that those are the most profitable customers? SMP allows you quickly analyze which customers are truly your best customers and help you focus on the right behaviors that drive profitable business, not just big sales.
Living in an Omnichannel World
We all know that more and more B2B sourcing is happening online. Many distributors are investing in e-commerce initiatives to compete. Unfortunately, it makes no sense to invest in e-commerce if you cannot manage your basic sales processes. What happens when a great customer buys online instead of from a rep? What kind of chaotic sales behaviors might result from that conflict? How might your customer experience suffer as a result?
The best distributors are working with their teams to address these issues by making it easy for customers to buy in any way possible – online, offline, over the phone, in the field, etc. The right way for your sales rep to work with your customer is how and where the customer needs to work. By integrating with your ERP system and providing mobile sales tools, SMP helps turn your online strategy into a benefit for your reps rather than a threat. You can easily analyze sales data in all channels and match it to rep behavior so that your reps get credit for doing the proper consultations early with their customers, regardless of how a customer places an order.
Set Goals Based on Data
Running a tight sales process requires data analysis. SMP’s award-winning data visualization tools give you detail and accuracy in all stages of your sales cycle from prospecting and marketing to close. You can stop making guesses about the right goals and behaviors and quickly analyze your sales, CRM and ERP histories to incent and predict future success. Tracking and discussing important sales metrics helps you coach your team to success and keeps them motivated to achieve their goals using the right sales behaviors.