How Distributors Improve Customer Retention A common rule of thumb in distribution is that it…
Engage Buyers Faster Than Your Competition
We’ve all heard a lot about the many ways that B2B buying behavior has changed over the last few years. Certainly, more B2B purchases are moving online; however, the changes go much deeper than just online sourcing.
B2B buyers are relying much less on their sales reps for product-level information. It’s easier than ever for your customers to conduct their research online even if they don’t intend to make their actual purchase online. Buyers have easy access to manufacturers’ data sheets, user reviews, social media sites, e-catalogs and more. The two biggest take-aways for distribution sales reps in this new buying environment are:
- Changing role for the seller. Buyers are looking to their sales reps for more than just sales information. B2B buyers no longer place a high value on the traditional actions of sales reps. Things like simple product information, technical specifications, order execution and other sales activities aren’t as important as becoming a real partner in your customers’ businesses. How will you help your customers win more business, grow and improve profitability?
- Deferred sales engagements. Your customers have probably already made some form of contact with other companies before you engage. You have a shorter window of time than ever before to establish your value and differentiation to set yourself apart from the competition. It is critical that you engage as quickly and powerfully as possible.
With the right distribution CRM in place and access to important customer data, you can engage your customers faster than ever before. Here are just a few ways SMP users are leveraging their CRM to reach customers with value.
- Identify cues and signals. Your CRM data can help predict buying signals that alert you to sales opportunities before your customer reaches out to you. With SMP you can quickly and visually identify patterns such as seasonal trends, increased support or sales calls, competitive involvement, product mix signals, frequency patterns and more. When you’ve identified customers with a particular pattern in your data visualization, you begin creating activities for your sales reps directly from your data.
- Provide buyers with the right information at the right time. We are all overwhelmed with information. Being able to quickly identify patterns and send information to customers that match their needs will improve your sales and provide greater value to customers compared to competitors who simply blast out the same flyers every month to their entire list.
- Follow up on bids and quotes. Changes in buying behavior means it is more common for you customers to shop around. What hasn’t changed, however, is the importance of follow up in the sales cycle. SMP helps you automate your bid and quote follow up for better engagement than your competition.
- Make the most of face-to-face meetings to build trust armed with great information. Meetings in the new buying environment are more rare, which means you need to make them even more valuable. Most distributors treat all customer meetings the same: ask them what’s new, show them the line card, talk about service levels. What if you could share data visualizations of their own purchasing habits and where they could become more competitive and profitable in their own businesses?
- Engage digitally first through email. Part of the changing sales landscape is that buyers prefer their early contacts to happen digitally. SMP provides tools for you to quickly create profiled lists based on any data you want to track and analyze. You could easily create customer lists of one to 1,000 or more to send carefully targeted email messages.
- Improve your content. Sending out an announcement from a key manufacturer to your list is good. But all of your competitors are doing it, too. Sending the same announcement wrapped in custom messaging to the specific targets in your CRM database who match specific criteria is much more powerful. A simple way to improve your content and delivery would be to take your manufacturer’s announcement, profile a list of customers who have bought similar product in the past and then provide some additional editorial content around the announcement that adds value such as sales tips, installation advice, video reviews and more.
- Help them make the best decision with data. SMP makes it easy to develop visualizations on the fly to share with your customers. For example, if a customer is shopping several different brands, show them the support calls related to each based on your own customer data. Or show them how to consolidate their purchasing in ways that improve rebates and discounts or reduce their shipping fees. Show them data on purchasing trends of customers like them to give them ideas of where their market is moving.
- Develop buying profiles. SMP makes it easy to group new customer profiles based on any data you track, such as line of business, size, profitability, location, brand preferences and more. By quickly analyzing similar customers, you can help hone your message for targeted groups and demonstrate your special areas of focus to each of your customers. Your reps don’t need to be data or distribution marketing experts – they simply click on their data visualization to create a list or campaign of activities to follow up on based on any new profile they want to explore.