In the industrial tool and equipment marketplace, manufacturers often function as gatekeepers. No matter how great your product is for end users, you first need to convince distributors – and their sales teams – to choose you over your competition.
So how do you stand out from the pack? The key here is to put yourself in your distributor’s shoes and empathize with their position. Remember, they build their reputation by selling great products from excellent brands. And just like you, they need to make a healthy profit to stay in business. When you demonstrate that you can help solve these problems, you make it an easy decision for your distributors to promote your products.
Here, in more detail, are three tested and proven best practices for motivating distributor sales teams to sell more of your products.
1. Maintain a Strong Brand
The easiest products to sell are the ones backed by strong brands. Most buyers gravitate to brand names. Industrial buyers, who are traditionally more risk-averse (after all, it’s usually a bigger spend), are more comfortable buying from established brands that are well-known and well-respected in their marketplace.
This means one of the biggest favors you can do for your distributor’s sales team is to create and maintain a strong brand.
This doesn’t mean running out to get a new logo and a website redesign. Instead, a strong brand comes from understanding precisely where your flag is planted in the market and then communicating that clearly and consistently to your ideal buyers.
Industrial manufacturers with strong brands can readily answer these tough questions:
- What is our unique selling proposition as a brand? Distributor sales teams have an easier time selling products that are both unique and backed by a clearly differentiated brand.
- Where is our brand weak, and what are we doing to spin that weakness to our advantage? Just about every weakness has a corresponding strength (higher-priced products tend to be higher quality and last longer, for example). Arm your distributor’s reps with compelling answers to common objections about your weaknesses, and you motivate them to sell more effectively.
- Which of our products perform best in each of our markets? No matter how good your full line of products may be, some will always sell better than others. When you help distributor sales teams understand which products are most in demand in each of your markets and territories, you motivate them to invest their time and energy where the ROI for their effort is highest.
- Where do we rank compared with our competitors? Strong brands occupy a place in the mind of your buyers. The stronger your brand, the easier it is for your buyers to recognize and remember. Help distributor salespeople position your brand against competing brands, and you equip them to sell more effectively.
- Where is our brand headed in new offerings, growth in existing markets, and penetration of new markets? Salespeople like to work for brands that are going places. When you have ambitious goals and communicate them, you build the momentum that creates motivation.
- Are we enabling sellers? Be willing to provide extensive training and background on your products so that your distributor’s salespeople are confident in their ability to sell and assist end-users in the best way possible.
2. Offer Profitable Margins
Another way to motivate distributors is to pay attention to their margins. When your go-to-market strategy involves selling through distributors, remember: The higher their margins on your products, the more motivated their sales reps are to push them.
The lesson here for your company is that you must measure your margins against not only those of competing brands, but also the other products they sell. If your distributors can’t make a healthy margin on a product of yours, but they can with other products, they’ll naturally lean toward pushing the competing brand … and it’s hard to blame them.
Another advantage for you in offering high-margin products is availability.
When there’s more margin in a product, distributors are often willing to stock more of it. This shortens your delivery times and increases customer satisfaction. Your end users appreciate faster delivery times because they prevent unscheduled shutdowns and other delays — especially when supply chains are already shaky.
Speaking of end users, availability also affects sales to them. If your end user isn’t concerned about the brand name and just needs a product ASAP that’s high-quality and accessible, then your branding takes a backseat to availability.
3. Run Amazing Promotions
“In an industry where seller remuneration is largely commission-based, manufacturer promotions are a great way to light a fire under a distributor’s sales teams,” says Dean Reidy, VP of Sales, Chicago Jack Service, Inc. “When your promotional programs are goal-driven and result in rebates/credits after a sales goal has been reached, those promos usually perform very well to incentivize your distributors. Just make sure you make the rewards exciting enough to motivate most everybody.”
The best way to create profitable promotions is to collaborate with your distributors.
Get together for a planning session to develop the sales forecasting and set goals for the credits and rebates. Get their feedback on what’s likely to motivate and what’s likely to miss, and you’ll get closer to creating promotions that are win-win-win. Your end users win, your distributor’s sales team wins … and, of course, you win.
Give Distributors More Reasons to Sell What You Make
Even on the best of days, few jobs are tougher than sales. So why would your distributor’s sales teams choose to sell products that make the job even harder?
Smart manufacturers know that by maintaining a strong brand reputation, providing healthy profit margins, and collaborating with distributors to create amazing promotions, they can incentivize distributor sales teams to choose and sell their products. Remember, you’re not just making life easier for your distributors – you’re demonstrating that you understand their priorities and that you’re committed to a strategy that works alongside them.
But this may just be the first step. When it comes to increasing your sales, an IMR can help you reach your next milestone. To learn more, read our Guide to Outsourcing Sales.