Distributors can be a valuable asset to a corporation, if the organization uses them correctly. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges of driving sales through distributors and what the manufacturer/vendor can do to overcome those barriers.
One of the primary roadblocks to improved distributor sales is motivation. This can be especially true with smaller distributors. Often times they are comfortable with their current sales levels and are not interested in really growing their business. The manufacturer also bears some responsibility for making the information needed to sell effectively accessible and convenient. For example, not having a single point of contact is a hassle that will cause many distributors to disengage.
When there is a dealer beyond the distributor (in other words the hierarchy is manufacturer > distributor > dealer), the main challenge is that your product is even less of a priority. Dealers are not exclusive to one particular product, so they aren’t going to build their sales and marketing strategy around one particular brand. It’s not about you; it’s about what sells.
With a clever mix of technology and marketing know-how, these barriers can be overcome and you can turn your distribution channels into productive contributors to your bottom line. The first step to success is making turnkey solutions available to the distributor. Knowing which sales and marketing content is available to them can make it easier to participate in a marketing campaign. Additionally, can distributors and their sales teams sign up for incentive programs that are automatically managed on the distributor’s behalf? Similarly, it’s important that programs and processes are in place to not only track sales and results for particular products, but also that that information is conveyed to the sales force in a meaningful manner.
Incentive programs and visible sales “leader boards” have a way of making a content sales person slightly less satisfied with merely hitting their quota. Contests, hard-to-get tickets and trips give the sales force something to shoot for. Ego is a big part of what drives competitors, and sales people, when given something to shoot for, are big-time competitors. Do don’t be afraid to play to their ego.
In order to effectively implement these solutions, technology needs to be in place. It’s obvious to see that when you’re discussing automation and data aggregation, but technology also helps to smooth out processes on the back-end. Budgeting, for example can be controlled on an individual basis throughout the distributor network via marketing resource management (MRM) systems. Using the earlier example, controlling finances from a digital platform makes it easier to tie the budget to the aforementioned incentive programs for particular products. Most importantly, MRM systems can be used to manage, execute and track the actual campaigns tied to the incentive program.
Make it easy
The bottom line to breaking through distributor barriers is a little incentive never hurt. Again, put technology to work for you to automate incentive programs and give distributed sales teams a reason to prioritize your product. Finally, employ technology to take the legwork out of marketing processes and show them the results. Basically, make life simple for them, give them a goal and give them a reason to get it.