Selling for a distributor places you in a unique environment. While it’s true that many basic sales principles apply to you, there are additional complications arising out of your position as a distributor salesperson. For example, you may sell exactly the same thing your competitor sells. That’s unique to the distribution sector. Add in the potential you have for in-depth relationships with your customers, and multiply that by the number of vendors and products you sell, and you get a picture of the extra complexity of a distribution salesperson.
To be successful, you need some guidance in mastering the unique challenges of your job. Here are some “Power Strategies” specifically designed to help you become more successful in your unique position of being a salesperson in distribution.
FOCUS ON RESULTS
At first you may think this to be common sense and self-evident, and to some degree it is. However, many distributor reps are guilty of “going through the motions” selling. It’s very tempting to go through each day “mindlessly,” being driven by habit and routine rather than results.
In other words, you see “Customer A” on Tuesday morning because that’s your habit. Instead of being driven by the goals and objectives (results) you hope to achieve, you’re driven by habit. You go where it’s most comfortable and easiest rather than where it’s most effective.
To combat that natural tendency to be compelled by habit, embed the concept of “FOCUSING ON RESULTS” into your mind as an approach to every aspect of your job.
Start by focusing on the prospects and customers who hold the largest potential for you. In other words, decide who to see based on the potential for results, rather than on history or who likes you and is willing to spend time with you.
If I were to ask you to produce your list of “A” accounts, you’d probably produce a print out of the sales volume in your accounts, and point out the big buyers.
That’s history. Last year’s sales are last year’s history. And history has little to do with potential. Instead, think about which prospects and customers hold the largest future potential return for your investment in time.
Potential for results is comprised of two components.
The first is “quantified potential.” In other words, the amount of your product this account can purchase in the near future. Obviously each account has the potential to purchase differing amounts of your product.
But that’s only half of the issue. The other is more subjective — their potential for “partner-ability.” “Partnerability” is the subjective feeling you gain about the account’s potential to eventually become a partner.
“Partners” are your best customers. They buy everything they can from you; they recognize the value you bring them; they don’t engage in price shopping; they often receive unique services from you, and they are so happy with you and your company that they assertively recommend you to others.
When you FOCUS ON RESULTS, you keep the long-term goal in mind when you begin a relationship with an account. And, you reevaluate your progress toward that goal as you proceed through every step along the way. The long-term, ultimate “RESULT” is a partner relationship with your customers.
This issue of seeing your job as creating “partners” rather than just “selling stuff” can mark a significant change in your effectiveness. Understanding the difference is key to excelling at distribution sales.
At one point in my career I worked for a capital equipment manufacturer who sold directly to the end-user. My focus was on selling equipment. I really didn’t care who bought it, because I may never see that person again. My focus was on the equipment, not the person.
When I began selling for a distributor, I gradually made the transition to building relationships with people, not selling stuff. Because the relationship is of more value than any individual deal, I began to see that my job was to move people closer and closer into a broader and deeper business relationship with me and my company.
When you understand that the ultimate “RESULT” in distribution sales is a “partner,” you can see every customer and prospect through that lens. That perspective helps you decide with whom to spend your time.
You can usually pick up enough clues early on in a relationship with a customer to decide how “partner-able” an account is. How is the chemistry between the two companies, and between yourself and your contact people? Is the account just a price buyer, or are they open to creative proposals from you? Are they a progressive, growing organization? Those are some of the issues that comprise “partner-ability.”
You may have one account which has huge quantifiable potential, but because of the philosophy or personalities of the decision-makers, no foreseeable “partner-ability.” That account would not be a high potential account.
That’s the kind of cold-blooded analysis that you’ll build into your planning when you “FOCUS ON RESULTS.”
That’s the start. But it goes beyond that. When you “FOCUS ON RESULTS,” you create annual objectives for every one of your key accounts, focusing on the results you want to achieve.
For example, you may want to establish a certain product line in one account, meet several new people in another, and expand the current usage of a product in a third.
If you have a specific annual objective for each of your accounts, you’ll find it very easy to create strategic plans for your involvement in that account. And working a plan means that you’re FOCUSING on the RESULTS, working with discipline and direction, rather than working routinely and mindlessly.
FOCUSING ON RESULTS
If you FOCUS ON RESULTS, you’ll begin each sales call with the end in mind. You’ll adhere to the discipline of creating specific call objectives for every sales call. It’s amazing how you can improve your effectiveness simply by taking two minutes to write down the objective for every sales call you make before you make it.
If you FOCUS ON RESULTS, you’ll apply the same tough-mindedness to the products in which you choose to invest your selling time. Which products will bring you the best results? Which ones help make you important in the account? And which ones bring you the most commissions earned for your time invested? Those are the products and services that result-oriented salespeople choose to promote.
If you FOCUS ON RESULTS, you manage your time and territory precisely. That means taking time weekly, monthly, and annually to plan the most effective use of your time. It means constantly reevaluating your relationships with your customers and committing time to those who hold the greatest potential.
It means getting yourself organized so that you don’t waste time letting small projects slip through the cracks, or looking for manufacturer’s literature to use in a presentation. It means asking yourself daily, if not hourly, “What is the best use of my time right now?”
Finally, FOCUSING ON RESULTS means you view every interaction with your customers as an opportunity to create more “results.” You regularly ask your customers the question, “What has to happen for us to do more business together?” That question keeps the conversations with your customers focused on the results.
Put all this together and “FOCUS ON RESULTS” becomes an overarching strategy that effects everything you do. Consistently apply this strategy and you’ll watch your results grow dramatically.