Driving Distributor Sales With a Product Specialist

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All across “Distributor Land” wholesalers are discovering four important issues:

Products are more technical. Electrical distributors find themselves responsible for complex Automation devices. Plumbing wholesalers sell microprocessor-based instant on hot water systems. Industrial MRO distributors line up to sell gauging equipment. Each of these requires specialized knowledge that is often outside the skill base of their line sales people.

Manufacturers off-load more tasks. Distributors are being asked to manage a bigger percentage of the demand creation process. Tasks like product demonstrations and joint calls are becoming a rare commodity. And affecting the way distributors plan their growth.

Distributors are crossing lines of trade. No longer are distributors focused on a single type of product. Manufacturers are driving outside their traditional product areas and they expect their “good” distributor partners to follow along.

Sales Managers are too busy to judge the professional progress of every salesperson in every category of product. Some members of the sales team are self selecting and only selling the stuff they are most comfortable with – this costs opportunity and fragments the selling process.

According to a recent survey, distributors are turning increasingly to Specialists. These are the guys who work with the sales team to drive a vertical slice of the line card forward using the connections and day to day work of the line sales force.

Specialists have achieved these results in other companies:
• Improved Sales per Customer
• Increased Customer Satisfaction
• Built Stronger Vendor Relationships
• And, Increased the Bottom Line

The problem is very few distributors have taken the time to build a procedure and process around the Specialist. The Specialist role has “happened” rather than been crafted. Before you start building your team you should:
1) Define the expectations of the sales force.
2) Define the expectations of the Specialist.
3) Set up the ground rules of regular reports back to management.
4) Develop a 90-day sliding marketing calendar for Specialists.
5) Establish the best prospects for growth.

This is a short list but I am continually surprised by the number of distributors who wait until disaster strikes before taking these easy steps.

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