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Strong Partners

Here's a Top 10 list of ways to get more out of your CRM

By Bill Moore

Strong partners

In an era when distributors are being pressured to carry a seemingly limitless selection of products, it’s important to ask: Are you actively representing the offerings of your top-tier manufacturers, or merely serving as a product outlet?

The average industrial distributor today carries hundreds of brands and thousands of different product varieties. It’s a proliferation of products that distributors are stocking often at the request of certain end-user customers.

But bigger isn’t necessarily better. Top-tier manufacturers rightly worry about whether the distinctive advantages of their offerings are being effectively communicated to end-users, or drowned out amid the ever expanding product menus. There are drawbacks for distributors, too, such as inviting comparison with supply sources that are essentially commodity providers and nothing more.

If the trend continues, it’s bound to affect relationships between supply partners.

Profit-Building Dividends
Actively supporting your manufacturer partners, in contrast, pays dividends for all involved. Your distributorship benefits from access to the most advanced technologies, while customers profit from reliable supply sources that can offer productivity-boosting technical assistance.

Manufacturers benefit from having a trusted representative actively promoting their interests to current and prospective users.

Signs of a True Product Representative
What are the signs that identify a distributor as a true product representative and supply partner? Sales figures are an obvious indicator, but they can fluctuate with the economy. Even more telling are consistent efforts on behalf of a handful of top-tier manufacturers. A number of metrics can underscore that commitment.

Call activity and lead generation are two examples. Are your salespeople passive order takers, or do they advocate for products of top-tier manufacturers? Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or similar tracking system should document when a sales visit promotes a specific manufacturer’s product, or generates a request for more information.

What’s more, true product representatives consult frequently with their top manufacturers and engage in proactive marketing activities on their behalf. They often produce ads and promotional materials touting their top product lines.

New product intros are another good indicator. Has your company participated recently in rollouts of new products developed by your top manufacturers? Have you attended conferences or trade shows, for example, where the products were introduced? True product representatives are likely to answer yes.

What to Expect in Return

Distributors that actively promote their top-tier manufacturers should expect a commensurate level of support in return. This would normally involve a demonstrated financial commitment, including sales bonuses tied to increases in share of business.

As a trusted distributor, you can usually count on an array of special services, such as dedicated inventories that assure access to hard-to-supply products. In the sales area, top executives from the manufacturers you represent should be available to accompany you on sales visits to key accounts.

Your company will also have priority access to the application engineering and technical resources of top manufacturers. These resources can be deployed at customer facilities to address technical issues, cut costs and improve productivity. Special manufacturer programs that increase your revenues, such as bearing reconditioning and electric motor repair certification, are additional benefits.

In sum, actively representing your manufacturer partners is a commitment that generates a healthy return and makes solid business sense for distributors.

Bill MooreBill Moore is senior vice president, Sales Development and Channel Management, SKF Service Division, based in Lansdale, Pa. He can be contacted at William.C.Moore@skf.com or at (215) 513-4851.

 

This article originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2013 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2013, Direct Business Media.

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