At our 2016 NetPlus Alliance Annual Meeting – themed “Plan & Grow” – keynote speaker Seth Mattison (right) told distributors not to resist ongoing market shifts, but to embrace them and adapt. Since then, recent news and research has served as a continual reminder of how important this proactive mindset is given the shifts in our customer base.
Take the data from a recent report researched and written by Jonathan Bein (Real Results Marketing) and published by industry publication Modern Distribution Management in late 2016. Working with distributors, Bein surveyed and interviewed thousands of their customers on how they prefer to shop and buy. What he found, among other findings, was that more shopping and buying is moving online, and that the role of field sales is narrowing.
The oft-quoted statistic that 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is now completed before a buyer even reaches out to a sales rep reinforces Bein’s findings. This is in large part due to the vast amount of information you can now find online, including product information and reviews.
The takeaway is that we need to think differently about how we serve our customers. That may mean investing in a website upgrade, e-commerce, and other technology that will streamline and support your operations so that you can meet your customers’ growing expectations. It may also mean you have to rethink the role your salespeople play. (MDM also had a series of articles on this topic you may want to check out.)
SiriusDecisions, the source of the 70% number above, says that while it’s true that buyers seek out and find a lot of information on their own, there is still a place for salespeople to add value. “Help make those communications truly useful so that needs and opportunities naturally surface, and sales can get involved early in finding solutions,” the firm says.
Brian Gardner (right), founder of SalesProcess360, spoke about the importance of team selling at our 2016 NetPlus Annual Meeting, as well as in a follow-up webinar with members. He says distributors need multiple touch points with customers to serve them more effectively and efficiently. What’s more, you may uncover more sales opportunities as a result.
Thanks to economies of scale, the largest distributors have historically been better able to invest in tools and initiatives to respond to this rapidly changing dynamic. The good news: Thanks to the falling cost of technology, new skillsets among newcomers to the employment ranks and the buying power of groups like NetPlus, it’s becoming easier for independent distributors to compete on this front.
The overall impact of our programs for independent distributors is compelling, with NetPlus growth results often outpacing the industry three- to four-fold.