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Manufacturer - Distributor Relationships energized by Automated Sales Enablement tools on multiple levels

Mert Yentur

 

Why distributors are an essential cog in every manufacturer's wheel

Industrial manufacturing is a defined and specific field of operation. There aren't many choices when it comes to getting the product into the marketplace. The merits of adopting a direct selling model are always a temptation, but multiple challenges emerge (in most cases, stemming from the complexity of supply-chain management). To avoid the pitfalls, manufacturers instead opt to sell their products through traditional distribution channels. 

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The appropriate distributor selection is a must in getting the right product to the right customers quickly and seamlessly. A distributor, by definition (often referred to as dealers or authorized agents), acquires manufacturers' merchandise, inventories it, promotes it, and delivers it to retail sellers in brick-and-mortar locations or through their eCommerce sites direct to the end user. They take most of the marketing burden off the manufacturer's shoulders - maximizing the advantage of a distribution network that hits at the heart of identified viable client segments. The two entity-types are a natural fit, fulfilling reciprocal functions that give the other leverage and viability in a competitive situation. Omnichannel engagement is critical so that the product stays abreast of end-user needs as they change.

Here's where the big problems arise: Manufacturers and distributors are two different animals altogether. They think differently, react differently, display different tolerance levels for the same stresses, and have objectives that don't align with one another. No longer is a basic transactional understanding enough to drive the distribution process forward. 

The best interactions are those where the manufacturer and its distributor talk to one another meaningfully through media that mutually resonate. It's not an easy one. Still, all the technologies and tools of automated sales enablement are available to structure an arrangement that delivers value fast. 

Understanding the challenges inherent in every distribution channel is the first big step.

  • Once the product leaves the manufacturer's premises for relocation at a distributor, the former loses some control. Undoubtedly there are numerous distributor-modern B2B buyer touch points along the way, each one influential in making the next a reality - either energizing the process or holding it back. 
  • A manufacturer that understands the rules is ready to support the distributors at every pivot point. It should provide the appropriate value-messaging in promotional material, conduct webinars to educate distributor's reps, and offer customized digital presentations. There should be a chat-based support line to address perplexing queries.
  • The method of communication is integral to the relationship. Often distributor reps find it inconvenient to conduct conventional cell phone conversations. Alternatively, conferencing in more than one party is frequently necessary. Digital messaging revelations like WhatsApp, Slack, and Zoom are flexible to different communication needs, making it seamless and almost instantaneous when required. They are indeed a sizable influence on a smooth functioning distribution channel.  
  • There's another thing often bypassed by manufacturers when overviewing the movement of their products through the channel. It's the influencers at each decision-making juncture. More often than not, engineers, warehouse supervisors, marketing executives, the reps of course, and even HR have a say in the product's acceptance at a distribution point or in customer usage. Unless the manufacturer takes all this into account, the relative performance of its brand through to the end user may hiccup and ultimately fail. Distributor and customer consensus on product attributes are core features of productive partnerships in this business. 
  • ROI misconception is a common obstacle in the process. For example: to the manufacturer, the weighting may fall on more sales in recently introduced Product A with a de-emphasis on Product B. However, the reps love Product B because it's easier to sell and explain to customers. According to a report from Warne marketing, new products only get the required attention 52% of the time in the critical introductory phase, when the path to ultimate success is touch-and-go. 
  • From another angle, commonly, manufacturers sell through multiple distributors, and distributors invariably stock products of competitive manufacturers for the same product type. In cases like this, the squeaky wheel often gets the most attention. It's up to the manufacturer or the distributor (whatever the case may be) to work out what noise to make, when, and in what way. 
  • Of course, exclusive distributorships follow entirely different dynamics and adhere much more to the terms of a true partnership. The biggest complaint that distributors have is a lack of manufacturer support. Against this backdrop, the manufacturer that connects to distributors with impact and the right incentives, will advance quickest and make the most headway.

Introducing the concept of partnership into the channel of distribution

When the day arrives that a distributor and manufacturer agree they are in partnership, it's often the turning point in the quest for better ROI and revenue all around. Everyone seems to get on the same page, showing concern for each other's bumps in the road. While the concept is intriguing, it's more a case of closer engagement once a manufacturer and distributor take the step of working together. It creates a commitment to help each other succeed.

If, indeed, you decide to intensify your connection to the other party (i.e., distributor or manufacturer), it requires forethought, teamwork, and substantial extra effort. Here are some succinct recommendations based on a reliable source

  • Meet with each other one-on-one whenever the opportunity presents itself. Attend all conferences where spare time facilitates getting together to update and bounce new ideas around. The more direct exposure, the better. It's far better than stodgy emails and texts back and forth.
  • Outline your expectations from the beginning in the spirit of full transparency. Once down and understood, reinforce them as the product impacts the market and flows through the distribution channel. Make it abundantly clear that you want to close more sales in less time. It's generally music to a distributor's ears.
  • Communicate on marketing materials required, training, technical data, and customer support - particularly on how to personalize presentations. Manufacturers should work with distributors to differentiate the buyer's journey in every positive way.
  • It should be a common objective to meet buyer expectations with a better-personalized buyer experience. Delivering data-driven, highest performing content recommendations underlies competitive advantage. Share Content Solutions/Experiences that impact sales through the channel.
  • Invariably, delays and inability for reps to communicate with manufacturers when interfacing customer in the moment leads to errors, misrepresentations, and excessive frustrations. The backlash is one of deteriorating "partnership" bonds. 
  • The best resolution is establishing digital communication on an instantaneous system. It gives reps the confidence of knowing there's a virtual, all-in-one solution. manufacturer's support in the background at the click of a button. ·     
  • Invest in technology, particularly AI advancements that can facilitate the smooth functioning of all the moving parts. Everything pivots on key personnel in both organizations, trusting one another and relying on the provided advice coming from all sides.
  • The benefits obtained from cohesive effort are both tangible and intangible. The intangible rests on a sense of goodwill and basking in mutually achieved excellent results. The "tangible" is a more confirming item, where you can see costs reducing, turnover of product increasing, higher profit margins, and more 5-star client reviews.


Pitcher 

Do you want to sell smarter and support sales with smarter resources? Do you want to onboard distributor reps quicker? Is it essential for you to deliver the right message for every conversation you have with your channel partners? Are you struggling to communicate effectively with your backward or forward channel partners? If so, it's time to contact Pitcher - the cutting edge sales enablement entity that both manufacturers and distributors rely on. 

The company knows how to drive a more efficient and effective sales team, optimize the sales cycle, and unite marketing and sales efforts right through the distribution channel. For the best service and technology providers, and industry-leading implementation services, Pitcher agents are at your service. Protect your brand with a globally proven technology and adopting a single enterprise-grade platform in addition to innovative sales and marketing solutions.

Pitcher is known to get things in balance fast and reliably with resolutions that make all the sense in the world.