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THERE ARE IMPORTANT questions to consider when we discuss channels and actual customers. Whether you are a manufacturer selling to and through a channel, are a distributor (in the channel) selling to a retailer (an extension of the channel) or are the retailer selling to the end user, you should be able to find some useful tips in this article.
The tips are in the form of conditions written from the perspective of a manufacturer’s rep going into the field to work with a distributor rep. Apply them to your situation as appropriate.
These conditions should be in place prior to any two reps working together for the greater good, so whichever side of the channel you may be working on, make sure these 22 conditions are in place before a field visit!
- Identify which accounts you will be seeing and their primary focus.
- Ask when this account has last seen or heard about our products.
- Note how many units/projects/purchases they generate each year.
- What type of products do they use? If applicable, have they specified our products in the past?
- Does this company use other products that you carry or just our products?
- Determine what the purpose of each presentation/sales call is. Example: lunch and learn, update, class, small group, large group, or specific project/opportunity to discuss.
- Will the decision makers be joining us?
- Create a complete itinerary before the trip to ensure time is invested wisely.
- Will there be any social events that could lead to business?
- What is each rep’s relationship with these accounts?
- How much annual business is generated with the accounts we are seeing?
- Who are the top 10 customers by volume? Should we be meeting with any of them?
- Who should follow up and how should we follow up on opportunities generated from the visit?
- Send an overview of the two-day trip to appropriate sales managers.
- How many new accounts are we calling on that you/we have never met? What is the potential there?
- What selling tools do you currently have, and what do you need me to bring?
- What are the biggest objections or opportunities with the accounts we are seeing?
- Do you plan to show other products or will this be focused on only my products?
- What did we learn from this call? Did you hear the same things I did, what could we do better or differently?
- Setting expectations, I’ll take the lead on a few calls and then I’ll watch you present. This way I can provide feedback and help where needed.
- Helping the rep to better understand our product helps them differentiate us from the competition.
- Explain that we rank their accounts A, B, or C. Ask rep if the accounts we will visit are A’s, B’s or C’s. Some accounts that are B’s and C’s for other products could be A’s for our products.
The changes and improvements that will occur from requiring these conditions are dramatic but will take some time to bear fruit. Think about every rep at every channel partner and how long it might take for them to accept, embrace, buy in, and execute on some of these requirements. Raise your expectations but give it some time!