Shared plans can help manufacturers & distributors meet goals
In a perfect world, distributors and independent sales representatives would be motivated to sell a manufacturer’s products and go above and beyond to exceed their revenue expectations. In reality, competing priorities, lack of product understanding, or just plain “out of sight, out of mind” challenges can impact the results from a distributor network.
Motivating distributors goes beyond sales contests and incentive programs (although they are certainly tactics that can be used). Motivation should be viewed as a top priority that is continually assessed and evaluated. Getting the most out of a distributor network requires active engagement, and approaching motivation strategically provides huge returns. To do it effectively requires a methodical approach in three core areas.
Create a Shared Plan
It is important to have a shared view of what success looks like and details on how that success will be achieved. Having lofty goals or unrealistic revenue targets without defining and agreeing upon the details of how they can be achieved does more harm than good.
Working directly with each distributor or independent sales representative to create an agreed-upon plan and tracking the progress of that plan is crucial. Manufacturers should be focused on setting distributors up for success and have dedicated regional managers or points of contact whose jobs are to help develop and execute the plan. Taking these steps communicates shared interest and responsibility, keeping the manufacturer top of mind and the distributor motivated to succeed.
Offer Marketing Support
Once the plan is in place and revenue or unit goals are defined, the manufacturer must offer marketing support to achieve those goals. This is one of the most impactful and meaningful areas of active engagement between manufacturer and distributor.
The manufacturer can create “pull” from the market by executing demand generation programs designed to increase awareness and direct business to its distributor network. Distributor-specific marketing campaigns are an important and effective part of this marketing support and can be specified in the shared plan.
Beyond marketing awareness and inbound demand creation, manufacturers can generate and share leads directly with their distributors. Providing this level of support signals shared responsibility for the plan and gives distributors engagement-ready sales leads, freeing them up to focus on closing business instead of generating new opportunities on their own.
Manufacturers also should furnish sales and marketing materials that can help the distributor engage and close new business. It is important to make these relevant to the audience and specific to the distributor’s market focus and needs. Providing help to improve the sales process by anticipating prospect needs and questions as they move through the buying cycle demonstrates commitment, increases communication and helps motivate distributors to succeed.
One way to bring this marketing support together is in a software platform that makes lead sharing easy, content relevant and feedback continuous. The goal of the marketing support should be to enable the overall selling process and create an environment of collaboration between manufacturer and distributor.
Once the plan is defined and marketing support is in place, measuring performance is the next step. This is where actual-versus-plan performance is reviewed, providing a shared view of what is working and what needs improvement. Creating a “system of record” to track performance simplifies reporting and unifies both manufacturer and distributor around the same information.
Many manufacturers lack this data-driven approach to managing distributors, which may lead them to overlook high performers, or worse, leave them unable to identify those needing extra support and motivation. Creating a shared view of the sales pipeline from leads delivered to closed business and all of the steps in between provides both manufacturer and distributor with important data to track performance and compare with previous time periods.
Focusing on these three areas can enhance distributor engagement and increase motivation, leading to higher revenue. The key to success is to constantly refine this approach and keep the lines of communication open and full of as much meaningful data as possible.