Just a few years ago, the algorithms that online sites used to target consumers ran hot and cold. What was true then is true now – if you incorrectly target an online customer with a product that has no relevance, you’re likely to drive people away from your site. Today, however, those algorithms have become much more accurate and are the cornerstone of social selling.
What works for these online sites is also what works for manufacturers’ reps. Offering personalized service – or in other words, knowing what product is the right fit for each customer – is still the best way to increase sales. Shotgunning a product and hoping something sticks to the wall not only wastes time, it wastes opportunities – B2B buyers consistently express their concern that some reps just don’t understand their business and are only calling on them to write an order. Here are a few ideas on this topic to keep in mind (they also translate to retail environments and online sales).
Learn what makes each dealer tick. Each dealer is unique. You need to understand which of your products work for which of your dealers in any given scenario. The best way to do this is to simply study the dealer’s publications: review their website, review their case studies, find out how much volume they are doing and what their typical client looks like. Follow their social feeds. It really doesn’t take too much investigative searching to get a good feel for what the needs are – and what probably doesn’t work for them (simple example: even though shading is very profitable and quite easy to deploy nowadays, not every dealer is into shading – so don’t waste time pitching your shading products to them).
Stay engaged with the products that do work. Most sales involving time lags (the time from initial specification to deployment) go south because the rep fails to properly engage over the long haul – with updates on new product transitions or changes in delivery times, etc. It’s critical to keep your client updated, even if there is nothing that’s been updated – your obligation is to stay engaged over the long haul.
Measure results. Once you’ve identified which of your products best serves the needs of each of your dealers, you need to measure the results against your forecast. By measuring your results, you’ll be able to see what worked and what didn’t work. You’ll obviously accelerate your sales based on successes, but you’ll also be able to take a deeper look at which products didn’t work. Talk to those dealers where you both maybe felt you had a winner and find out why you didn’t gain any traction. Knowing is better than not knowing.
Be prepared to scale. When you find yourself with a winning product, nothing kills momentum more than not being able to fill the pipeline. But, if you’ve done your homework and can accurately forecast your channel’s needs, combined with constant engagement and measurements to stay on target, you’ll be better prepared to work with the manufacturer to ensure products are available to fill the pipeline. The better you become at forecasting, the more reliable the factory will view your input – which should translate into your receiving your fair share of allocations.