Commentary: Distributors Adapt Like Never Before - Modern Distribution Management

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Commentary: Distributors Adapt Like Never Before

In a time when optimism and clarity are hard to come by, Im moved by how the fundamental value of distribution is in the right place, at the right time. At one level its about moving product, but its much deeper than that distributors keep the economy running.
Little 3d plant growing on a concrete wall

In a time when optimism and clarity are hard to come by, I’m moved by how the fundamental value of distribution is in the right place, at the right time. At one level it’s about moving product, but it’s much deeper than that – distributors keep the economy running.

Recently I wrote about the flexibility of the U.S. economy and why it is the strongest, most resilient economy in the world due to the unique infrastructure of its many independent distribution channels that serve an even more fragmented customer base. That flexibility is being tested as we get a daily dose of new statistics and dire predictions.

MDM’s conversations have reinforced for me that distributors play the most important role in getting this country back on its feet as quickly as possible. I’m not downplaying the critical role of manufacturers or service providers in the supply chain. They are part of the incredible value chain and fabric of how distributors define their unique value propositions to their core customers.

But distributors — and the sales/customer service teams specifically — are the front lines; they have the relationships that provide company leaders with critically important information on what customers are doing today, and thinking about tomorrow. And when things shift rapidly, they provide the latest intel on the immediate and future impacts to the business.

So while we have long advocated on the need to change the role of the outside sales function from generalist to more strategic, digitally supported and management-directed, let me be crystal clear: The core role of person-to-person selling in the last two weeks became a much more critical differentiator, and will keep increasing in value — defined and executed properly — long into the future. Please thank your sales and customer service teams … again.

Data is Sparse – Wait for It

This is an impossible time for those who manage by data. There is no precedent for what we are in today. But there are examples and previous cycles for how to stay future-focused and not get behind the curve. We at MDM are committed to bringing you as much data-based information as we can of what other distributors are doing and emerging best practices.

Beware of data-free decisions. There’s a big difference between reactive and responsive. One of the biggest challenges as economic, social and political conditions shift daily is that we don’t know what we don’t know. There is too little quantitative data to make sound forecasts. The next best thing is probably coming from anecdotal information, qualitative data your sales teams are gathering from the field. Be careful of the natural filters in their DNA, but it’s likely the best data out there today to piece together for planning purposes.

We focus on information and business intelligence that will help our customers compete more effectively. Our mission is to help distributors build better and more profitable businesses.

Please let me know how we can best support you. Reach me at or direct at (303) 819-4615.

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