The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

How Distributors are Improving their Sales Processes

The 4Q19 Baird Industrial Distribution Survey reveals a high percentage of companies that are focused on revamping their sales processes for the year ahead. They will invest more in skills training, improve digital marketing efforts and increase outside sales coverage.
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When asked whether they expected to make a change to their company’s sales process within the next 12 months, more than three-quarters (78%) of distributors responding to the 4Q19 Baird Industrial Distribution Survey, conducted in partnership with Modern Distribution Management, said their biggest focus is on productivity innovation. Companies will be focusing on how to do more with less and in less time — all with an eye on achieving similar or better results from their sales efforts. 

According to the survey, 76% of companies that want to improve their sales process will do so via new skills or training for their workforce, while 75% will put more time and effort into their digital marketing efforts. 

Fifty-two percent of companies expect their inside sales support to stay the same, 45% will increase these efforts, and 48% plan to increase their outside sales coverage. 

Sales Improvement, Please 

Based on these responses, most distributors view their sales processes as works-in-progress that need regular honing, improving and polishing. For some of these companies, technology is the answer. For others, it’s about going back to the drawing board to develop new approaches and strategies. 

Also see: “The Value in Making Innovation Part of Your Business Model.

“We’re looking to create new ‘dashboards’ with our new software and incorporate in sales and operations ASAP,” one distributor pointed out. Another mentioned it planned to do more with its customer relationship management (CRM) system in 2020. One distributor wants to put a greater focus on a smaller group of accounts where it can more readily “move the needle,” while another is hoping to split its sales team into two unique disciplines:  One focused on supporting the channel, and another focused on the end market.

Amping-Up Sales in 2020

The reorganization of distributor sales teams and refocusing of their activities were popular themes for survey respondents. One said they are looking to revise sales territories with an eye on enabling better coverage and the addition of new reps. Another distributor is establishing product management teams that will handle its key product businesses.  

“We’re eliminating non-core and low profit product lines, while increasing our effort to get leading lines certified,” another respondent said. Some of the other ways industrial distributors plan to amp-up their sales in 2020 is broadening their in-person customer contacts; putting a greater emphasis on solution selling; and revising the commission plans to focus more on new growth and less on low-margin accounts. 

For more results from the Baird Industry Distribution Survey, read, “Distributors Prepared to Combat Slower Growth in First Half of 2020,” in the latest issue of MDM Premium.

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