The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Recommended Reading: Will the B2B Field Sales Role Disappear?

Changes in customer behavior require changes in how distributors sell.

How B2B customers buy is changing. And in many cases, they are completing much of their shopping before they even reach out to a sales rep. As a result, we’re outgrowing the traditional self-directed sales role, which is costly and ineffective in this new market environment, a trend detailed in Why Field Sales Must Evolve: The Gorilla in the Room, part 1.

Will the B2B field sales role disappear? For firms that acknowledge and respond to the forces of change around us, the answer is no.

But it will change; it has to change. The current model can't keep pace with new customer demands. Trained in the ways of Amazon, B2B customers seek businesses that are easy to work with, which is impossible for a distributor to achieve without a multichannel approach.

The benefit swings both ways. The cost to serve a customer through channels other than field sales is typically lower, boosting a distributor’s bottom line.

But many distributors have resisted this shift and the organizational changes that need to happen. They are still relying on expensive sales reps to do tasks that could be accomplished more efficiently with lower-cost resources such as an online self-service portal.

And the sales process remains largely artisan with salespeople making their own decisions about how they go to market with little oversight from sales management.

How will the field sales role change? Salespeople will likely be more specialized and work more closely with a team of inside sales, product specialists and others in the company to meet the customer’s needs in the most cost-effective way. Their market plans will be driven by the company’s overall strategy, and they will serve a truly consultative role with customers that want and need it – conducting needs analyses, documenting cost savings and delivering value-added services a customer is willing to pay for.

A distributor’s biggest expense is sales, and they need to be sure they are spending that money selectively for maximum ROI.

Read more about the changing field sales role in Why Field Sales Must Evolve: The Gorilla in the Room, part 1.

We are excited to work with distribution executives on this subject going forward. Join Indian River Consulting Group and MDM for Sales GPS, a hands-on executive workshop focused on transforming your sales model, March 1-2, 2017, in Austin, TX. Learn more at

Mike Marks is managing director of Indian River Consulting Group and specializes in helping distributors and manufacturers accurately diagnose problems and identify risk-bound alternatives so they can take their next steps confidently. Call IRCG at 321-956-8617 or visit

About the Author
Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Sign Up for the MDM Update Newsletter

The MDM update newsletter is your best source for news and trends in the wholesale distribution industry.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to MDM’s Privacy Policy.


articles left

Want more Premium content from MDM?

Subscribe today and get:

  • New issues twice each month
  • Unlimited access to, including 10+ years of archived data
  • Current trends analysis, market data and economic updates
  • Discounts on select store products and events


articles left

This is your last free article

Subscribe to MDM Premium today and get:

  • Unlimited access to
  • 1 year digital subscription, with new issues twice a month
  • Trends analysis, market data and quarterly economic updates
  • Deals on select store products and events



You have one free article remaining

Subscribe to MDM Premium to get unlimited access. Your subscription includes:

  • Two new issues a month
  • Access to 10+ years of archived data on
  • Quarterly economic updates, trends analysis and market data
  • Store and event discounts

To continue reading, you must be an MDM Premium subscriber.