As the country awakens from the COVID-19 crisis, no one knows for sure what the economic “new normal” will look like.
That’s especially true for distribution, which has seen a wide divergence of companies’ fortunes based on everything from geographic locations to product categories to end markets.
Some hallmarks of the post-coronavirus marketplace are beginning to materialize across the industry, of course. Each link in the supply chain – manufacturer, distributor and customer – will likely look to remove costs from its business, and many companies could raise prices while also demanding more from their channel partners.
And one principle that’s sure to emerge as the economy regains its footing: Businesses whose leaders have emphasized innovation during the pandemic – and plan to continue emphasizing it as the new normal settles in – will be poised to take market share from competitors. And a critical area where they can innovate is their sales model.
That was the message from the most recent installment of MDM Live, held last Friday. The event, moderated by MDM CEO Tom Gale, featured a panel of Mike Marks and Mike Emerson of Indian River Consulting Group and John Gunderson of MDM Analytics.
During the hourlong event, the panel drove home the point that distributors who strive to differentiate their sales models will be “looked at as innovators” in a marketplace where everyday business practices have changed – perhaps for good.
Now, more than ever, strong business leaders can use this opportunity to ensure their companies are at the forefront of change by telling their teams: “We're going to innovate instead of react,” Marks said. “We’re going to lead.”
Sales Transformation Begins with a New Message
With revenues declining and probably slow to return, and with the selling process looking much different than it did before COVID-19, a distributor’s sales model is ripe for innovation. However, that process requires companies’ leaders to reframe the way they position their sales teams – and their sales goals.
“It's not up to the salespeople to figure out what this new normal is going to be,” Marks said. “It's up to the sales leadership to help build that playbook. And I think those [leaders] that say, ‘That's my responsibility, and I need to do something,’ are going to do a whole lot better.”
It’s important to think of selling in the new normal as a marathon, not a sprint, the panel stressed. As distribution leaders map their company’s journey, they can reconsider their goals and look beyond revenue – after all, it will be impossible to find accurate comps in such a soft demand environment – and they should be careful to convey the new plan with transparency and clarity.
Here are some tips from the MDM Live panel on what the new sales environment looks like:
- It must still have discipline and accountability, but it now includes peer pressure in team sharing situations and recognition for innovations in addition to an order;
- This allows the team to celebrate successes while revenue is still challenged;
- Get the income resets behind them so they have appropriate expectations going forward;
- We have seen examples where sales reps have become energized by being part of the new normal sales innovation team;
- If you haven't changed from field sales generalists to specialized roles, involve your sales team in some pilot efforts.
As Marks said, many distributors will have a weak sales year, but, he added, “the key point to make to your salespeople is: ‘Our decline in revenue over the long run is going to be less than that of our competitors, which means we're going to be gaining share and coming out of this thing stronger.’”
To learn more about shifting your sales model, sign up now for MDM’s Sales GPS 2020 Summit, to be held both virtually and in-person from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. When you do, you’ll also become a member of MDM’s 2020 Sales Transformation Network, a monthly work group you and your team can leverage to help you reset, remodel and accelerate your sales process – today and in the crucial months ahead.
And join us on Friday, June 5, at 2 p.m. EDT for this week’s MDM Live featuring more discussion about how distributors are responding to COVID-19, with conversations with Barry Litwin, CEO of Systemax, parent of Global Industrial; and Jonathan Byrnes, MIT lecturer and founding chairman of Profit Isle, a Saas-based profit acceleration company.