Recommended Reading: Are You Serving Markets or Making Them?

Too many sales reps are missing opportunities to make a difference.

If you keep meeting your customers' expectation, they'll likely stick with you. But simply relying on that repeat business may not be the way to improve your relationship with your suppliers, according to Indian River Consulting Group's Mike Marks in The Future of Relationship Selling: The Gorilla in the Room, part 2. Manufacturers don't just want market servers; they want their partners to be market makers – and will invest in their partners to support this.

IRCG conducted a research project for Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International in 2014 which revealed that most manufacturers view distributors as market servers – a perception supported by the research. Distributors simply weren't effective in getting end users to switch products, which would make them a market maker. Of the 11 percent of purchase sources changed, only 2 percent were due to a sales rep providing a better solution. Nine percent were switched because of the incumbent supplier’s failure in product or service.

A switch due to a supplier failure (the 9 percent) can be called a critical selling event (CSE). If the rep is one of the end user’s existing suppliers and a competitor experiences a CSE, the rep can intercept the opportunity. But he or she isn’t the disruptive force driving that change. If they're the one instigating the failure, they aren't even fulfilling the market-serving function.

Where distributors invest in their sales organizations also reflects this. Only 3 percent of sales activities were focused on disrupting customers to provide a better solution. Too often sales reps are just waiting on the bench for something bad to happen to a competitor so they can swoop in and clean up the mess. What they should be doing is looking deeper at how they can meet the customer's needs more effectively – or even identify problems the customer doesn't know aren't being met.

Read more about how to make your sales team more effective in The Future of Relationship Selling: The Gorilla in the Room, part 2.

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