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Tip: Use Data to Improve Underperforming Accounts

Fastenal CEO Will Oberton says data enables productive conversations that can save accounts.

When it comes to underperforming accounts, some distributors start looking for an exit. But by using data, distributors can often improve sales and their relationships with customers without having to take that drastic step, says Fastenal CEO Will Oberton. In the MDM interview Fastenal’s Vending Evolution, Oberton told MDM that the distributor's experience and information can help both companies realign expectations and product mix to build a successful partnership.

Oberton says that Fastenal uses data from the more than 30,000 machines it has in the field to recommend product resets that benefit both the distributor and the customer. "We have great data on what’s selling and what isn’t, and we can break it down based on what type of a business they are," Oberton says. "We can look at our data and do a comparative analysis and say: 'Here are the top 20 items or 30 items that sell on a broad scale. We believe you may use the same ones."

In a very high percentage of cases, he says, customers end up buying more product.

That data-driven conversation may be easier to have than some distributors might think. "In most cases," Oberton says, "the customer says, 'Well, what do I need to put in it? What data do you have that can show me where to go?'” Customers want information on how to do things better, and providing that information can cement the value of the relationship.

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