The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

The 4 Cornerstones of Distinction in Distribution

Distributors need to reimagine their role in the value chain to succeed.

Thanks to the Internet, more products than ever before are becoming commoditized. After all, anyone can search online to find just about anything, so what's left to compete on? You need to make your business distinctive, according to Scott McKain, founder of McKain Performance Group Inc. "You need to reimagine your role in the value chain," he said at the NAW 2015 Executive Summit last month in Washington, DC.

To stand out in an increasingly crowded market, distributors must develop four "cornerstones of distinction," McKain said.

First, clarity. If you don't understand what makes you different, how can you expect your customer to understand it? McKain said. And if you haven't clearly defined it, how can you understand it? Clarity of your distinction helps direct your efforts around achieving your goals.

Next, creativity. Don't get caught up in doing the same thing you've always done – or what your competitors are doing. What can you do to stand out from the competition? It doesn't have to be complex, just distinct. Pick a single point to focus on and execute that point creatively.

The third cornerstone of distinction is communication. "Sales is no longer about providing information," McKain said. "It's about providing insight." Information is readily available on the Internet for anyone willing to look; today's sales people need to be able to share a story about the role their companies play in improving how others do business.

The final cornerstone, according to McKain, is the customer experience focus. Distribution is not just a transactional business. Making sales is a big part of the goal, but your customers likely aren't going to remember the transaction. They're going to remember the experience. Describe for yourself a scenario where everything goes exactly right with a customer, then identify what you must do to achieve that with every customer encounter. What roadblocks keep you from providing that ultimate customer experience?

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