Sales Management and the Dealer Base

Wholesale distributors involved with a dealer channel that serves the end user have unique challenges in sales management. Ideally, this dealer channel should be strongly aligned with their wholesale distributors. That means a sharing of common goals and objectives with accountability on both sides of the equation. Dealers are not customers. They should be treated as channel partners. That means the wholesale distributor must focus on what the dealer is selling and not what they are buying.

Effective sales management in this channel includes planning sales growth, executing account strategies and using objective feedback to continuously improve performance and drive accountability. Maximizing success and profitability creates the necessity to manage this channel as a single integrated being. This means an effective sales process and structure must be in place which includes metrics, training and resources to support and improve sales performance for both the distributor and the dealer.

Effective sales management is not rocket science: “You measure results but you manage the activities that create those results.” Although the transition from activities to results can be almost immediate in demand fulfillment activities, it can become an extended period for demand creation and account development. Consequently, managing results is like closing the barn door after the horses are out of the barn. It’s just too late. The results you measure today are often created by activities that took place weeks and even months previously. To effectively manage sales in the dealer channel, it is imperative to define the specific activities necessary to drive results. By then managing those activities, success becomes much easier to achieve.

The key components of this sales management process are as follows:

Targeting

TOAD

Scorecard

Tool kit

Targeting should become a critically important sales practice for dealers and distributors – the difference between demand fulfillment and strategic demand creation, proactive selling. This is the process of selecting high potential accounts, developing penetration plans for each, and turning potential into achievable results. Targeting becomes a driving force for call planning and time management, as dealer sales people shift their focus to increasing market share by improving share of customer spend and new account generation. Today’s customer is much smarter and better educated than they were in the 90’s. Sales representatives must understand their customers’ needs, find their pain and practice solution selling.

The Territory Opportunity Action-planning Discussion (TOAD) is the most important element in the process. It is the platform that creates timely feedback and a focus on meeting objectives. Sales managers should center these monthly discussions around performance improvement, coaching on best practices and providing support to the sales team.

A scorecard supports accountability and alignment throughout the network. It is a diagnostic tool and a motivator. It should include both results measurements (e.g. revenue, gross profit and market share growth) and supporting activity measurements (e.g. targeting activities, program compliance, training participation).

The tool kit is a library of best practice guidelines, reference material and other resources that anyone in the enterprise can peruse at his own convenience. The contents could include manuals, safety sheets, call budgeting, planning tools and account penetration strategy guidelines, etc.

As today’s sales environment leans toward a more multifaceted atmosphere, salespeople must become strategists with a plan. This plan requires more knowledge about the business, better relationships and better solutions. Once you accumulated this knowledge, utilize it. Develop your penetration strategy around the customer’s pains. What challenges do they face on a day to day basis? How do they make money? Where can you provide value, increase their ability to make profit. (This does not include price reductions). Employ all the resources in your company that are necessary to accomplish your growth objectives.