Many business-to-business organizations rely either wholly or in part on a distribution sales model, and the delicate balance of effectively marketing to both the end customer and distributor requires a thoughtful approach nuanced for each audience. A sales team’s front-line engagement with end customers is where the rubber hits the road but in a multi-tiered sales model where success depends on distributor buy-in, controlling the marketplace messages in all vehicles is key to long-term growth.
A demonstrated benefit of the distribution model is that distributor reps understand what their customers want AND how to deliver solutions that they will buy. Going hand-in-hand with knowing what customers will buy is insight of where and how they want to make those purchases. That’s a lot of power entrusted to individual distributors, with an inherent risk that distributor strategies can overtake corporate marketing strategies. Diluting a company’s carefully crafted product or service value proposition by a distributor can lead to less control and less success.
A cooperative strategy with distributors means organizations will keep a leader foothold in the overall corporate value proposition and messages. It prevents the distributor sales force from relying on positioning where price trumps value. This is beneficial to the distributors as well because they seek long-term channel partners that provide high levels of support, making their job of selling that much easier.
Three critical components for buy-in of product messaging by distributors include:
Clear marketing messages that demonstrate end user benefits. Messages are not created in a vacuum and when companies provide a strong, clear value proposition for reps to convey, consistency is established regardless of how and where the product/service is being sold.
Distributor sales education and tools to adopt the branding of a channel partner’s offerings. Surveys indicate time and time again that reps desire an environment where they not only can relay the product value proposition but also have tools to back it up. Anything that makes selling easier makes for happy reps, including product training sessions, timely marketing materials, dedicated corporate resources, and an advance “heads up” on new or improved products for their customers.
Pull-through marketing support. The old “get the consumers to come to you” approach is another desire of distributors because it increases sales success. An integrated sales strategy doesn’t solely rely on the distributor to sell product, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. If a distributor’s sales effort to end users is reinforced by a company’s widespread corporate marketing campaign customers will seek out the products and distributors on their own. Campaign components might include an aggressive ad schedule, word of mouth referrals and end-user promotions.
A distribution sales model has its own unique set of challenges and benefits but the most important take away for companies that sell this way is to make the distributors’ jobs as easy as possible by arming them with marketing and education tools that deliver success for them AND you.