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  How do I devise a program from the manufacturer to encourage our dealers to push their sales forces to sell our product instead of some other product, motivate the salesperson to quote our product more frequently in overlapping situations, and appeal to retail users that are taking bids from outside competitors not represented by our distributor?
One problem we continually face is this we have been historically more generous with programs to our distributors but find that it gets put into their gross profit and doesn't get to the retail end, and we are either not competitive, or not price advantaged. It seems that our distributor network expects it now and doesn't take it as a bonus. Your thoughts, please?
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by Dave Kahle
copyright (MMXII)

Personal note from
Dave Kahle
"I hope you enjoy this article. We have lots of resources on this site, ranging from dozens of similar free articles, podcasts, weekly features, books , CDs and video training programs. Enjoy! "

I think too many of us operate on the assumption that money is the only motivator, whether it is for an employee sales force, or a group of dealer or distributor salespeople. I'm coming to appreciate more and more the power of other kinds of motivators.

Let's start there. Don't assume that more money in the deal is going to get you the results you want.

What else can you do? The best thing, of course is to have a product that uniquely solves some of the end users' problems, so that you and your dealers are selling a unique solution. While that may be the ideal, it's very rarely the real situation, and most products have competitors which, at least in the mind of some customers, are thought of as equal.

Let's assume that's your case. Now what?

There are three ways to influence a dealer/distributor sales force to become more active with your product line: relationships, education, and "easy, secure money."

Let me deal with each:

Kahle Way Distributor Selling System
Kahle Way Sales Management System
  1. Relationships: Think of the dealer/distributor reps as customers. Work at creating close business relationships with the good dealer/distributor reps in the same way that you would with end user customers. Focus on the good ones and spend little time with the mediocre. With the higher quality reps, discover their interests, uncover their values, find things you have in common, get to know their spouses and families, spend non-business time with them, etc. As you build strong relationships with them, you'll find your dealer/distributor reps naturally becoming more involved with your product lines.

  2. Education: Focus on the concept of "comfort zones." Most dealer/distributor reps have a virtually unlimited number of products that they can promote. Most eventually settle on those products and applications with which they feel most comfortable - they develop product/customer/application comfort zones. If your product or application doesn't fit into a specific rep's comfort zone, he/she is going to spend little time with it. So, you must get to know your good distributor reps (see the above) and then you must help them expand their comfort zones to include your products and applications. That means that you must lead the way, showing them how to find the opportunities, how to specify and present your product lines, and how to close and services those sales. Until the distributor rep is comfortable with your products and sales processes, you'll be swimming upstream.

  3. "Easy, secure money": Yep, money is still important. But notice the emphasis on the first two words. Easy means that you make it as easy as possible to deal with you, to sell your product. You have the best selling literature, a generous sample policy, the quickest and most responsive inside people to respond to the dealer's questions and requests, the simplest price list, the easiest polices and procedures in each of these issues. When your company is easy to deal with and when your product is easy to sell, you'll find more and more support for it among the dealers and distributors.
"Secure" means that you provide some security for the sales person who decides to spend time promoting your product. You protect that investment of time by making sure that none of his competitors can come into an account and low bid it, after the salesperson has done the work to get your product trialed and accepted. If a dealer rep, invests in selling your product, and experiences a competitor who did, nothing to sell it, come in and steal the business out form underneath him, just once, you will likely lose that rep's loyalties forever.

Hope these three strategies will help.

If you have any comments or questions, email them to me.
I do, of course, reserve the right to edit.


Here are a few articles by Dave
that you might be interested in reading:

  • What's the Best Way to Find a Good Salesperson... Good question! It seems that everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice. Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects via the "help wanted" section.... {Read More}
  • Is it Time to Revise Your Sales Compensation Plan?... If you're paying your sales reps straight commission, you're using an obsolete formula. If you're paying your sales reps a straight salary, you're also using an obsolete formula. Read this article to find out a much more effective way to compensate your sales staff.... {Read More}
  • How to Deal with the Salesperson Who Has Leveled Off... Every manager has, or will, confront this troublesome issue. It's arisen in every workshop for sales managers or branch managers I've done. One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn't improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you can not. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and loosing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?... {Read More}
There are also many other action-packed articles for sales professionals that offer how-to solutions to every day sales problems that you can read online at www.davekahle.com/article.htm.
 
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.
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