“I think it's really important that sales is both manageable and predictable, and people think that it can't be, but it absolutely can. Even when you're working through a partner.” Liz Heiman, CEO and Chief Sales Strategist at Regarding Sales has made it her mission to take the mystery out of sales. When it comes to getting the most from distributor relationships, her position is clear: it’s about them, not us.
A US based sales expert, Liz Heiman specializes in optimizing B2B sales organizations. She joined Jonathan and Connie for Making Your Number 2, where she shared her approach to growing sales results by setting shared sales goals with distributors. Additionally, Liz’s discussion set the scene for Numerik’s latest feature release, Customer Goal Cards.
Read on to watch the Making Your Number 2 recording, get Liz’s key takeaways, and learn more about how Numerik’s latest feature can help you achieve better sales results with your distributors.
Part 1: Setting shared sales goals to boost sales results: Liz Heiman’s 4-Step approach
How can you leverage your distributor relationships to grow sales revenue? According to Liz, it’s all about being proactive, picking the right distributors, setting up plans, and sticking to yearly and quarterly agendas. That’s a lot to think about. Let’s break it down!
“The first thing that we really need to think about is that we tend to think if I have a partner that I'm selling through (or a distributor or an agent) that “all I can do is take orders” and just be reactive. And that’s absolutely not true.”
Step 1: Develop distributor relationships by being proactive
If you aren’t communicating proactively with your distributors, you’ll only come across as spammy, slowly damaging distributor relationships to a point where there’s no goodwill left to explore shared sales goals.
Liz explains that as suppliers, you need to “Find out what their goals are, figure out exactly what they need from you in order to sell your products; support their needs. Figure out some co-marketing opportunities so that you’re actually working together to grow income and have a predefined way to check on the status of existing leads so that you’re not badgering.”
By asking these proactive questions, you’re building distributor relationships, understanding how each distributor defines success, and how you can help them get there.
To put proactive communication into practice, Liz recommends to “...have a process that you go through with them [distributors] where you communicate about what’s going on, what they need from us, and what timing they think they’ll need so you can deliver in time. It’s all about them, not us.”
Step 2: Make sure you are well aligned with your distributors
You can’t build strong distributor relationships and set shared sales goals without the right distributor. If misalignment exists between the products you offer vs those the distributor sells and the end user’s needs, you should be looking for a different distributor.
Before choosing a distributor, Liz asks us to consider: “do you share the same client profile? If you don’t know who your ideal client is, and you don’t know who your ideal agent/partner/distributor is, then you won’t be able to align. You have to be really clear about who your product is best for.”
If your product fits the distributor's needs and works with their clients, they’ll sell it.
As Liz explains: “They have to sell products which fit with yours, if you’re asking them to go outside of their normal interactions it doesn’t work. So make sure your product fits into their product line well, that they are happy with your relationship and with your product, and that it fits so well with clients that they [partners] prioritize you over any other option.”
Step 3: Keep on track to meet sales goals by meeting & planning regularly
Meeting regularly to share information must happen, otherwise you’ll have no idea what products are selling. At a minimum, have quarterly meetings with distributors to update them on product changes and make note of anything you can do to help them achieve their goals.
Liz says “you want to have regular meetings with your distributors, at least quarterly. What do they expect to sell so that you can be prepared to deliver it? How can you help them hit their personal goals?”
To plan your next move, you’ll want to find out what tools and support they need and what products they need improved. Additionally, to find sales opportunities, ask the distributor where you stand with them compared to your competitors: their answers help you develop an advantage.
Step 4: Manage shared sales goals using yearly and quarterly agendas
To set shared sales goals and track progress with distributors, you can use yearly and quarterly agendas, whose purpose is to help grow distributor success. Remember: making your distributors more successful makes you more successful.
Starting at the yearly level, Liz says “you want to ask them what are their overall goals, how much money do they want to make this year, how much can you make with us, what do you need for support from us.” Identifying tools and marketing is important, as these can help distributors sell more efficiently. Additionally, take note of changes happening in the distributor’s market, as these could alter your own activities.
At the quarterly level, focus on showing the distributor “their progress toward the goal that you created together. And their progress towards their own personal goal with all of the products they sell. And if they’re not selling the other products, help them sell more of yours.”
Keep the ball rolling by updating each other on leads gathered, those you have for the distributor, and those they’re bringing to you. Help them maintain their schedule by giving an update on future deliveries, pointing out when they can expect orders in what time frame. To maintain proactive communication, don’t forget to ask your distributor for extra information, and give them transparency on any changes you’re making to products, deliveries, or the sales goal.
Got any questions for Liz? She's open for questions: send her a message at email@example.com
Part 2: What are Customer Goal Cards? Jonathan covers latest Numerik release
The purpose of Customer Goal Cards is to allow users to set and track a shared sales goal/rebate with a distributor. The automated system makes it easy to engage distributors in a set sales goal/reward program, helping companies build a better rebate structure.
"they [companies] find that the reporting on rebates is very manual, it's a spreadsheet that goes out once a quarter. Often they will set a target and put a target in place, but it doesn't really drive the results."
In the same way which Numerik's Scorecards help reps keep track of the score, Customer Goal Cards helps distributors monitor their progress towards a goal, and motivates them to achieve it.
Distributors will be given a login to Numerik, which'll allow them to see their target, for example, an annual goal of $15,000 per year.
"...they [distributors] are able to log in at any point in time and see how they're going against the goal that's been set for them. What then happens is they're able to break down that goal, click on it and see sales broken down at the product category level."
At the product level, products which have been purchased more/less than last year are highlighted in green/red, allowing reps to have meaningful discussions with distributors on how they're going with their sales.
"...everyone wants to be winning and doesn't want to be in the red. So you naturally start to ask those questions: why is that product group behind, or why is that product behind?
Was there a problem with it? Is it just not getting enough air time within the business? Was there a problem with supply?"
Fully customize-able incentives or rewards can be tied to the achievement of shared targets. Additionally, goals aren't limited to annual goals: you can set promotional goals too.
"...we can also set a promotional goal. This example is a promotion that's running maybe for a month, or it could be running for a quarter. That keeps the distributor not only focused on their annual goal, but also on the promo that's running within the month. And within those arrangements, we can do the' buy 40 get 10 free' type arrangements or any kind of bundle deal."
"...building those relationships with distributors: in this instance, they've probably got 100, 200, or 300 different people selling to them. So how do you be the people that really stands out in their mind?"
By using Customer Goal Cards to share the numbers, users are able to ensure they're staying front-of-mind with distributors, and building trust with transparency.
"...[it's] the point about building trust through transparent sharing of the numbers: there's nothing hidden."
Customer Goal Cards help remove the strain of organizing data to share with distributors and tracking rebates.
“This is how we'll remove the admin burden from the finance team. Often we found rebate tracking is done by the finance and it's a hassle. [Goal Cards] removes that and automates all that part of it."
Send Jonathan an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information on how customer goal cards can help you boost your sales revenue.
Part 3: BONUS interview on spreading your reach among distributors
11:00mins - Jonathan: That's excellent. Liz. I was really interested in your point about building out relationships within the business. I think often people just sort of tend to think of that one to one. Have you got anything more to say about how you've seen that work, or ways to spread your reach if you were with those distributors?
11:21mins - Liz: So there's a couple of ways to do it. First is that the existing relationship with that one person has to be really successful, and then you can ask them: “Hey, who else in your company would be successful selling my product, and can you introduce me?” And: “How is what they're doing different than what you're doing?”
If your distributor is happy with you, if they like working with you, and you ask them to introduce you, they probably will. The other thing you can do is go into each organization, go into LinkedIn, (if you don't have LinkedIn Navigator, you can try doing it on regular LinkedIn or any other tool) and look up all of the people in that organization who are selling, but aren’t selling your product- sometimes it’s an engineer, sometimes it’s a salesperson, sometimes it’s a dentist!
Now you could ask for specific introductions, but you could also send emails, personal emails, let's say: “I'm working with _______ in your company, I'm helping him do about this much a year. I'd love to help you increase your revenue by that much, can we talk?” You can use campaign tools to do this, especially if you really understand what they’re needing, you can say: “Hey, this is the product we sell. And here are some of the tools that would make it easy for you to sell it. Can we talk about how I can help you do this?”
The most important thing to remember is not about you. It’s about the distributor. Every conversation we have is about them and not about us. It's about how do we help them.
13:07mins - Jonathan: That's really good. I thought that your systematic approach, the quarterly and then the annual approach was good. This sales process can be applied to distributors just the same way that it can be to new prospects. But sometimes we don't think about mining those existing relationships do we?
13:26mins - Liz: Yeah, it's a problem. It's not just mining for additional people, it's about mining in the relationships that you have. They don't always think of you. I often help my clients come up with a plan for ‘when this is happening with your customer, that is a good time to talk about this.’ It gives them a little bit more help about when it is a good fit.
13:56 - Jonathan: And I like what you mentioned about how distributors sell what works. If you think about it from their perspective, all these suppliers coming to see them, all these different products. At the end of the day, the products that make them the money, the suppliers who are easy to deal with: they sell what works. It’s always a good challenge, do you think, to have that in your mind from a sales rep perspective, ‘is my offer really working in this account/customer or not?’
14:29mins - Liz: Right. And our distributor is our customer, right? So for our customer and their customer, it has to be a good fit. It has to work and we have to help them.
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