Six tips for Distributor Sales Meetings
Every day members of the Manufacturer’s Representatives community step up to the front of a room and present a sales meeting. The economics of these meetings are mind boggling. Fifteen distributor sales people, two management types and a Rep in the conference room for an hour can equal $2,000 in direct costs alone. If missed opportunities are factored the costs approach $20,000 per hour. Distributor sales meetings often miss the mark because the purpose is forgotten. Sales meetings equate to selling. Distributor managers, product specialists and sales people tell the same woeful stories. Death by PowerPoint, morose minutia of product design, right products - wrong distributor, and meandering presentations with no point other than a check in the box “we had a meeting” are all too common.
1) It’s called a sales meeting for a reason.
We live in the information age. But information is only critical to this meeting if it applies to sales. Your factory might have an ocean side view in downtown West Overshoe, but does this really apply to sales? Distill the facts – stress those important to the customer.
2) Why is it important for the selling process?
You can not assume that everyone in the audience will understand the connection between “sealed bearing” and ability to withstand wash downs. Enforce your information (facts) with customer benefits. If possible drive from benefit to typical value to the customer in dollars. Money is the root of all evil but it does make for a great way to measure the worth of things.
3) Provide sales literature and a handout.
There is a difference between sales literature and catalogs. Provide the literature needed (recommend) for a sales call. If there are important customer features hidden in 3 paragraphs of boilerplate – point it out! Better yet; ask the sales people to underline the important points and then talk about how to focus a customer call on these features. Produce a “cheat sheet” handout. A good handout “bullet points” key information and provides space for the sales people to note accounts they suspect will be interested and why.
4) Provide enough literature for 3-5 sales calls.
Distributor sales people live with information overload. If you are part of a day long sales meeting, your presentation quickly becomes part of a gumbo of miscellaneous facts and opinions. Adult learning studies indicate retention will be highest for the days (immediately) following the meeting. Memory fades very rapidly after a week. Sales calls discussing your product during the week immediately following the training are most effective. Three pieces of the same literature used in #3 above will provide your audience with enough materials to get started (and have an early success). Early success breeds sincere interest and builds long term enthusiasm… Nirvana!
5) Drive behavior with post-it notes
Provide post-it notes with your literature. Ask the distributor sales people to spend two minutes writing who they feel would make the best first prospects for your product. The end result is a piece of literature with a customer’s name on it. Two or three bullet points to discuss customized by the best prospect customer pushes the behavior of successful selling
6) Gather intelligence prior to the meeting
If the distributor has a product specialist or sales manager familiar with the specifics of accounts in the distributor territory, discuss his/her ideas for target accounts and real world examples of customer issues. Salespeople can relate better to real names and real customers than they can to the proverbial “pulp and paper maker up north”.
Bonus Tip…and conclusion
A week before your next sales meeting, invite one of your distributor sales contacts to coffee. Pull out a copy of this article. Walk step by step through the points. Gather specific input, criticisms of past meetings, and ammunition for the up coming meeting. No meeting should ever be concluded without gathering ideas for future improvement. You will differentiate yourself if you ask for positive ideas for improvement and use them.
Frank Hurtte (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a consultant to distribution, the sales channel, and manufacture’s agents at River Heights Consulting. He has 28 years of real world experience and is available as a speaker and executive coach. He has written a number of articles and white papers on management, distribution, and the selling process. Frank has helped a number of businesses and not-for-profit corporations through the strategic planning process. You can contact Frank at 563-514-1104 or through www.riverheightsconsulting.com.