In material handling, while the manufacturer in partnership with the distributor cannot tell a distributor how to run his or her business, he can be a conduit, providing assistance which furthers their mutual success. The manufacturer can provide that needed assistance by acting as a partner in the offering of education and training assistance. Both are necessary and important.
On the surface, the words “educating” and “training” may indeed seem similar. There is a subtle difference, however. To educate is to provide with information and to cause an understanding or acceptance of information. To train is to coach another in a particular performance and make proficient with instruction and practice. Both are necessary, in order for the partnership between the distributor and manufacturer to succeed.
Product and Application Training
In a partnership between a manufacturer and a distributor, the manufacturer is responsible for the education and training of a distributor as it relates to the manufacturer’s product and its application. Obviously, it is in the best interests of the manufacturer to teach the distributor how his product operates. Application training is also extremely important and it is critical that it is performed by the manufacturer. It’s in the best interests of that manufacturer to teach the distributor the proper application of the product. Sometimes it’s even necessary to clarify which of a wide array of products are most appropriate for various applications.
The distributor also plays a valuable role in providing assistance in the training of a manufacturer’s personnel, for the distributor comes with real-time, in-the-field experience. For instance, the distributor can teach manufacturer personnel how sortation equipment is being used or how software controls are applied when operating the equipment. The distributor can provide a hands-on approach and offer valuable input from the viewpoint of the actual user that is invaluable to the manufacturer. Our employees like to hear real-time stories of what works and, just as important, what doesn’t.
Education and training do not stop at the manufacturer’s doorstep. The distributor is responsible for educating his or her sales force. The distributor provides the needed sales training in order for his or her company to grow. While the manufacturer can certainly be consulted and participate in providing application training and features and benefits information as well as information concerning competitive advantages, actual procedures and sales techniques should always come from the distributor. It’s just not appropriate for a manufacturer to tell the distributor how to sell the product. The distributor knows best when it comes to how his personnel should represent his company and their roster of products and services.
Many of today’s company presidents and officers are young. At 35-45 years of age, they have not had a lot of experience in managing a company. The manufacturer partner can provide valuable training in the areas of operations and accounting procedures. They can teach the new company president the true meaning of cash flow. They can discuss health insurance. They can equip the new company president with the knowledge they need to better run their businesses.
A company is only as strong as the people who are in it. Some new leaders do not have experience leading a company. They are leaders who have never really led before. What does it take to motivate employees? How do you communicate across various channels to assure yourself that everyone is on the same page? Leadership skills are a critical ingredient and often overlooked.
It is the material handling manufacturer’s responsibility to bring together new, emerging leaders from his own shop and from the distribution channel. With support, they can each develop better communication skills. With support, they can build long lasting relationships which will be a foundation for a long-term material handling partnership in which both parties succeed.