There are a number of things you can do to help build a healthy, long-term relationship with your manufacturer that, in time, will allow all to benefit financially.
The effort to build on the relationship between manufacturers and distributors often is lost in the day-to-day sales grind. Taking the time to improve this relationship should be a major part of business management on both ends
It’s been proven that those in our industry who have been growing faster than the economy are those committed to training. While upper-level managers recognize the value of training, often sales managers’ day-to-day job focus doesn’t allow them to see the direct effect. The idea that time spent training is time not spent selling is a myth. You don’t have to lose sales to gain knowledge if you manage your time efficiently.
Lead and Customer Management Process
Improving on this important, yet often overlooked, area begins and ends with direct communication. A consistent relay of information, from closed sales to project questions, will encourage the manufacturer to want to work with you more.
Most distributors cannot bring the kind of knowledge or resources to the table that their manufacturers can, especially if they have not sold that product in some time or if their focus is on another area of business.
Keep in mind that while salespeople often focus on the product and customer, manufacturers often focus on value (logistics, design, ROI) and how their product can improve a client’s overall business operations. They have dedicated sales, engineering, marketing and customer service departments that produce valuable assets such as custom drawings, Web sites or previous order histories. Utilizing these resources effectively often will give you an advantage over your competition.
Developing a Partnership
For long-term success, the most effective relationship you can create with a manufacturer is a partnership. This arrangement should only be made when two companies share a similar business philosophy, when both can benefit financially and it will create a synergy that will allow overall growth. Many unsuccessful partnerships turn out that way because the expectations from each side are not carefully laid out in advance.
Understanding the expectations of what value each company brings to the agreement will allow for a number of things to happen:
1. You will become more educated on that product, which allows you to communicate with the customer better and recognize an application for that product because you’re better versed on its functionality.
2. You will be given qualified leads that your manufacturer generates.
3. You will be first in line when it comes to new product rollouts and service offerings. Manufacturers cannot educate the entire industry at once, and being first to the market translates directly into sales to all early adopters.
4. The material handlingindustry has shifted toward a more service-oriented sales approach, and a partnership will promote the sharing of ideas that will help the industry grow as a whole. Your OEMs are the ones who really drive the industry to improve itself, whether it is through product innovation, service improvements or market analysis. Make it a point to take advantage of information and ideas. Juggling the dozens, even hundreds, of products from different companies that material handlers may represent is an arduous task and you cannot be expected to know everything about each of them. A good manufacturer understands and respects that.
The bottom line is this: The most successful distributors are committed to training, making the best use of the manufacturers’ knowledge, and communicating effectively. When you concentrate on integrating relationships with your manufacturers, as well as your customers, you truly will grow as an individual, company and industry.
|Meet the Author
Jake Ogorzalek, 28, is marketing manager at UNEX Manufacturing Inc., where he has held the position for one year. Prior to that, he worked in interactive advertising for a firm in New York City.