Grab the Mindshare
We’ll figure out how to make money later…
Eric Allman, the father of e-mail, is famous for his quote, “Let’s grab the mindshare, and we will figure out how to make money later.” For a distributor specialist, maintaining the mindshare of his or her sales team is paramount to success. The average salesperson in an electrical distributorship is responsible for selling and managing hundreds of diverse product lines. It’s not uncommon for the same salesperson to be responsible for lighting, wire, switch gear, factory automation, and hand tools.
Sales managers find themselves in a similar situation—with dozens of manufacturer representatives tugging for bits and pieces of time and customers pulling them in multiple directions. Even the most organized are bouncing around like a ball in a pinball machine.
Enter now the shining superhero that’s dressed in distributor specialist clothes. Positioned like no one else, the distributor specialist has the unique ability to drive mindshare. A successful specialist amplifies efforts by developing a plan and ensuring that everyone on the team comes back to it on a regular basis—and providing regular and ongoing feedback monthly is key. Bottom-drawer plans— those developed and stashed in a bottom drawer until the next year, never reviewed, and forgotten for the next 12 months— should be a thing of the past.
The specialist who provides monthly feedback is a cornerstone of growth in the modern electrical distributorship. At worst, without these monthly reviews, otherwise obvious issues may not become apparent until it is too late to take action. At best, lack of review allows opportunities to be chance rather than skill (and science).
Monthly reviews can be broken into four types:
1. The sales-based review. A sales-based review should be put together for every person on the sales team. For those responsible for multiple branches, the numbers can later be re-tabulated to show results by branch. Even if a company has the very latest business system, it should not be assumed that the salespeople are actually reviewing the numbers for a specific product grouping. For example, a salesperson who is tracking well ahead of last year may just assume that since he or she has been so successful, all of his or her lines are doing well—which is rarely the case.
This simple sales review should show the following information:
- The salesperson’s name
- This month’s sales
- Last month’s sales
- Year-to-date sales
- Last year’s year-to-date sales
This information is most effective when the information includes commentary as well as numbers. Commentary should include information on large projects that somehow skewed the numbers for last month, information regarding the growth of the product segment, and words of encouragement.
2. The sales activity review. By measuring past activities, future behavior can be influenced. The sales activity review deals with actions on open projects, joint calls made, responses to customers that are awaiting quotes, needed follow-up activities, and the numbers of calls made to promote the product line in the past month. Often busy distributor salespeople overestimate the activities they engage in. A running scorecard helps move into the proactive quadrant. The saying goes, “That which is measured improves”; here, the specialist becomes a catalyst for improvement. Additionally, if an action item slips from month to month to month, the specialist and the salesperson may find that instead of a hot new product, an old product is being introduced, months after the excitement of the initial launch.
3. The sales opportunity review. This is the future version of the activity review. Here the specialist lays out a menu of items that should or could be included in the next month’s activities—in time for the salesperson to fine-tune his or her calendar. This review becomes valuable for listing future training sessions, customer seminars, and local visits by manufacturer people who may possess special insight with specific customers groups.
Items that are good for the opportunity report include:
- New product launches tied to specific target customers. For example, a new footswitch designed for welding applications is good for welding machinery OEM: Call on Acme Welding.
- Launch date for new utility rebate program: Unity Hospital will be interested.
- Joe Smith, climate control product manager, will be in the territory: This is a good opportunity for Ace Heat Treat.
4. The management-driven review. In a perfect world, a sales manager would have the time to carefully review the numbers for a product line. He or she would know exactly which salesperson was running ahead or behind last year’s sales numbers.
But in today’s world, this can’t always be counted on. Does the sales manager need more data and more raw numbers? No, he or she needs the specialist’s analysis (digested data) and professional recommendations. This information differs from that which is provided to the salespeople. First, the information will show the totals for the business as a whole. Second, it provides comparative rankings of each of the salespeople on the team. This information gives the sales manager ideas for coaching opportunities and probing questions.
Analysis will cover what types of accounts are growing fastest, an update on target accounts, and events planned for the coming 30 to 60 days.
Sales specialists who are not currently doing a monthly review can get started in just a few steps:
1. Compile an individualized review of sales numbers. For those with a tool like Taylor Media Marketing Group’s SMP, this should only take a few minutes.
2. Schedule a breakfast with the most effective salesperson on the team and review the numbers. Ask if he or she has reviewed the numbers for the month for a specific product line. Gather feedback on what information is most useful. Take notes and begin to compile a list for inclusion in the activity report.
3. Have the numbers and be ready to review them in short order. It’s a good idea to develop a workbook with a specific page for every member of the team and to store it on a laptop. When making joint calls, use part of the windshield time to discuss past numbers and future plans. Take notes, add to the list, and keep items open until they are completely and unequivocally done.
4. Expand the reviews to include all of the topics listed above.
5. Refine the process. Some activities are better than others. Keep a running score of those that work best.