June 10, 2014
I recently did a series of interviews and podcasts of contractors. The main focus was on what manufacturers could do to better support them in the field. These contractors were electricians, plumbers, HVAC and general contractors. There were some common issues from them that I thought would be useful to manufacturers:
- Quick response to questions – access to knowledgeable tech people for problem solving.
- Regular site visits – have your salesman make regular visits. Most contractors say they very rarely see the manufacturers. Great way to build relationships and identify possible product problems or shortcomings.
- Application training – quick tips on doing a process better/quicker. If not in person, via email.
- Best way to communicate with them - mobile phone or email.
- Don’t use/look at social media (Twitter, Facebook).
- Recognize that they are professionals.
It looks like there are some opportunities for manufacturers to up their game. There wasn’t a contractor I talked to that would turn away a visit from you. That sounds like an opportunity to me.
May 28, 2014
As manufacturers, we have to serve two masters, the distribution network we sell through and the ultimate end-user. Sometimes we can take these relationships for granted. Remember, they have other options. Here are a few thoughts on how to nurture the relationships:
- Distributors do have a choice in what they carry. Chances are they have your product as well as several competitors on their shelves. So let’s assume for the sake of this exercise that product performance is comparable.
- What makes their counter guys and sales force sell more of one brand over the other? Yes, you can offer SPIFs, but that at best is a short-term solution to increase sales.
- I’d say things like ease of ordering and timely delivery might be helpful.
- What about knowledgable factory people available for product training and troubleshooting?
- How about making end-user calls with their sales force?
Here’s a unique thought – thank them for their business instead of hammering them to help you make your numbers this month.
Most distributor/manufacturer relationships have a long history. Don’t take them for granted. Sales will come, but distributors are looking for more than a quality product at a competitive price.
My grandmother used to tell me you’d catch more bees with honey than vinegar.
Many of the same tactics work at the contractor level. But here’s a place where you can make a brand difference:
- If you have their back and they know they can count on you for product/technical support, you’ll make a friend for life.
- Contractors-like elephants-have long memories, and if you drop the ball too many times, they will find alternative products. Trust me, I’ve seen it.
- Contractors want to be recognized for the trade professionals they are. Something as simple as sending them an email for example, on National Plumber’s Day, recognizing how hard they work. Wouldn’t you think that would have a positive brand experience?
You know, this stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s more common sense. And it doesn’t have to cost more money, just use good business practices.
My golden rule is to treat people the way you expect to be treated. It works and it makes life a whole lot simpler.
May 14, 2014
Most of us try not to be all things to all people, especially in the B-to-B world. For those of you who are, I feel bad for you.
If part of your criteria for new business is “anyone with money” or “I hope to get paid,” I have to believe you’re not running a growing or profitable business.
We’re in the competitive niche of marketing and have taken the position of not being all things to all people. We have defined our niche as helping manufacturers who want to reach the professional tradesman and promote it appropriately.
Here are some tips that have helped us grow and prosper in our competitive space:
- Hire us to be effective, not efficient.
- We help clients become profit leaders, not market leaders.
- Category knowledge – intellectual capital.
- Don’t be afraid to focus – be afraid of mediocrity.
Make your value proposition clear because relevance and differentiation do matter.
You and your company only have so much time. Why not spend it on clients you choose? Remember, bad clients can drive out good ones! If you stay true to your positioning, new clients will find you.
April 29, 2014
I don’t know about you, but we go to lots of trade shows during the course of a year, and I sometimes scratch my head as I walk by some of the booths and say,“What were they thinking?”
Either they haven’t had a new message in years or they are talking so much about me, me, me that I wonder why anyone would walk into their booth. I’m not talking about small companies either. I’m sure some of them have seven-figure trade show budgets. I always wonder what kind of metric they use (or are forced to report to management to justify ROI)?
So let’s step back for a minute and assume that you have a great product, customer service to die for and a sales staff that understands and can articulate your value proposition. My question is, “Does your trade show booth tell a compelling story of why folks should be doing business with you?” If that value proposition doesn’t stick out and scream at potentials, then you may be wasting valuable time, talent and resources that can be put to use elsewhere.
Your pre-show checklist should include:
- Defining the show objective based on the target audience that is attending the show. Highlight what’s in it for me, the customer.
- Defining the types of leads you want to come out of the show with. (Remember, quality over quantity.)
- Defining how to qualify them as to where they are in the sales funnel.
- Communicating your trade show objectives with the folks that will be working the booth. Let them know what is expected of them.
- Have post-show follow-up all ready to go before you go to the show so it can be implemented as soon as you get back. Thank you note, phone scripts and who’s doing what.
- Review the content you’re sending out after the show so it corresponds with what the prospect is looking for (product info, distributor, local contractor).
- When sending something, make it be something of value – a copy of your latest e-book, a competitive crossover chart. Something that will help them do their job better and make them feel good about you. Sales will follow.
Trade shows are so expensive, and to make the most out of them, you need a plan.
What kinds of things are you doing to maximize your trade shows?
April 22, 2014
I recently read an article in eMarketer.com that dealt with sales stats in 2013, and that almost 40% of the sales forces weren’t making their numbers and it floored me. I sure wouldn’t want to be running a company based on sales of XXX and then the sales force under-delivers by that large of a difference-Yikes!
2013 wasn’t a bad year for the economy (we’ve seen a lot worse), and I can’t help but wonder what their issues were in closing the sale. One of the biggest reasons given was the sale ended in a “no decision.” What does that mean?
Here’s an interesting graphic:
It sounds to me like either the leads weren’t qualified correctly or the salesman didn’t do his homework in determining where the prospect was in the sales funnel. It also sounds like there were multiple decision makers in the process and possibly they all were not included in the sales pitch. A few other things bother me as well:
- What I can’t understand in this report is that 31% were unable to effectively communicate value to a prospect – yes, you heard me right.
- 26% had content that wasn’t aligned with the buyer
- 20% didn’t have the necessary content or resources for selling
This sounds like a great opportunity for marketing to step in and help fill the content voids they are talking about. It also begs the question of whether these results were from a traditional selling model versus that of one using social media as part of the mix.
If you had good content that was searchable on the internet, chances are the right people will find that info long before they identify themselves to you as a prospect and get a lot of their basic homework done first. You’d be able to show your expertise in a market segment so they think of you as an industry expert, which will help set you apart (value of your brand) when they finally decide to contact you. Marketing can help answer those questions ahead of time if we know the different stages of the selling cycle and what’s important to address at each level.
Am I missing the boat here or do you agree?