At the Industrial Supply Association’s annual convention this year, I spoke about the transition distributors must make to digital. This goes beyond just selling products online. It’s about using digital tools across your organization to serve customers more efficiently and profitably.
But while most distributors recognize the importance of this transition, many will struggle to make it.
The No. 1 reason distributors fail to make this digital transition is their field sales teams.
After all, the ongoing shift to digital from the buyer’s perspective has had a major impact on the role of outside salespeople and a distributor’s overall go-to-market approach. As we’ve outlined on this blog, a multichannel strategy based on how your customers want to buy is required in today’s market. Roles field salespeople have played in the past will shift to other team members. For example:
- Expanding share of a customer’s wallet by using more team members on an account that warrants it, introducing specialists.
- Targeting inactive or new small customers with an e-catalog, which allows for a lower cost to serve.
- Introducing inside sales to long-standing accounts to support the day-to-day quoting and reorders to free up field sales to uncover new opportunities.
Distributors are afraid to make the move to digital because they are afraid their best sales reps (and best customers) will walk away. It is a risk, and definitely a cultural disruption. But it’s also a necessary one. You will probably have to let some of your most loyal and long-tenured employees go if they’re unwilling to make the transition.
Mike Marks is co-founder and president of Indian River Consulting Group.