This is an excerpt from the 2022 State of Sales in Distribution: Rewriting the Distributor Sales Playbook for a New Era. Download your free copy now.
When we asked distributors in our 2022 State of Sales in Distribution survey how they find and add new customers, most respondents said they rely on traditional sales teams, followed by a proactive inside sales team and customer service, and then their supplier partners.
However, when we asked how they felt about their average number of new customers, most were unhappy with their results.
Only 34% were satisfied or very satisfied with their lead-generating efforts; the rest felt like they were struggling to find new, high-quality leads.
By channel, respondents said leads from their manufacturers were the best, while leads from ecommerce were the worst. The problem is that distributors usually only get one or two monthly leads from their manufacturers. So, while they may be high-quality leads, there aren’t many of them. On the other hand, distributors may get as many as 100 potential customers per month from their website, with varying levels of quality.
In addition to volume, most distributors don’t realize there are two problems with relying solely on manufacturers for leads. First, most manufacturers have their own filtering process. For instance, when they find a prospect, they’ll run quality tests before sending the lead to your team. This means that they may determine that a candidate isn’t worth pursuing when, in reality, that lead may have been an excellent customer for you.
Another problem is that more and more manufacturers are launching their own ecommerce sites. Instead of operating through distributors, they’re beginning to cut out the middleman and put themselves directly in front of their end customers. As this trend continues and manufacturers start to gather their own leads, distributors will need to find another way to draw new customers.
Although your website may not provide your sales teams with as many high-quality leads as manufacturers do, it will likely be the best avenue to finding new buyers in the future.
It’s time to invest in a new kind of sales funnel.
- When a new lead comes in, put strategies in place to determine their potential and ability to serve with next-day outreach.
- Send small potential customers a welcome package and add them to future marketing campaigns.
- Send larger customers to traditional sales teams. This way, you can connect with every potential customer, and build an independent lead-generation system.
Frank Hurtte, Founding Partner of River Heights Consulting brings 28 years of distribution industry experience and a lifetime of sales background. Frank grew up in a family owned business where he was selling car and truck tires wholesale before he turned 14. During his career, Hurtte has gone through nearly every aspect of the wholes business. He served as manager of a rapidly growing start-up location ran a cluster of branches where he worked to develop future leaders and was called on to build a winning team after the merger of two companies with dissimilar cultures. Frank successfully established sale strategies in emerging markets and coordinated the efforts of a diverse group of distributor specialists to establish a corporate-wide blueprint for success. In his role as VP Technical Sales, Frank developed and implemented a model for tracking and measuring the “value-adds” provided to customers and pivoting the company to a fee-based services model.