Keys to Market Access, Part 5: Invest in New Capabilities

Written by Mike Marks, Steve Deist on Wednesday, 29 April 2015. Posted in Business Strategy, Distribution, Manufacturing

A market access strategy provides a framework for distributors to align their investments with real opportunities for growth. This blog is the fifth of five looking at the five keys to unlocking profitable growth.

The fifth key to a successful market access strategy is to invest in new capabilities.

If you are investing to reach aggressive sales goals, think twice before deciding to add more sales reps. These days, high-performing distributors are putting their money into developing new sales and marketing competencies. They are tailoring their capabilities to fit the needs of their customer segments as closely as possible.

If you worry about competing with Amazon you may want to invest more into technology and clean product data. If you aren’t getting sufficient market coverage consider more hybrid or tele-sales reps, possibly supported by technical specialists. If you are struggling to get good market data or customer insight it may make sense to spend on market research or data analysts rather than another field sales rep.

If you have 100 sales reps, arming them with better data and tools could easily make them 10% more effective – the same as hiring 10 more reps.

Evolving to more specialized sales roles can pay enormous dividends. For example, using a hybrid inside/outside sales rep can result in lower cost-to-serve because the same rep can cover more accounts. It also provides better market coverage because the rep is typically in contact with customers much more frequently. We’ve often seen such programs generate higher revenue per account while also reducing selling expense – radically improving sales productivity.

The move to more specialized sales roles has another important benefit. One of distributors’ top concerns these days is the loss of decades of knowledge as veteran salespeople retire. And the truth is: You won’t be able to replace that knowledge. But if you go to a more specialized sales structure you don’t need to. It is much easier to hire an engineer as a technical specialist, a computer jock as a marketing analyst and a personable extrovert as an inside sales rep than to find three people who can do all these things.

Read more about aligning sales resources to the market in this blog.

This was the final in our five-part series on keys to profitable growth through a successful market access strategy.

Read and share the full series by clicking on the links below or downloading this PDF.

About the Author

Steve Deist

Steve Deist

Steve Deist has been a IRCG Partner for six years. He has over 20 years of experience working for hundreds of distributor, retail, manufacturer and private equity clients in dozens of lines of trade. He is a highly rated speaker, a permanent University of Industrial Distribution faculty member and a distribution company board director.

Steve has extensive knowledge of the distribution and supply chain space, with substantial experience in retail, construction and industrial channels. This experience includes:

  • Strategy, sales effectiveness, operations, supply chain, marketing and technology projects for over 100 organizations over the past 10 years. These clients have ranged in size from $5M family run businesses to Fortune 500 corporations.
  • Numerous marketing channel projects for top tier manufacturers which sell through dealers, distributors, retailers, etc.
  • Frequent industry speaking engagements for clients including, trade associations and manufacturers on a broad range of subjects. These engagements have included workshops, technical sessions for management level audiences, strategic sessions for executive level audiences and keynote speeches.
  • Due diligence and related projects for top tier private equity firms.

Steve is IRCG’s strategy guru, focused on helping companies achieve lasting competitive advantage. His hands-on approach enables him to apply leading edge concepts to the practical realities of daily business.

Prior to joining IRCG, he was director of consulting services at a major supply chain software vendor. Steve’s thought provoking articles appear frequently in premier industry publications such as Modern Distribution Management. Steve has authored three books published by NAW (The Five Fundamentals for the Wholesale Distribution Sales Manager, Value Creation Strategies for Wholesaler-Distributors and the upcoming What’s the Right Plan? Effective Sales Incentive Design for Wholesaler-Distributors).

Mike Marks

Mike Marks

Mike Marks co-founded IRCG in April 1987. He began his consulting practice after working in distribution management for more than 20 years. Over the years, his narrow focus in B2B channel-driven markets has created an extensive number of deep executive relationships within virtually every business vertical in construction, industrial, OEM, agricultural, and healthcare.

Mike has led project teams that improve market access by aligning resources to growth opportunities serving manufacturers, dealers, and distributors. Clients have ranged from small privately owned firms to many of the industry’s market share leaders. Ownership structures have included owner-operators, private equity, ESOPs, and publically traded firms. Mike is proud of the teams work and the confidence clients have shown with additional project work.

He has written extensively, and is frequently quoted on many industry issues. He has substantial board experience on both public and private distribution firms. His contributions to the field include serving multiple terms as a Research Fellow with the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, permanent faculty at Purdue University’s University of Industrial Distribution, eight years as Graduate Adjunct Faculty in the Industrial Distribution Program at Texas A & M University, and rendering several precedent-setting expert opinions in contract disputes between manufacturers and distributors.

Prior to forming IRCG, Mike held the position of Executive Vice President at Lex Electronics, an $800 million vertically integrated electronics distributor in Stamford, CT. Mike’s path to management in his early career was through increasing responsibilities in sales and sales management. He also completed a tour of duty as a manufacturer’s representative.

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