Management- vs. Self-Directed Sales Reps – What’s the Difference?

Written by Mike Marks on Tuesday, 13 December 2016. Posted in Sales Management, Distribution

336x280 SalesGPSMany field sales reps have been doing things the same way for decades, despite the forces of change in the distribution industry. The function has been largely self-directed, with salespeople typically making their own decisions about how and where they go to market.

Distributors must shift to a management-directed sales model.

What does this mean?

It means that distributors need to be more selective in how they deploy the most powerful and expensive sales tool they have: the field sales rep.

A management-directed sales force aligns selling resources so that customer needs are met at the lowest cost. When working with distribution companies, we usually find that more than 20 percent of accounts assigned to an outside sales rep can be moved to another lower-cost function, such as inside sales. The goal is to narrow the role of the field sales rep to one that is focused on new business development and demand creation. This might also result in the creation of new specialized selling roles, such as a product specialist.

When analyzing your customers’ needs and whether you can shift resources, consider geography, market segment, service output, amount of travel required and so on. Also look at whether your sales reps are primarily fulfilling demand that already exists or creating demand by showing how a product or service improves productivity or shaves costs.

This isn’t simple. In many cases, this analysis will uncover a need to overhaul your sales structure.

If you’re ready to move forward, join us March 1-2 in Austin at Sales GPS 2017, a distribution conference we’re co-hosting with MDM on the changing role of field sales. Learn more about the conference.

Watch this video to learn why and how the role of field sales must evolve:

About the Author

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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