Why Old-School Distributor-Manufacturer Meetings are a Waste of Time

Written by Mike Marks on Wednesday, 04 October 2017. Posted in Channel Management, Webinars, Distribution

If you’re a distributor, you’re going to disagree with your suppliers from time to time. If you’re starting to deploy your sales force more strategically (See: 3 Reasons the Field Sales Role Must Change), these disagreements are even more likely to come up. If you’re reducing your cost to serve by moving some customers to an inside sales model, for example, suppliers with mandates on outside sales representation may take issue.

Regardless of the reason for disagreement, the No. 1 tool at your disposal is to change the dynamic of the distributor-manufacturer meeting.

This is how most of the worst joint-planning meetings go: The independent rep or sales district manager comes in with a PowerPoint presentation that gives you updates on upcoming products and other things, and tells you that you’re missing your numbers. And the distributor brings nothing to the table other than to say, “if you would just do X, Y and Z, everything would be great.”

That’s the old-school way of doing things, and it’s just wasting everybody’s time. What should happen instead is that when a manufacturer comes in for a joint meeting, the distributor gives a presentation to the manufacturer telling them what’s happening in their markets, including market economics and updates on major accounts. Ideally, this distributor knows five to 10 times more about the market than the supplier does. If they do, when the vendor rep comes out for a visit, they can give them a bunch of information and a PowerPoint presentation with data that the vendor can take back to their boss to effectively negotiate on the distributor’s behalf.

If you want a true channel partnership, you need to carry your own weight in the relationship. I talked more about this during my recent Modern Distribution Management webcast, The Changing Role of Field Sales, available on-demand in the MDM events archive.

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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