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3 Reasons the Field Sales Role Must Change

Written by Mike Marks on Thursday, 01 December 2016. Posted in Distribution

336x280 SalesGPSHistorically, the distribution sales process has been largely artisan – with field salespeople making their own decisions about how they go to market with little oversight from sales management.

Here are three reasons why that has to change:

  1. Customers are changing the way they buy. Much of a customer’s shopping is done before they even reach out to a sales rep, challenging the outside salesperson’s traditional role as a source of information about products.
  2. The Internet has contributed to an unprecedented level of price transparency. To avoid a race to the bottom, distributors must rethink how they can use field sales in a more consultative role for the customers that want and need it – and are willing to pay for it.
  3. Customers’ expectations are rapidly changing. They expect the supply chain to function well and in large part it does (thus reducing the need for a rescue by their sales reps). And they expect an order process that is seamless (and can be handled by a more cost-effective, easy-to-use channel).

Distributors should use a multichannel approach to meet the needs of customers in this changing environment and deploy their field sales more strategically. Despite the above shifts, why haven’t many distributors acted? What’s keeping them from changing their sales model?

For most, it’s fear.

Distributors are afraid that if they change too quickly, they’ll lose their best sales reps and with them, their best customers. They’re also afraid that reducing the role of field sales in the company will result in fewer sales.

So what’s the answer? How can distributors set aside that fear and adapt their sales model to this new market reality?

The punchline is that you must start the change management process and not stay stuck. There is a cost to wait that is unseen but growing.

Join IRCG and our partner MDM on March 1-2 in Austin at Sales GPS 2017, a distribution conference focused on the changing role of field sales and what you can do about it. Learn more about the conference.

Learn more about the changing role of the salesperson in this video:

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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