No matter whether it’s B2B or B2C, relationships can be difficult to manage. Manufacturers working with distribution partners sometimes have difficulty aligning goals that sit askance from one another. Maintaining brand consistency as products move through complex distribution networks can prove to be an additional frustration.
However, overcoming these challenges and fostering collaborative partnerships with industry distributors is essential. Effective partnerships thrive on the symbiotic nature of the relationship – with each party helping the other, productivity increases across the board.
Now, effective partnership doesn’t happen overnight. This is a long-haul project, and it usually takes several years to reach an easy and natural level of collaboration. But once you do, rest assured that the journey will have been well worth it. Here are some key steps one can take to help foster and deepen these relationships as a manufacturer.
1. Understand the needs of industry distributors
Business owners, manufacturers, and suppliers often lack a full understanding of their distributors’ needs. This makes it difficult to build productive and meaningful relationships with them. Always seek to gain a personal, first-hand understanding of a distributor’s needs to ensure communication is actually relevant. A holistic appreciation of distributor pain points enhanced by objective data collection is also always a smart move.
Manufacturers can use field sales management software to gather reliable and impartial information directly from the front lines. The more information you gather, the better you’ll be able to address distributors’ opportunities, changing needs, and problems.
However, simply understanding a distributor’s needs is not enough to build effective B2B relationships. Manufacturers also need to show a willingness and desire to fulfill these needs. Use the data gleaned from your field sales software to create detailed sales and recommendation reports. These reports, tailored to each distributor’s needs, provide performance-increasing support that is key to building lasting B2B relationships.
2. Maintain an open line of communication with your B2B distributor
Strong, personal communication lays the groundwork for positive problem-solving, effective collaboration, and free sharing of ideas and is key to improving business relationships. As such, always encourage consistent and personable contact between field sales managers, manufacturers, and salespeople.
Along with communication, though, comes miscommunication. Address miscommunication issues as soon as they arise. Not only does this prevent problems from snowballing into something more damaging, but this proactivity also shows business partners that you care about the relationship.
To prevent frequent miscommunication, it’s important to invest yourself in your distributors’ challenges. This will help build a trusting collaboration that leads to increased motivation and cooperation. This then in turn translates to lower turnover and costs, while boosting performance and customer satisfaction.
3. Maintain active participation in your B2B relationships
Just like in your personal life, it’s important to be an active partner in your business relationships. Active participation in distributor relationships translates to higher performance. Constant engagement by manufacturers also helps them drive their bottom line across distributors. In fact, one recent Gallup study found that distributors with high engagement delivered up to 1.4 times more revenue than average!
Personal communication is one of the best ways to maintain active participation in B2B relationships, and there are a number of ways to do so.
Participate in industry distributor meetings
Joining distributor meetings keeps you in touch with their side of business and allows you the opportunity to give input and align their goals with yours. Most importantly, it shows your partners that you care about their company, which strengthens your overall business relationship.
Build a relationship with your sales reps
Sales reps are the most direct point of contact between you and your customers. As such, it’s important to maintain a healthy working relationship with them! There are many ways to do this: send them the occasional fun freebie, check in with them regularly, treat them to dinner, or even just send a personal thank you card.
Assist in marketing and sales
Healthy B2B relationships are symbiotic ones, and one of the best ways to foster this symbiosis is by making the effort to assist in marketing and sales. Providing this type of support helps your distributor sell more of your product, putting more money in both of your pockets.
You can boost sales even further by using field sales managerial software. These tools allow you to gather real-time information on sales rep performance and customer insights – data that can then be studied and passed onto distributors to improve their performance.
4. Help industry distributors to improve their productivity
Helping distributors to improve their productivity helps you move more product. This in turn helps you grow your relationship with your distributor, provided you maintain a loyal and reliable partner. Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy manufacturing partner, benefits in productivity will begin to flow. For example, motivation for improved performance and effort will quickly become the norm. Distributor turnover will also reduce, saving you the cost of bringing new partners into your network.
Distributors want manufacturing partners who keep their promises. They want to work with people who fulfill lead times, provide quality products, give promotional support, and provide in-field technical assistance. Enhance this in-field assistance by using a field sales app that allows for constant communication and support in B2B relationships.
Additionally, distributors appreciate partners who are problem-solvers. Every problem is an opportunity to do better and increase productivity. The key to taking advantage of these opportunities is resolving these problems right away. This allows you to work on better and more efficient systems with your distribution partner.
Industry distributors as partners
Building an effective and lasting relationship with a distributor partner can take time. However, the effort is a worthy investment! Strong B2B relationships benefit the entire supply chain – from the manufacturer, through the distributors, all the way down to enabling more productive sales reps.
Establishing yourself as a reliable and productive partner is as much about being trustworthy as it is about being efficient. Maintaining efficiency across the whole supply chain means using the right tools to stay in touch every step of the way. Luckily, there are a number of field sales tech tools ready to help you do just that! Field sales management software like Skynamo enables you to assist distributors by providing key sales information, forecasts, and technical support, helping you to foster a positive partnership from the start. To learn more about what a field sales service app can do for you, reach out to Skynamo today and let’s chat.