Last week, we discussed how the key to a distributor successfully selling a given product line (from the supplier’s standpoint) is how motivated they are to carry, promote, and sell the line. There is simply no substitute for effort. The responsibility for maintaining the motivation to put in that effort, however does not fall solely on the distributor. As we mentioned last week: “The effort that distributors will give to a product line is not solely dependent on the distributors themselves; the supplier’s distributor manager is responsible for keeping the distributors motivated as well.” So, what can (and should) a manufacturer do to help motivate their distributors and keep them selling?
Of course, this question has some obvious answers such as price / discount rates, exclusivity, etc., but it’s the less obvious answers, and therefore the less commonly diagnosed and remedied problems, which we are interested in.
Previously we discussed how distributors should play a role in executing suppliers’ marketing strategies but suppliers should not shift too much marketing responsibility to distributors. By treating marketing as a collaborative effort between supplier and distributor, you are actually creating an excellent opportunity to improve distributor motivation over a long time frame. By providing marketing support to your distributors you will both achieve more holistic and better integrated marketing campaigns and also demonstrate that you are committed to the success of your distributors.
Another often overlooked tool for motivating your distributors is fostering relationships between them. Highlighting the success of some distributors will demonstrate that distributors can successfully sell your products, and creating and fostering channels of communication between them will help them learn from each other, increasing the effectiveness of your entire distribution network.
The implementation of a system to enable and foster easy collaboration on both of these levels does not need to be time consuming nor expensive. While there is existing channel management software, it often focuses too much on the supplier-distributor relationship and not sufficiently on fostering communication between distributors. So long as you do not require that a system to manage this process is integrated with many other enterprise systems, an effective solution can be constructed relatively inexpensively using mostly free, open-source tools.
Life science tools manufacturers need to take an active role in fostering the success of their distribution networks; “set it and forget it” type strategies are very rarely effective. Improving distributor performance does not need to be difficult, but it is the distributor manager’s job to ensure that the distributors stay motivated. By enhancing collaboration and communication with distributors, suppliers are investing in their distributors’ long term success while helping to ensure their own.