Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
June 7, 2017  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-Create New Value That Is Measurable, Meaningful and Unmatched-Distributors in the Digital Era #19

When you decide to acquire and adopt a digital tool, it is the beginning of a process, not the end. Getting results from digital investments requires you to focus on building capabilities. Without equal investment and smart coordinated planning around people, processes and digital tools, your company will fail to reap the benefits of its investments. Even worse, you’ll fall behind your competitors and disruptors that are better organized and managed.


The good news is that if your company invests in expertise around people and process development, you can build momentum that will carry forward from one digital tool to the next, across multiple initiatives, and toward sustained innovation and growth.

Working with the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence, I recently launched a new research project that will

  • measure progress around the adoption and use of digital tools
  • provide benchmarks for gauging your own results
  • suggest strategic solutions for setting your digital vision.

Through our research, many distributor leaders are offering their best advice and experience around getting results from digital tools. One such leader, Ann Vranicic, Vice President of Marketing at Valin Corporation, offered this:

“The most difficult part of implementing digital tools is onboarding employees to fully embrace the updated business processes, data requirements and database integrity. It doesn’t matter how much training you do, it is inevitable that you will hit setbacks in your implementation. I find that it normally takes up to 18 months to 2 years for an organization to begin to fully realize the digital tool after implementation.”

Clearly, recognizing the need for people and process development is a critical first step in getting out in front of the challenges that you will face. In Getting Results From Your Digital Investments, we shared two simple yet powerful tools: Competency models for people development and business process mapping for upgrading the way your people work.

A competency model accelerates people development by identifying critical competencies associated with your specific use of digital tools, and then details good, better and best behaviors for executing each competency. Business process mapping is about creating an inventor of critical processes, listing activities and actions, assigning responsibility and accountability, and most of all, identifying the party responsible for maintaining the process and rolling it out through training and coaching.

Working together, competency models and business process mapping enable individuals and teams to understand how efforts (and competencies) work together with other people and teams in your company (and at your customers’ locations) to deliver your company’s differentiated value and digital customer experience. Read How Competency Models Give You a Competitive Advantage for a quick start on competency models and business process mapping to get your company started or upgrade your efforts.

Moving ahead, there is another important point to be made about avoiding blind spots as your company expands its use of digital tools. People competencies and business processes must be carefully considered, defined and updated. Doing so avoids a focus on digital tools themselves as the driver of success. Digital tools are a start, but new results require new behaviors, executed by people with new competencies who follow updated, competitive and differentiated business processes.

Something else is required and it is critically important when positioning your company for success against the onslaught of disruptors. Disruptors succeed against your business by cherry picking a specific value that you offer and then specialize on that value so that they’re doing it better than your business. This way they ultimately win your customers over.

For example, Amazon’s disruptive value is about offering a very convenient buying experience with a portfolio of leading brands in a buy box that enables easy price comparison. To be sure, distributors offer value for convenience buys, but not in the same way. Amazon wins by doing it differently and doing it better. Customers see new value and shift their buying decisions and loyalty.

In our new research, we’re finding more and more evidence of disruption by incumbent distributors as well. Often, this disruption involves adding services to the traditional distributor model, which provide one-stop-shopping and integrated services that previously required customers to engage with multiple providers. For example, distributors that offer installation may add removal services to their business capabilities. Or distributors that focus on data and analytics, may acquire data analytics firms with logistical expertise to offer audits, consulting and real-time monitoring. In these two examples, distributor leaders are countering the new disruptive threat not by competing on a disruptor’s terms, but by creating new value not offered by the disruptor (or legacy distributors in their markets).

In both cases, success is achieved through detailed plans and disciplined execution. Here are some rules that can guide your investments:

  • New offerings must offer new value that is measurable.
  • The difference that your company offers must be, without a doubt, meaningful for customers.
  • You must offer and create new value through execution that is unmatched by your competitors.

In Becoming a Digital Distributor, we expanded on this topic through insights shared by distributor leaders and presented our findings as this graphic.

Our choice of depicting success as gears working together was intentional. Succeeding with digital tools is about hard work, sustained effort and transforming your organization to function as a well-oiled machine. Competency models and business process mapping are a start. Creating new value that is measurable, meaningful and unmatched pushes your company further. It’s hard work, but true success usually is. Your company must get smart about digital tools, but as Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

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Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer founded the Network for Business Innovation to drive awareness, advocacy and excellence for B2B innovation, and to enable an exchange of ideas between leaders on business transformation, technology adoption, social impact and community engagement. For more than 30 years, Mark has worked with leading companies to achieve go-to-market excellence across a wide range of industries in developed and emerging markets.