Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
February 17, 2022  |  BySenthil Gunasekaran, Co-author of Seven Enduring NAW Institute Best Sellers

You may think you’re leveraging customer analytics in your organization simply because you’ve segmented them into insights and made them available to your salespeople. But if you haven’t packaged those insights in an actionable format, it’s unlikely they’re being leveraged for customer retention and growth. You’ve done the legwork to pull those insights and segment your customers, but your team needs direction and coaching before they’re ready for the field. They need playbooks specific to applying customer data, and they need to learn the plays.

Make analytics actionable – with playbooks.

Over the years, we’ve helped distributors find success using analytics in their sales programs to pursue growth. Through these experiences, we’ve seen a variety of methods and practices that lead to positive results.

One practice that has proved essential is:

Providing data to salespeople in a form that’s easily understood and used without interrupting existing workflows.

In this practice, distributors ensure that the delivery methodology of customer insights fits snugly into salespeople’s current ways of operating and thinking. Using data to inform daily decisions shouldn’t involve a detour or demand extensive knowledge of data analysis. If it does, salespeople will defer to their known routines and leave the insights untouched. They are experts at their craft and will rightly perceive extraneous effort to get to similar results as inefficient.

Learn what your salespeople want and need

To determine the best delivery methodology and analytics strategy for your organization, you must learn your sales team’s daily routines and workflows. Similarly, you must also learn what’s important to individual salespeople.

To inform our own understanding, we asked hundreds of sales professionals about their top concerns each day and what drives their decision-making. Their responses fell into two buckets: mitigate risk and drive growth.

For instance, one responded with concerns over losing core customers. The main focus here is mitigating risk. Another said they think about how to land new customers. The objective here is driving growth.

Design corresponding playbooks driven by customer data

With accessible, easy-to-use insights and growth playbooks, your salespeople can be better equipped to manage their daily concerns from a highly informed vantage point. This vantage point will allow them to pinpoint the right strategies to mitigate risk and drive growth. Furthermore, they can leverage insights to expand accounts, acquire new customers and better serve existing customers.

The playbooks you develop should directly address salespeople’s top concerns. If they want to reduce customer churn, provide a playbook with the appropriate insights to detect signs of churn. With this, they can get ahead of churn and act to retain customers. If they want to grow an account, provide a playbook with insights related to cross-selling and upselling. What does this look like? Here are some real-world instances of growth playbooks in action:

  • A distributor in the foodservice industry increased visibility and access to customer analytics for the sales team by integrating growth playbooks within their CRM.
  • A distributor in the chemical space developed playbooks to highlight product categories to cross-sell to specific customers and playbooks listing customers that show signs of potential churn, such as decreases in revenue and margin. The distributor trained the sales team to execute these playbooks.
  • A lube distributor tracked salesforce effectiveness in growing wallet share and reducing cost-to-serve as a means to measure the ROI on customer analytics.

Analytics are now essential to success for distributors, fueling better decision-making to help them compete and meet customer expectations. But that doesn’t mean distributor sales teams should have to sift through insights and self-instruct to make the data actionable. Help your salespeople fulfill their objectives with strategically designed, data-driven playbooks they can apply in their daily workflows to address common concerns and goals.

Ready to build your own growth playbooks and realize growth? ActVantage has worked with hundreds of distributors to help them better understand and leverage customer analytics for nearly two decades. We’d be happy to chat and help you create customer analytics and empower sales teams.

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Senthil Gunasekaran, Co-author of Seven Enduring NAW Institute Best Sellers

Senthil Gunasekaran, Co-author of Seven Enduring NAW Institute Best Sellers

Senthil Gunasekaran is co-founder of ActVantage which helps distributors drive profitable growth through analytics and talent development. He has more than 18 years of experience helping hundreds of distributors and manufacturers, while co-authoring seven books for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. He also delivers executive education and speaks at industry forums. Prior to ActVantage, he led research and industry projects at Texas A&M’s Industrial Distribution program.

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