Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
April 26, 2017  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-Inside Sales Teams Improve Profits and Grow Sales-Distributors in the Digital Era #13

If you aren’t looking to add or expand to your inside sales team, you are missing a proven opportunity for driving sales and profits. Inside sales teams are fully capable to generate leads, sell technical products and manage high-value accounts. These are the lessons I learned last week at the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals Leadership Summit.

Here are five key findings for wholesaler-distributors:

  1. Inside sales teams can lead efforts to grow sales and profits. Inside sales has shredded its reputation as a low cost/low value function and earned new status as a standalone channel for expanding profits and share. Success is due to customer preferences for digital communications and inside sales’ inherent ability to leverage sales enablement tools and data. Hiring practices are adding motivated salespeople with the ability to connect with customers and build strong relationships.
  2. Role specialization is key for directed activities and accountability. Success begins with carving out specific targeted roles for insides salespeople. Examples include new account acquisition, new product launch, ownership of high-value leads and assignment of named accounts. Well-defined roles lead to hiring the right person for the job, compensation plans that drive specific behaviors and clear accountability for results.
  3. Sales acceleration tools enter data and drive productivity. CRM is essential for maintaining customer records and integrated customer data from multiple sources. However, CRM often requires manual data entry and may not customize its interface to the specific sales (or marketing) task at hand. A wide range of sales acceleration tools has evolved to enable specific sales activities and is often used in combination with other technologies to fully enable sales productivity.
  4. Social media can yield practical results. When properly monitored, social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can yield valuable intelligence about customer decision-making, reorganizations, new business initiatives and competitor presence in your top accounts. Video calls can make calls personal and effective for customers through chat features, and virtual tours and product demonstrations will be easier to do. Salesperson profiles should be professional and training for participation in forums and groups is essential for building a branded presence that reflects your values and professionalism.
  5. Customer success teams leverage data and analytics, organizational power and culture. The highest levels of value for customers is created when your entire organization is aligned with customer priorities and responsive to customer needs. When acting independently, sales, marketing and operational teams work in silos pursuing their own objectives and often step on each other’s toes when interacting with customers. New customer success teams are organized with cross-functional representation and they report directly to a company’s leadership. The team’s data analysts look for patterns and problems, often working collaboratively with customers. Leadership embraces the teams, granting organizational power and over time, the entire company’s culture for serving customers is upgraded.

The bottom line is that inside sales teams deliver results. They do not replace field teams, but working together, inside and field sales teams raise the bar for sales excellence, turbocharge marketing effectiveness and drive efficiencies. As discussed in my earlier blog post, “Digital Sales Builds on Inside Sales Expertise,” inside sales teams help distributors leverage digital tools and are at the core of the trend toward digital sales. Inside sales is a critical new focus area for distributors of all sizes and in all lines of trade, and inside sales competencies are of growing importance for multichannel execution and countering disruptor incursions. I’d like to hear your questions and ideas, so feel free to reach out to me at mark.dancer@channelvation.com.

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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.

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