Exclusive Features

Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off: Part 6

tED magazine is continuing this exclusive series, Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off, by interviewing a series of distributors and manufacturers who participate in B2B meetings. They tell us about what works best and what happens when the meetings do not go well. This series allows you to learn from the best practices and the mistakes to get the best return on your meeting investments.

by Bridget McCrea

Armed with both distribution and manufacturing experience, this company president has been on both sides of unproductive sales meetings. Now heading up a heating solutions manufacturing firm in Washington, he says getting the most out of a B2B business meeting requires a tight focus on distributor needs (versus what the supplier wants to sell, push, or talk about). Find out what distributors are working with in their individual markets, he says, and then use that information to develop a sales meeting that will truly pay off. 

“When I worked in distribution, manufacturers would come in and present their annual programs and initiatives,” says the company president. “In a lot of cases, the conversations didn’t relate at all to what we were trying to accomplish in our own markets. It didn’t apply to us, yet the manufacturers were trying to get us to buy into the ideas by getting onboard with their programs.” 

Filling in the Gaps
Armed with those insights, and knowing where the gaps lie between suppliers and their distributors, this president took that knowledge into his new position on the manufacturing side of the equation. Today, he and his sales teams take the time to know their customers, what their needs are, and how – as a manufacturing firm – the company can help the entire channel work more effectively as a whole.  

Before getting face-to-face in a meeting, he’ll ask distributors for a short list of three to four “hot points” that they want to cover. And while he doesn’t use a formal agenda, this list of bulleted points helps him shape the meeting in a way that resonates with the individual distributor (rather than developing a “global” plan for all meetings that take place on a specific day at, say, the NAED National Meeting). 

“We only have about 20 minutes in which to hit on all of the key points and issues, so bringing those key points to the table is a really good idea,” says the company president, who uses email for setting up the meetings and sharing the key points. “The idea is to have everyone prepped for the meeting and knowing what they want to talk about,” he says. Doing pre-meeting homework – a process that he spends an average of about 30 minutes to an hour on each time – also helps ensure a more productive event.  
“I do my research, look at historical data, check out websites, ask for related materials, and take myriad other steps to make sure I’m actually ready to address the distributor’s key points in a meaningful way,” he explains. “Ultimately, I just try to put myself in our distributors’ shoes and figure out what their problems are and how we can help solve them. It really just all comes down to helping distributors grow their businesses.”

Sending the Right People to the Event 
In addressing the issue of manufacturers sending the “wrong” salespeople to national meetings – a complaint brought up by multiple NAED members who participated in this article series – this company president says the grievance brings up a very interesting point. In some cases, it’s who you send to the event that can make the difference between a productive meeting and a non-eventful gathering.   

“Figuring out exactly who should attend these meetings for the best possible impact should be part of a manufacturer’s initial planning for the event,” he says. “If you’re only sending salespeople and overlooking the need for your executive staff’s presence, you may want to rethink your approach.”

Up next in our Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off series: pulling it all together. Stay tuned to read more soon.

This is part six in our series. Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, and part five here.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net

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