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The Value-Added Distributor Series: Creating the Optimal Upsell

By Bridget McCrea

Joe Martin sees real value in the additional services and products that his electrical distributors offer outside of their typical product lineups. As vice president at KenMor Electric in Houston, he says anytime distributors can help free up his contracting firm’s labor force to focus on more critical tasks, the extra effort is well received and appreciated.

In some cases, a distributor will visit the job site to offer up new product options to get the job done faster, and in other cases it provides pre-fabrication services that help KenMor complete projects using fewer of its own human resources. In fact, Martin says the additional support often comes into play when he’s awarding bids. “In some cases the distributor’s bid may not be the lowest,” he says, “but if we know the supplier will open its doors for us at midnight on Sunday, it definitely factors into our decision.”

Beyond the Basics
In the distribution industry, it’s no secret that one of the best ways to build on existing sales efforts is by developing a value-added package of services and a sales team that knows how to dig down deep and sell those add-ons to both new and existing customers. Whether they are cross-selling products that go along with past purchases, upselling clients to high-end brands, or creating value-added platforms that help contractors like KenMor operate more efficiently, the best sales teams go beyond the basics of simply “getting the order.”

“Salespeople have to get out in the field in front of customers and show those clients that they truly care about them and their businesses,” says Jerry Vieira, president of Portland, Ore.-based business consultancy The QMP Group, Inc., who sees that establishment of trust as a key cornerstone of any distributor’s value-added package. “Customers also have to know that everything you do is in their best economic interest. Without that, they’ll just go elsewhere when you refuse to drop a price or when you ask for compensation for your value-added efforts.”

Creating the Package
Once the baseline of trust is established, distributor sales teams should regularly ask customers what they want, what they need, and what their current pain points are. These three details will give distributors an inside track on what they can be providing – be it products, services, or value-added offerings – above and beyond the basic order. “Train your sales staff to be politely inquisitive,” says Vieira, “without that, you can’t ever hope to calculate a value quotient for your services.”

In some cases, a customer might reveal the need for your firm to hold stock on certain items – and not charging for them (using a vendor-managed inventory [VMI] strategy) until they are actually sold and used – that electrical contractors can tap at a moment’s notice. In other cases, the value-added services that the customer wants may include offerings like new product training, kitting products, and/or modifying equipment.

Regardless of the service in question, the important thing is to create a value-added platform that properly addresses the issues at hand in the most efficient and effective manner possible. “Center your value-added services around your customers’ needs,” Vieira advises, “or it won’t be long before your customers migrate to a distributor channel that provides the optimum value set that they are seeking.”

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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