Manufacturer’s Agents Experience Massive Sales Growth
Manufacturers that use agencies or distributors to sell their products have one of the most challenged situations of a company lacking information from the field. There are lots of great reasons why companies choose to use distributors but the lack of information from the field and loss of direct contact with their customers is a universal problem. Agency sales reps don’t feel a responsibility to provide information and often represent many manufactures; nor does the manufacturer have the clout to compel the agency to provide this information. The result is a company with no key information regarding customer issues, competitor insight, pricing strategies, product direction and so much more.
The goal of Front Row when working with manufacturers that use agencies is to identify each parties needs and turn the relationship into a win/win situation.
An example of how we effectively worked in this situation was with an international company that manufactured a large number of plumbing supplies and exclusively used agencies to sell their products. During the investigatory process it was discovered that the manufacturer sold mostly commodity products with slim margins. They competed mostly on price and counted on the relationships their agencies had with their customers to sell products. The agencies sold for multiple companies and didn’t feel they had the need or the time to submit reports. They felt that as long as they made sales the manufacturer should be happy. As one agent said “ I will quit selling their product if they make me do reports.”
When we asked the manufacturer what information they needed from the field we got a list of dozens of items. Below are the ones considered most important.
- What was the purpose of the meeting
- What products were discussed
- What was the result of the meeting
- What issues did the end user have
- If you did not get a sale is there a forecast amount
In discussions with the Agencies and their sales reps the overriding need they had was the desire to make sales and earn income. We asked them to describe what a manufacturer could do to help them be more effective and productive and consequently to make sales make more money.
Here is what they told us.
- Support from the manufacture with regards to pricing, samples, literature, tech support, inventory levels, back orders, warranty certificates
- Insight into each customer with regards to previous orders, back orders, outstanding invoices, Days to pay, sales to date.
- Follow up notification
- Sales contest updates
Here’s what we did: We took those two sets of needs and created a series of questions and selectable answers and a list of clients and loaded it onto each agents mobile device through the Front Row app. This is what it looked like:
1) Purpose of the client meeting ( multiple answer question, select all applicable)
- fact finding meeting
- initial product presentation
- follow up product presentation
- issue discussion
- issue resolution
- pricing discussion
- closing meeting
- results discussion
2) What products were discussed (multiple answer , select all applicable)
a), b), c), d), e), A list of 14 product groups was made available for selection by agent. Our confidentiality agreement prevents us from providing these groups
3) What was the result of the meeting. ( single choice question)
- Got a sale
- Needs more information
- No decision
- Lost business
4) What issues or challenges did you discover (multiple answer question, select all applicable)
- Back orders
- Product quality
- Product range
- Color options
- Product availability
- Product support
5) No sale, forecast amount (free text enter number)
6) Need Support from company (Multiple answer question with automatic task assignment, the agent can select an answer or answers and the system will
Automatically assign the task to an employee or employees for follow up)
- Needs Pricing
- Need samples sent
- Need mangers support
- Needs spec sheet sent
- Needs installation contact
- Needs shipping date sent to client
- Needs product catalogue
7) Follow up Question ( a calendar will appear and agent can select a date and time for follow up and the system will populate all calendars- Google, outlook
Cell phone calendar and Front Row Calendar)
8) Client Information (select this question and all the latest client information will appear on your app)
9) Sales and contest update (select this questions and get your sales to date and contest performance
10) Note ( free text or voice to text relevant information as a reminder or for better follow up))
These 10 questions where loaded onto the Front Row app. It would take an agent less than 30 seconds to answer them and could be done immediately after a client interaction while waiting at an elevator or walking to a car.
Here is the Result:
What did the manufacture get?
- Insight into sales cycle, customer issues, products discussed, forecast amounts, agency needs, product development, pricing concerns.
What did the Agent get?
- Seamless, effortless support from manufacturer to enhance productivity.
- Calendar integration for opportunity follow up
- One click on app for latest client information before meeting.
- One click on app for note review before meeting
- Information from the field grew by over 500 % impacting both manufacture making better decisions and agents improving productivity.
- Sales in the first 6 months grew by over 12 %.