by David Norris
Norris & Associates, Inc.
More and more are either outsourced or consolidated to shrinking internal resources. It is the classic story of being asked to do more with less, and in many instances, for less!
There’s lots of talk these days about the extinction of the field salesperson. The premise for this argument rests on the customers’ apparent ability to find everything they need on the internet, eliminating the need for a salesperson to call on them.
Most field salespeople would likely agree that customers can be “less accessible” than they once were, but that’s not because they don’t “need” us any more. The voice of the customer will suggest something quite the contrary, in fact. We just need to listen in order to understand the key to customer access and engagement.
Talk to your customers, and most will agree that the internal resources available to them at their companies have been reduced. With consolidations, restructuring and the incessant drive for bottom-line numbers, everyone is feeling the pinch. Where once OEMs were quite vertically integrated and staffed across the disciplines needed to design and produce their products, today’s model is quite different. More and more are either outsourced or consolidated to shrinking internal resources. It is the classic story of being asked to do more with less, and in many instances, for less!
It’s no wonder that our customers are more discriminating as to how they use their time and how much, or little, of it they make available to salespeople. That said, they are desperate for resources to help them achieve their goals and objectives. Where once those resources were internal and readily available, in today’s world of more with less for less, those who bring resources to the table have ready access to their customers as they are seen more as collaborators than simply salespeople.
It’s difficult to establish that type of relationship with the customer because you must have some access to get the audience, to understand the customers’ needs, and offer your resources and solutions to those needs.
Manufacturers’ representatives have a unique advantage as they can engage with the customers’ design teams on many levels with a variety of resources from their principals that apply to the customers’ needs. Once the connection is established based on delivering real value to the customer, the rep can build on that access as a collaborative resource.
There is a caveat, however, and one we all need to remember as customers grant us access based on a sense of perceived value. It is critical that we take the time to understand their needs and bring real resources to the table each and every time we meet.
As we plan our customer visits with that next principal coming to town, we all need to keep that in mind. Our customers will welcome us back, and in fact, pull us in, as long as we do just that! They need outside resources to make those bottom-line numbers, and the field salesperson is the one who can deliver those resources. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!