MAGNET Educates Area Manufacturers on Building Sales Networks

MAGNET and WIRE-Net recently held their fourth Accelerate Cleveland Manufacturing Growth Forum of 2015, presented by Dollar Bank. This informative manufacturing event focused on improving manufacturers’ business performance through a well-built sales network. MAGNET Senior Growth Advisor Tom Sovich was joined by other expert speakers to provide a successful and valuable manufacturing forum.

Dan Collins, VP of Sales with Wire Products Company, opened the event by presenting real-world examples and strategies for building a sales network. With 35 years of experience in sales, Collins has developed a strong network of contacts and has recently used this network to add 10 jobs to Wire Products.

Collins noted the importance of networking and the sales opportunities that can grow from it. He explained how his company earned contracts with companies like Remington Arms and Little Tykes through an “all of the above” strategy: maintaining relationships with former colleagues, new acquaintances, past clients, and current partners, in order to encourage referrals and future business.

Collins said that in building a sales network, companies must first sell themselves as honest and reliable, and then sell their products as valuable and unique. In addition, they must surround themselves with “smarter” people who can describe the product well.

Next, Sovich took the floor to address building successful sales structures. He contrasted the options of selling products through distribution and through direct sales, emphasizing that distributors are channel partners and shouldn’t be used as the sales force.

Sovich listed a four-phase process to choose the optimal sales structure for a company:

Phase 1 includes defining the sales channel, whether it is through the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), a two- or three-step distributor, or a direct channel, based on the customers’ buying habits.

Phase 2 includes defining the sales complexity, meaning what is required for the sales channel to function at its highest level.

Phase 3 is developing the best sales structure: a Direct Company Salesforce will allow a company to control its message and brand, and focus on its products and priorities, while an independent sales representatives can leverage existing relationships, and cover more ground with a lower overhead. Sovich shared a Sales Complexity Checklist with attendees with tips about measuring and modifying sales structure.

Phase 4 is choosing channels and executing. Sovich explained that a company needs to consider possible channel conflicts and focus resources effectively, in order to make them attractive to customers.

Sovich’s presentation included an exercise on developing brand position statements, which explored a scenario of a company selling automotive brakes. In the exercise, attendees determined channel structures, sales intensity, and sales structure, then shared their responses. Afterwards, Sovich presented the real life example on which this exercise was based, which included an auto dealer as a direct distributor, a large retail chain as a two-step distributor, and both an e-tailer and a speed shop as three-step distributors.

Sovich then facilitated a second exercise where attendees mapped out their own existing channels and used the Sales Complexity Checklist to develop a best sales structure for their business.

Connie Palucka, Managing Director of Business Growth Services, concluded the workshop by speaking on how to build an effective sales network. Palucka discussed how potential distributors should be vetted as intensively as potential job candidates. She provided the profile of an ideal channel partner, which included having extensive knowledge, strong related experience, a contact network, and the right technical expertise and/or required equipment knowledge.

Palucka stressed the importance of building a list of potential channel partners, having a solid on-boarding process (including a trial period), developing a sales playbook, and making channel relationships more rewarding by communicating with a purpose.

Could you benefit from expert advice on how to strengthen your business? The next Accelerate Cleveland Manufacturing Growth Forum will be Friday, September 25 at the Dollar Bank Conference Center in downtown Cleveland. MAGNET Senior Business Consultant Donna Rhodes will be joined by educators and local manufacturers, and will focus on assuring and training a high quality workforce to drive business growth. Click here to register!

For more information about MAGNET and how we can help improve your business, contact Linda Barita at linda.barita@magnetwork.org or at (216) 391-7766.

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