Bridging the Gap between Manufacturers and Distributors
Too often manufacturers take advantage of their relationship with distributors. They think: we’ll just make sure they’re all stocked with our products so they can go to work and move our offerings off the floor. Said manufacturers (and their salespeople) might provide some information about their products, but other than that they leave it up to the distributor to field questions and sell their products for them.
This is where a gap begins to form between manufacturers and distributors. However, distributors are an important element of our business, and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to bridge the unfortunate, yet inevitable gap that is created. Instead of thinking of distributors as just another way to get our products into the hands of as many customers as possible, we need to think of them as part of the team.
Here are three ways we attempt to bridge the gap and nurture mutually-beneficial relationships at Wheatland Tube:
1. Keep the lines of communication open
Communication is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to working with distributors. In this light, you really can’t communicate too much with the distributors that are stocking your products. From making sure your distributors have direct access to a salesperson to that salesperson dropping by regularly (every several weeks or so) and staying in touch in the interim, being available to provide information or answer any questions they may have will benefit you in the long run.
This brings me to my next point…
2. Provide product resources and educational materials
When you can’t be there to answer questions (because we know you have other customers and distributors to attend to), the best way you can ensure your distributors have all the necessary information is through product resources and educational materials.
Examples of collateral you should leave with your distributors include:
• Product brochures
• Product samples
• Your website URL for access to additional information about products
• Access to any tools or calculators that will help them help their customers
• Access to product reviews, testimonials and case studies
Knowledge is power and customers have access to more information than ever before. Make it easy for your distributors to find the information they’re looking for. They’ll appreciate it and if they know where to find info about your products, they’ll be more likely to sell your products.
3. Build trust by delivering on your promises
Trust a significant part of the manufacturer-distributor partnership. This means you have to deliver on your promises, every time. If you can’t meet a specific request, let them know. Maybe it’s a large order at the last minute you can’t fill completely, but you can partially fill it. Let them know and get them started with something to hold their customer over while you fill the rest of the order.
A relationship that’s often taken for granted, going the extra mile for your distributors to deliver on your promises won’t go unnoticed.
At Wheatland Tube, we rely on our partnerships with distributors. Extensions of the Wheatland brand, our distributors play an essential role in introducing our products to the end user and educating them about the benefits of our product offerings. Our distributors are the face of our brand in the marketplace, and with so many other brands and similar products available, building and maintaining this partnership is vital to our business. It’s not only vital to retaining market share, it’s also vital to helping new products penetrate the market.