Today, B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales, with the internet replacing the sales rep as the customer’s source of information. This has fundamentally shifted the power-balance between buyer and seller, with customers no longer reliant on maintaining a personal relationship with sales reps to get the best deal.

Despite a significant change in market dynamic, the roles of sales reps and subsequent sales models employed by distributors have largely remained the same. As many distributors mistakenly believe their business relies on the personal relationship between their sales reps and customers, they fear that when sales reps leave their customers will too. Subsequently, they can be reluctant to react to both opportunities and threats in the market from fear of disgruntling their existing sales reps.

Ultimately, if companies don’t adapt to the shift in power between buyer and seller, they will be loaded with a sales force that no longer adds tangible value to the organization. To ensure that sales reps continue to benefit the business, distributors need to streamline their roles and employ a new sales model that is closer aligned to the purchasing preferences of today’s customers.

Companies should redefine the roles within the sales team into ‘outside sales’ reps who approach new customers in the field, and ‘inside sales’ reps who provide customer service from a centralized location. Thereby distributors can enable their sales reps to contribute to growth by leveraging their individual strengths.

Supportive sales models

To support this new sales model, distributors need to create a strategy that best positions their sales reps to maximize sales. Through modern marketing techniques, which leverage data to reveal where, when and what customers are buying, companies can create comprehensive customer profiles and deploy sales models tailored to the unique purchasing preferences of their individual customer base.

With an overview of customer buying habits, distributors can then personalise the service they provide and allocate resources accordingly. For example, if the majority of customers prefer to complete purchases through email, distributors can streamline this process to significantly improve efficiency and the customer service they provide.

Aside from utilizing modern marketing techniques, initiating simpler digital transformations, such as sales order automation can also provide big wins. Order automation can speed up order to cash cycles, improve accuracy and inside sales are given more opportunities to re-allocate the time saved to strengthen customer relationships. When you consider that sales reps spend nearly 15% of their time completing administrative tasks, this can significantly improve a distributor’s customer service.

The market dynamic in distribution has evolved and both the sales model and the roles of sales reps need to be modernized accordingly. By enabling individual sales reps to play to their strengths and by better positioning them to convert leads, distributors can react to the new buyers-seller dynamic without fear of losing sales reps to competitors.