Truths to Channel Passion and Success

by | Jun 23, 2022 | The Power Of Differentiation | 0 comments

Much of my business life has been working with brands and helping them motivate, align and engage their sales channel. Sometimes the channel is a dealer or distributor network; sometimes it’s reps or even company stores.

The beauty of the manufacturer-dealer relationship is that it is a marriage. Good dealers sell products and build relationships. Good manufacturers build great products. This is a powerful combination, and usually, it is best to maximize it instead of searching for an alternative selling model.

Here are five truths to channel performance and passion within your sales channel.

TRUTH 1

No matter how strong your brand, product or service, if the people who represent it don’t genuinely believe in it…you’re losing ground.

This is true for everyone at a company. If dealers don’t believe, you’re in big trouble. If your employees don’t, you’re doomed. There are plenty of excellent products that failed because people didn’t believe. My message to the leader is to realize that you must believe and show that belief. We have seen product launches fail because leaders intimidated instead of believed. Belief begins at the top.

TRUTH 2

If you compete against an inferior brand, product or service, but their channel is fully engaged…you’re in for a battle.

We have often heard from clients that their products are excellent, and their competition is inferior, yet somehow those competitors are “eating their lunch.” Maybe a competitor’s product is being undervalued. But it is just as possible that their enterprise and distribution channel genuinely believe in that product and will fight to win.

Even if your sales channel only offers your brand of product in its particular segment, don’t fool yourself that they are “dedicated.” There are other products and services that dealers focus their time and efforts on. Your goal is to be their favorite, their priority, and the smartest investment of their efforts.

TRUTH 3

The experience at the dealership should be as inspired and inspiring as the product and technology being sold and serviced there.

Imagine a high-tech, premium brand being sold and serviced at dealerships nationwide. Yet, the customer experience at those dealerships is underwhelming. The service is uninspired. The store and its technology are outdated. It’s a disconnect for the customer.

Remember, customers don’t distinguish between the brand and the dealer. It’s all one experience for them. They will judge harshly and abandon your great brand if the experience at the dealership is lackluster. And your top dealers suffer as well when poor performing dealers give the brand a black eye.

We partnered with Volvo to inspire its retailer network to deliver elevated customer experiences that match the brand’s luxury vehicles.

TRUTH 4

The moment more than one person, one dealer or one customer learns of a new product creation, that launch has begun.

Today, with social media dominating our communications, you must assume that once you signal your intent to launch a new offering, there will be inquiries, interest and potential pre-sales opportunities.

There was a brand that announced a revolutionary new product with a launch date of approximately one year in the future. Immediately, interested customers began calling and visiting dealers nationwide. It’s not funny, but the dealer network’s “creative” answers to the customers’ questions were extraordinary, inaccurate and dramatically dampened its success.

Be sure you release enough information about the product to the dealers to keep the interest high and focused, but still not give away too many secrets. It is a balancing act, but necessary.

Harley-Davidson needed to educate the dealer network leading up to the launch of its EV motorcycle, LiveWire®. We developed a training program to ensure dealers were aligned and able to share consistent, accurate information with customers.

 

TRUTH 5

Your channel can be either an evangelist or an anarchist. Choose one.

A brand must align its dealers to a singular vision; otherwise, the dealer is a free agent looking only to close sales and grab the commission, even at the expense of the brand.

If your company is multinational with thousands of employees and billions in revenue, dealer principals are often unfazed by that status. Many have legacies of prominence in their communities and are successful in their own right. It’s best to view the relationship as a partnership and ideally a friendship of equals who can help each other succeed.

I’ve seen manufacturers with strong connections to their sales network grow sales, foster lifelong customers and differentiate their brand among competitors. The brand with an engaged sales channel is formidable, and that’s the truth!

 

Please Answer One Short Question

Does your company view its relationship with the sales channel (dealer, distributors, reps, stores) as a partnership in your mutual success?

YES | NO

 


Barry LaBov is founder and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training. He is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year recipient and author of numerous business books, including the upcoming Power of Differentiation. Since 1981, LABOV has differentiated and launched products and brands around the world.