Distributor Opportunities – Improving Dealer Relationships

Dear Paul,

I need help with improving dealer relationships? My products are sold primarily through dealers and distributors. I have a really hard time judging whether or not a dealer is going to be successful at selling my products. They all usually seem gung-ho when we first meet, but many of them seem to fade away after a few months. I am willing to spend time and energy motivating them to sell more of my products, but I am not sure how I would go about that. It isn’t like I am their manager or even a member of their team.

I try to check in with all of my dealers at least once a month. Sometimes the conversations are fruitful, but often it is like trying to pull teeth to get information from them.

Hoping for a Great Distributor Opportunity

Dear Hoping for a Great Distributor Opportunity,

It’s difficult to rely on dealers or distributors to sell your products. How do you know who will make a great business partner and who will be a dud? When I have coached salespeople about this in the past, I tell them, when researching a potential distributor that the first step is spending some quality time with a potential dealer. You should use the same techniques with a potential dealer that you would use with a potential customer. Namely, ask some good, open-ended questions. Learn more about their goals, challenges and plans for the future.

3 Questions – Qualify and Engage Potential Dealer Opportunities:

  1. Customers have a lot of choices today. How are you differentiating yourself to win more customers?
  2. What sales challenges are you facing today and how are you addressing them?
  3. Where do you see yourself and your business in five years? What are your plans to get where you want to be?

Asking these questions can lead to fruitful conversations about…

  • How a dealer works?
  • How he interacts with his customers?
  • How he overcomes obstacles?

You should be able to determine, after asking these questions, if you want to move forward with this dealer relationship.

G.A.P. Questioning Technique – Improving Dealer Relationships

In the long term, you want dealers who are motivated and planning for the future. When I coach salespeople on how to approach dealers, I teach them the 3-step questioning technique known as GAP. It stands for Goals, Actions, and Problems:

GOALS: Tell me, where do you see yourself and your business three years from now? As you continue the task of improving dealer relationships, this question identifies if your contact can think in terms of the big picture, or if he/she is only looking a few days, weeks, or months ahead. If they do not think about long term planning, you will have a tough time collaborating with them. A dealer who does not have a long term plan, is a dealer who should not get much of your time.

ACTIONS: What actions will you need to take to achieve your goals? It is one thing for someone to have a long-term plan, but how will he or she achieve that plan? For example, a dealer might say that her goal is to double her business in 3 years. That is a great answer! It tells me she is aggressive, motivated, and hungry for work. But, lots of people want to double their business and never do. In my quest for improving dealer relationships, she needs to be able to provide me with the steps she is going to take to get to her goal.

For example, here are some great action steps for her to follow:

  • Hire new salespeople.
  • Take on new product lines.
  • Expand territory.

On the other hand, if she just says that she will “just work harder,” then I have to assume she is not really serious about her goal.

PROBLEMS: What problems or roadblocks might get in your way? How will you handle them? Every sales professional will face challenges in their business. When asking this question, you are helping the dealer recognize, on the road to success, there will be obstacles and surprises. You are also positioning yourself as a collaborator (a trusted advisor) that will help in her success. Together, you can brainstorm solutions to any possible issues or challenges that might come up. In the process of improving dealer relationships, there is incredible value in helping your dealer develop the clarity she needs to achieve her goals.

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).