The process of selling water-treatment equipment through a wholesale-distribution system involves more than just passing products down the line from manufacturer to wholesaler, wholesaler to dealer and dealer to end user.
It’s crucial to understand the connection at each point in this progression, from the manufacturer’s warehouse to the business or homeowner using the product. The manufacturer, wholesaler and dealer share a responsibility to each other as well as the end user. We all are linked together.
It’s all about establishing good relationships and there are some characteristics of these relationships that contribute to success for all involved.
Education and training
While many of the wholesalers we work with have a foundational knowledge of water treatment and related equipment, ensuring our partners become experts on our product offerings is essential. That’s why we recommend providing ongoing training for your wholesale partners’ sales staff.
When a salesforce is well-informed, it becomes much easier for the distributor’s salesforce to explain the benefits of water softeners, reverse-osmosis systems and other filtration options to their own customer base. Since the wholesaler’s outside sales team is meeting with well drillers and pump installers, they need to be on the same level as their clients in order to answer questions and be informative.
It’s important to work with wholesalers to help train and educate their customers: the dealers, plumbers and well drillers who are selling water-treatment solutions to homeowners and local businesses.
This not only helps the wholesaler improve their sales, it also helps installers and technicians learn all the proper product applications. That means the end user will have a good experience, which reflects positively on everyone involved.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Even though the manufacturer may be a few steps away from a direct relationship with the end user, educational material targeting that part of the sales process also is valuable.
This can be done through creation of printed material and online content (articles, videos, and graphics), which answer common consumer questions. Dealers and wholesalers can then distribute this content to their customer base to help them understand the features and benefits of water-treatment solutions, ultimately assisting in the decision-making process and leading to a purchase.
Content for consumer education is just one of the many resources you can share with wholesale partners. Manufacturers should provide a variety of marketing support and update material regularly.
When resources and industry knowledge are shared in the wholesale distribution-system, it helps all sides experience growth. Manufacturers should look for ways to provide the distributor with materials their customers can use. When you look at the big picture, marketing in a wholesale-distribution system truly has a “trickle-down effect.”
The relationship is not over once a shipment of products arrives at a wholesaler’s door. It is imperative to set up a responsive support network. Each wholesale-distributor should know, without question, there’s always someone available to help. In turn, the wholesaler needs to provide the same quality of support to its customers.
No matter how high-quality the products are, there eventually will be some unhappy customers. Distributors should look to work with reliable companies that can provide assistance when there are problems with products and should avoid relationships in which they are the ones left holding the bag.
When you work together to make a customer happy, it’s easier to solve problems. Plus, both sides will learn valuable lessons to help prevent future issues.
While the wholesaler uses the manufacturer’s customer service for support, the wholesaler’s staff becomes an extension of the brands they’re promoting. You can’t be everywhere, but your relationship with wholesalers multiplies your potential reach.
As a manufacturer, we appreciate when a wholesaler employs both inside and outside sales efforts. Using product managers who intimately know our equipment and make sure all branches are properly trained also makes a wholesaler the kind of partner a manufacturer will seek out.
At the same time, the manufacturer always should be looking for opportunities to share advice with wholesale partners, such as taking a closer look at the markets they’re targeting. Some markets are more mature or saturated than others. We may recommend targeting areas of the West Coast, for instance, if the Midwest and East Coast don’t provide the best opportunities for growth.
If a distributor has primarily been focused on pump installers and well drillers, we may suggest they investigate selling to local plumbers, giving advice on how to reach that type of customer. Basically, manufacturers can act as consultants to their wholesale partners.
It’s not enough to simply be in the business of selling the same types of products. A good professional relationship also benefits from having similar beliefs and a key to success is the wholesaler buying into the brands they are selling.
Wholesale-distribution partnerships are most effective when the people there believe in what the manufacturer does from top to bottom. Communication to the sales department shouldn’t be, “We have this product, sell it if you can.” Rather, the directive should be, “We have a great product that you must sell!”
Obviously, it becomes much easier to sell products when you have faith in them and believe they can solve problems.
Beyond confidence in product quality, shared values can include many other things. Perhaps a distributor wants to work with companies providing American-made products or maybe they prefer relationships with family-run businesses.
Since wholesalers and manufacturers often become closely associated with one another, sharing corporate values will lead to a better relationship.
The most important aspect of any business relationship is trust. Being trustworthy is truly the core value which must be shared. When a brand or manufacturer trusts a wholesaler’s ability to sell its products, and the wholesaler can trust it will get necessary resources and support, it means there is mutual respect, which leads to success for everyone.
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