With supply chain issues consuming much conversation of late, along with it comes a flurry of questions from consumers to dealers, dealers to sales reps, sales reps to manufacturers, and so on. In normal times having an efficient system in place to answer these inquiries is important, as the alternative squanders resources that could be better spent elsewhere, such as sales and marketing efforts. Companies that have underdeveloped information systems create issues far too often, as everyone “downstream” suffers from the delays, lack of clarity and the resulting frustration from channel partners and end users.
The Information Supply Chain
One of my mottoes as a sales rep is the promise to provide “quality information in a timely fashion.” This extends beyond simply conveying important notifications, to becoming proactive and anticipating the needs of the customer. But what happens when you are left hanging for information, or a company is unwilling or unable to grasp the importance of this critical messaging? The answer is simple – time is wasted, tempers elevate, and misspent energy is expended. Some of this may sound like Sales 101, but to varying degrees this is a phenomenon observed across the “information supply chain”. Accurate inventory status, order and ship confirmations, readily available tracking and reliable reporting all play into this and combined determine how a brand relates to their constituents. At best, well designed systems please retailers and improve relationships; at worst I have had dealers ready to throw in the towel out of sheer exasperation with inaccuracies, delayed acknowledgement, ambiguity in correspondences or flat-out lack of responsiveness.
Keeping Each Other Informed is Paramount
It is incumbent on field sales personnel to provide accurate and concise information when placing an order with a supplier. Pricing, terms and conditions, and any special shipping arrangements need to be articulated clearly. Failure to do so creates the first level of inefficiency, where back-and-forth emails occur. Once an order is placed, confirmation should be sent immediately to the reseller, which includes ETAs of any backordered items. A follow up ship confirmation / invoice copy comes next complete with tracking, so that anxious end users can be kept in the loop by the retailer. If the above seems like common sense basics, you are correct – but a lack of consistency in this area is apparent. Much time is spent on the least productive of activities, chasing down information that should have been automatically supplied in the first place.
Give Me My Time Back and I Will Sell More
In a perfect world, every manufacturer and distributor would have their systems fine-tuned to answer questions before they are asked, anticipating reseller needs along with providing data and reporting that enhances their sales team’s ability to increase time spent on profitable activities. When you think about it, if even 5% of your day is spent addressing the issues described above, that represents a significant drag on productivity. As the owner of a manufacturer’s rep firm, I can say with certainly that if you give me back this time, I will sell more of your products. It is well worth the effort and investment to develop a robust information system, as the payback is more waking hours spent on selling, which ultimately increases revenue and creates satisfied customers.