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Tips From A Distribution Industry Veteran

Yesterday I tuned in to a webinar by distribution industry veteran Gary T. Moore. Moore spoke at GAWDA’s 2004 Spring Management Conference and has written a few articles for Welding & Gases Today. His webinar was called “17 Tips for Selling Through Distributors,” and it focused on the supplier-distributor relationship.

As an industry observer, I have a lot to learn, and I found Moore’s talk to be very enlightening in gaining a better understanding of the dynamic between distributors and suppliers. While Moore’s presentation was directed to the supplier perspective, many of his tips are beneficial for distributors and suppliers alike.

Moore describes the manufacturer-distributor relationship as a symbiosis, which is defined as “the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship.” The key words in this definition are “dissimilar organisms.” Distributors and suppliers have different drivers, and there’s no getting around it. However, through effective communication, this relationship can grow and be mutually beneficial.

One of the most important forms of communication is feedback. Both distributors and suppliers need this communication from each other. While surveys can be good forms of formal, quantifiable information, one of the best ways to get a good response is by picking up the phone and asking open-ended questions such as, “Where are we coming up short?” This helps to generate more productive feedback and provides clear areas that need work. Distributors can facilitate feedback by giving follow-ups on sales leads provided by the supplier to help them determine the effectiveness of their efforts.

Recognition is another important form of feedback, and should be done regularly, whether it’s through a simple e-mail, acknowledgement in a newsletter or a formal award. Copying bosses and co-workers on recognition e-mails is a nice way to make sure others know about an accomplishment.

As Moore puts it, people want to do business with people they like, believe, understand and trust. These are a few of the ways to help distributors and suppliers build this trust and work together to deliver more value to the customer and to each other. For more tips, check out Moore’s article, Managing Your Supplier Relationships.

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