Supplier Q&A: Sell More to Existing Clients

Suppliers are ready to partner with distributors to help them grow their current end-buyer accounts.

Charley Mann

National Sales Account Manager at Links Unlimited (asi/67617), Charlotte, NC

Q: What’s the first step for distributors who want to expand business with a current end-buyer account?

Charley Mann: Distributors really have to know the client. Maybe they’re always serving the same end-user with promotional products, but there could be several others at that company that they haven’t worked with yet. And why not? Why aren’t they batting for those other opportunities? It could also be that communication with the client has gotten rote and dry, and the distributor has become transactional. And that’s comfortable, but sometimes they need to break out of their comfort zones and be consultative partners. It’s good to go to the end-buyer’s procurement person and simply ask them about their interest in a new product.

Q: Can suppliers help distributors grow their accounts?

CM: We want to work with our distributors to help them do this. If they’re not comfortable with the upsell, I offer to be the factory guy and come with them on the end-buyer call. Sometimes I put an actual number on it, such as, “You could make probably another $5,000 in commission just by upselling this account.” I suggest looking at other promising avenues for the client. Usually the response from distributors is positive, but sometimes they’re reticent because they’re not familiar with the products. They know their pens, of course, and their can coolers. Those are their bread and butter. But if we’re looking at an Amazon product, like the Echo, or they want to present the possibility of an Oakley sunglasses fitting event, for example, they might not be able to answer all the questions with the bulk of those products. So we’re here to help with that.

Recently, we were working with a large national distributor, partnering with a team there that served one major end-user. We knew there were other target audiences the distributor worked with, so we asked for an introduction to that group. We presented products to them and they realized they could use the same types of items from us that their colleagues had been using, so we were able to increase their business and ours.

Q: What kinds of products have been driving increased sales recently?

CM: Tile is a new Bluetooth tracker for personal items. It’s a great introduction to the premium market in particular because it’s easy to explain, people understand the concept, they’ve likely seen it at retail and the price point is comfortable (only about $25 at retail). So the leap to premium is easier. Eventually, you can get to something like the Amazon Echo, which is about $200 retail. Electronics is the number-one category for premium products. People have seen the Amazon and Sonos brands at Best Buy, so they’re familiar with those things already.