Does the perfect lead exist? With the right tools, it just may!

Growing the Sales Model

Nobody knows your buyers better than your sales team. When a good salesperson gets in front of a buyer, they’ll ask questions that reveal a buyer’s needs, goals, desires, etc. They’ll then deliver a solution to that buyer, usually as a product or service.

It’s a model that works, and distributors have been scaling this model since the beginning of time by hiring and training more and more salespeople. Recently, many have also invested in an eCommerce site to capture sales they might not otherwise have captured and/or to make ordering and record-keeping easier for their customers.

When the Sales Model Grows Too Slowly or Stops Altogether

An electrical distributor began seeing a decline in sales for his most profitable product line, industrial safety solutions. It’s a product line that primarily consists of MAP-priced, high-ticket items with a healthy margin. In fact, the product line is so profitable that the distributor added a small inside sales team solely devoted to making roughly 50 calls a day each to buyers around the country. At first, his sales increased nicely. But over the past 2 years, most calls now go unanswered.

Moving Towards a Digital Solution

To become more “digital,” the distributor added a new strategy to their sales process – marketing automation. They cleaned up their lists of contacts, separating them based on their revenue/size, their location, and whether they had previously purchased from them.

Within a matter of months, their sales of industrial safety solutions began increasing, and their overall sales grew exponentially.

Here’s how they put their new strategy to work.

  1. The marketing team writes an article entitled “How to Mitigate Risk on the Job.” It takes the marketing director three or four hours to write the article and publish it on their blog.
  2. Once published, the marketing coordinator drafts an email with the article’s title in the subject line, gets the email approved, and sends it out to a list of ~300 large electrical contractors. The email contains a link that, when clicked, brings the reader to the article on the distributor’s website.
  3. The recipients who are interested in ‘mitigating risk on the job,’ click the link in the email, are taken to the distributor’s website, and read the article. The distributor’s CRM records who clicked the link in the email.
  4. In the article is a link to another webpage containing more detailed information about Industrial Safety Solutions.
  5. Joe Smith from Acme Electric clicks that link and that action is also recorded in the distributor’s CRM.
  6. The Industrial Safety Solutions webpage that Joe is taken to also contains links strategically set up to take readers to even more specific information. After some time, Joe clicks a link and is brought to the Safety Motor Control webpage. This is also captured in the distributor’s CRM.
  7. On the Safety Motor Control page, he sees an offer for an eBook he wants to read entitled “Protect Personnel from an Arc Flash Event.” To have the eBook sent to him, Joe enters his name and email address, which promptly arrives via email within minutes. And, of course, this action is captured as well.
  8. The next day, Joe opens the email containing the link to the eBook and begins to read it.
  9. Ten minutes later, the salesperson who covers Joe’s account receives the following notification from their CRM:

How Valuable is This Lead?

Whether Joe purchases a piece of equipment or not, this lead still holds value for the distributor. For instance,

  • From the 300 emails sent, this lead certainly warrants an exploratory call from a salesperson, which is a good use of the salesperson’s time.
  • Joe’s journey through the electrical distributor’s sales funnel thus far has been self-directed, which is what the distributor is aiming for.
  • The salesperson who makes the call will be well-prepared to have a conversation with Joe having reviewed Joe’s record in their CRM. He knows what Joe has already learned about the distributor and the distributor’s industrial safety solutions thus far. This knowledge helps him get right to the point when he makes the call.
  • Joe will, if nothing else, be grateful to the salesperson for not wasting his time. Also, Joe will probably appreciate that the salesperson “knows” him and what he’d like to hear more about. And, he’ll probably remember their interaction as well.

Distributors are Starting to “Get It”

Many distributors are using marketing automation to segment their audiences and email their customers. These distributors are well on the path to generating valuable leads like our distributor above!

In fact, the generation of valuable, qualified leads like Joe should be a primary goal of every distributor’s digital sales transformation process.

Here’s why:

A digital sales transformation will increase your company’s productivity, help reduce your costs, and allow you to make smarter, more data-driven decisions. It should help you deliver a better customer experience, improve collaboration across departments, increase agility, and hopefully increase profits. In the long run, it should make life easier for your employees, including your salesforce, and most importantly, make life easier for your customers.

But without a robust lead management system that gives you useful ‘intel’ about your buyers, your digital sales transformation will not get your salespeople in front of more buyers. It will not get buyers to pick up the phone when your salesperson calls. Instead, making calls and knocking on doors will continue to be a crapshoot for the salesperson and a poor use of his time.

The Value of Putting Marketing Automation in Place

Will a marketing automation system or lead management system lead to more sales? I think that goes without saying. And producing leads like the one above is just a small part of the story. In the meantime, while Joe is getting his phone call, other activities are taking place around the other recipients of that email — all activities that move buyers closer to a sale. For example, sending the email has enabled the distributor to:

  • Recognize and catalog behavior-based buying signals from their prospect
  • Know who is in the distributor’s sales cycle and where each is in their journey
  • Generate and deliver even more targeted, personalized messaging to a subset of the original segment
  • Understand more about the needs and goals of each audience segment
  • Deliver a more frictionless buyer’s journey that is clear, manageable, flexible, and tuned in to the buyer

The work we do here at The Digital Distributor builds the digital foundation necessary to generate leads like the ones described above for distributors.

Why Should Distributors Invest in Digital Sales and Marketing Strategies?

It’s difficult for salespeople to get in front of new buyers, so distributors are finding new ways to communicate their value successfully. In doing so, they are laser-targeting their audience segments, and capturing, nurturing, and qualifying new buyers through more digital methods.

When distributors focus on building a digital infrastructure with which their sales and marketing teams align, the sales team gets what it needs to succeed – more valuable, qualified leads. It’s a necessary stage of a sales enablement process that most distributors miss.

Sharing valuable and interesting information with a buyer opens the door for your salesperson to enter the transaction when the time is right. On the other hand, sharing (e.g., via email) information that wastes a buyer’s time will be met with an ‘unsubscribe / do not contact again’ type of response.

With marketing automation, distributors can employ strategies that provide significant information to the right buyers at the right time, which is essential to a successful sales process.

How to Get Started

Have you begun the audience segmentation process?

If you’d like additional information or need to ask a question, please get in touch with me at I’m here to help in any way I can.

About the Author

Susan Merlo, Founder of The Digital Distributor, isn't just a consultant; she's a catalyst for growth. She and her team deliver strategies, tools, and training that bridges distributors' traditional selling methods with digital marketing and lead generation.

"I believe the digital sales and marketing strategies that are available today can level the playing field for any distributor, regardless of size. In fact, today there's no reason for any distributor to be left behind.

For that reason, we provide Done-FOR-You Services for those distributors who do not have the staff, bandwidth or budget to implement these strategies on their own.

We also deliver Done-WITH-You Services that include everything from getting your staffing in place to training your sales and marketing teams on what works and how to implement and manage these strategies on their own."

To learn more about the value distributors can glean from even the very basics of implementing digital sales and marketing strategies, be sure to subscribe to our blog, below.