There are only two types of distribution companies: those who empower their sales teams and those who add to their frustrations. If your company leans more towards the latter, you might unknowingly be putting a dent in your own competitiveness as your salespeople scramble to keep up.
Think about it. Outdated technology, burdensome manual processes, overlapping workflows, and disjointed apps. All of these barriers keep your sales reps bouncing between screens, struggling to find the crucial information they need. The consequence? An unhappy sales force stuck in their old ways, overlooking golden opportunities as they go.
As highlighted by the Harvard Business Review, sales reps have only a fleeting window to connect with customers. This makes it critical for every single interaction to hit the mark.
You, as a distributor, understand that the success of your business hinges on your sales team's capacity to secure deals and drum up revenue. But how do you make certain your teams are armed with the right tools, the right training, and the right knowledge to make that happen?
Sales enablement is your answer. It goes beyond simple information sharing via emails or conference calls. It involves equipping your team with the tools to quickly access the right information when they need it, and confidently discuss the vast range of SKUs in your catalog. Let's dive into how you can make this shift.
What Are B2B Sales Enablement Tools?
“Sales enablement software” is a big umbrella; under it falls CRMs, communications platforms and power dialers, sales content management tools and training solutions. Choosing the right tools for your team should be a key part of your sales management strategy.
Teaching a sales rep how to sell isn’t enough anymore. There’s too much data, too many apps, and too many channels for sales reps to manage every customer interaction effectively and productively. You need the right tools to pull it all together.
Types of Distribution Sales Enablement Tools
Sales enablement software is categorized into clusters with a specific purpose. Here are the five main types of sales enablement tools and what they offer to distribution sales teams.
- Guided selling tools
Guided selling software leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to help your teams make more informed decisions and optimize their sales approaches. AI algorithms identify patterns and trends hiding among vast amounts of customer data that may be difficult for a sales rep to discern with the naked eye. Sales teams benefit when key information is surfaced and delivered to them rather than needing to search for it.
A common example is uncovering when a customer is underspending in a particular category compared to similar customers. This might be difficult for a rep to see themselves, especially if they are going off a spreadsheet.
An AI-guided sales tool gives the rep insight without having them analyze data and glean insights themselves.
For example, Proton’s Sales AI tool proactively highlights to a rep when a customer is underspending in a particular category and suggests items in that category the customer is likely to buy if the rep pitches them.
It eliminates the need for reps to do data analysis and takes the guesswork out of sales, giving reps a suggested path to maximize success.
- Sales intelligence tools
Sales intelligence tools help distributors’ sales teams make better-informed decisions. They draw from various data sources such as ERP, CRM, web analytics, and ecommerce platforms to provide teams with customer insights such as customer browsing behavior and what accounts might be at risk of churning. A sales intelligence platform can observe customer behaviors to prioritize where reps should allocate their efforts. Instead of treating every customer the same, the sales rep can reach out to customers that need their attention the most. A sales intelligence platform can help them figure that out.
- Sales content management tools
Sales content management tools help sales teams organize and disseminate product information quickly and easily. Will this adhesive work in this application? Which hose type and connectors are required in this environment? Sales professionals need the most up-to-date and relevant materials, resulting in more deals being closed over time.
This is important for distributors with hundreds of thousands of SKUs. A sales rep can’t memorize every product spec sheet, so they need a reliable place to find that product information quickly. They also need to be able to quickly tap into resources such as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which provides information related to occupational safety and health for various substances and products. This is especially critical if you’re selling chemicals, for example.
A rep that comes across as professional and consultative isn’t necessarily one that has the company’s product catalog memorized. It’s someone who is empowered to find product information quickly to help answer their customer’s questions.
- Sales training and coaching tools
Coaching and training tools provide teams with the resources they need to improve their performance. This can help with product knowledge, customer insights, sales techniques, and overall sales effectiveness.
Sales teams need coaching to stay up-to-date and competitive. Sales coaching tools allow sales leaders to design targeted and customized training and coaching programs, ensuring that each salesperson receives the materials they need to excel in their role.
- Sales productivity tools
Some distributor sales reps are stuck with the old way of doing things: walking around a customer’s location, writing down an order on a clipboard, and calling it in or dropping it with customer service when they get back to the office. Chances are, they’d prefer a tool that would release them from these manual tasks so they can refocus on adding value in the customer relationship. That’s especially true today, when customers across industries have lost patience for non-value-add stops. These distribution sales enablement applications help sales teams increase their output and efficiency by automating manual tasks, such as data entry, emailing, and reporting. For example, sales reps can use automation tools to assign tasks to other team members, such as routing a contract through a preset approval process. The most common sales productivity tools include customer relationship management (CRM) software, analytics platforms, and forecasting tools.
Equipping your sales team with the right tools takes effort, but it increases sales growth, according to McKinsey. We have the distribution sales enablement tools we need to increase revenue. We know they can make a difference in closing deals. So, what gives? Why aren’t more distributors running toward these solutions?
What’s Holding Distributors Back?
The problem often lies in how distributors are selecting the tools they think they need to enable their teams. It’s not uncommon for distributors to end up with a patchwork of tools that leave sales reps bogged down with too many choices or unwieldy workflows. Too many applications can also negatively affect customers, creating a disjointed experience that leaves you with cart abandonment and lost opportunities.
McKinsey surveyed more than 1,000 companies and found in today’s omnichannel world, each customer’s sales experience strongly influenced their buying behaviors.
While many distributors understand the value proposition of sales enablement tools, their biggest mistake is adding multiple software applications that aren’t fully integrated.
A piecemeal approach is counterproductive to giving your teams the tools they need to succeed.
Proton for Distribution Sales Enablement
Proton’s AI-powered growth platform was built exclusively for B2B distributors. It consolidates the information distributor sales reps need and gives a 360-degree view of customer behaviors to inform the sales process. Proton’s Sales Plays guide a sales rep based on each customer’s needs, wants, and priorities from a single screen.
- Sales AI integrates into your existing workflows to add sales enablement functionality. Sales AI offers a guided selling experience that pulls data from customer behaviors to help your sales team prioritize the right accounts, grow wallet share in each account, protect existing revenue, find substitutes for out-of-stock products, catch quotes to follow up on, and more. Managers can provide coaching throughout the process in the application and can use the backend analytics in Sales AI to see the number of consultative conversations had daily.
- Proton CRM is an AI-powered CRM software purpose-built for distributors. With AI-generated insights, sales reps can personalize customer interactions. Data such as purchase histories, the latest call notes, and even where repeat customers are underspending in one place means each sales rep can focus on helping your customers, even if they aren’t experienced.
Sales teams are under pressure. Ensuring they have the right knowledge, training, and sales tools to close deals is paramount. To see how our AI-powered distribution sales enablement software can help your sales team succeed, schedule a demo today.