Mark Dancer named Fellow for NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence

I am honored to be named a NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow and will focus on channel effectiveness, digital transformation and business model innovation. The adoption and use of digital tools can help distributors compete and prosper, especially when combined with an openness to new possibilities, thoughtful strategies and investment in new competencies. Moreover, the online digital evolution of the wholesaler-distributor industry is important for manufacturers and customers, and leading to a highly competitive, state-of-the-art value chain.

I look forward to a very active Fellowship. Working with the Institute for Distribution Excellence, we have just launched a new effort to report on digital tool progress and identify strategic solutions. We will be reaching out to participants soon with a new pulse survey, so please look for updates here and feel free to reach out at any time to share your ideas and experiences.

Please find the full press release here: TP Press release 04.21.2017 Dancer Fellow

Digital Sales Builds on Inside Sales Expertise-Distributors in the Digital Era #10

As a channel, Digital Sales is a new concept, best practice, or essential capability, depending your level of progress toward building a digital vision and enabling your sales team. When fully deployed, a digital sales channel is built around the creative use of what is traditionally known as inside sales, powered by a full suite of digital tools …

Read the full post here: Digital Sales Builds on Inside Sales Expertise-Distributors in the Digital Era #10

Distributor Leadership Symposium Primer #3: Are Your People Ready for Digital Tools?

This post is my third of three designed to help kick-start discussions for my upcoming symposium on what it means to becoming a digital distributor.

If digital success begins with customers, it often ends with a lack of readiness of a distributor’s employees to use digital tools. When this happens, it is a failure of leadership to build the right people competencies and to overhaul essential business processes. If competencies and processes are not upgraded, it is impossible to become a digital distributor

One distributor CEO put it this way;

“The key to getting returns on digital investments is to focus on the value created for customers. For us, that started with thinking about all aspects of our business model. Digital tools require our people to have new skills and to work differently. We are starting small, but we can see that more changes are coming.”

As a third primer for leaders seeking help their company become a digital distributors, I suggest reading my post on competency models as a key driver for organizational change.

At the symposium, we will cover all digital tools — websites, e-commerce, social media, CRM, data & analytics, mobility … and  more. We will focus on the issues important to leaders that attend. We will start with a gut check on visions, explore customer needs, and how to align people and processes. It will be a very full and productive day.

Please considering registering to attend our Leadership Symposium: Become a Digital Distributor, hosted by Achieve IT Solutions at Columbia University on Thursday, April 27, 2017

Distributor Leadership Symposium Primer #2: What do Your Customers Want?

This post is my second of three designed to help kick-start discussions for my upcoming symposium on what it means to becoming a digital distributor.

Over and over again in my conversations with distributors leaders conducted, I have heard the critical lesson that digital success begins with customers.

One distributor described a practical approach for putting customers front and center in digital planning this way:

“We can’t control what customers do, so we need to be prepared for any change. We made a list of our assumptions about how customers buy, make decisions, and track results. Then we imagined how every customer behavior and need could be met differently by digital tools. It was scary, but we took the attitude that we should focus on things we could control. We are using this analysis to tweak all of the ways we interact with our customers. We are making our website a place to go for information. We are arming our people with easy access to customer data. We sit down with customers, show them what we are doing, and ask them for feedback.”

In Getting Results from Your Digital Investments, published by the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence, I dig into ten “aha moments” about customer preferences that had a huge impact on distributor digital visions. You will find a blog post with a summary here.

Please considering registering to attend our Leadership Symposium: Become a Digital Distributor, hosted by Achieve IT Solutions at Columbia University on Thursday, April 27, 2017

Distributor Leadership Symposium Primer #1: What is Your Digital Vision?

This post is my first of three designed to help kick start discussions for my upcoming symposium on what it means to becoming a digital distributor.

In my research for Getting Results from Your Digital Investments, published by the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence, I found that the companies having the greatest success with digital tools were acting on a clear and succinct vision for how digital tools would create benefits for their unique business opportunities and challenges. Companies that had not settled on a vision were much more likely to answer that they had not gained traction with digital tools — or they denied their usefulness, or they felt they had wasted investments, or they could not justify a return-on-investment

One distributor describe critical responsibility of leaders for creating digital vision this way:

“We did not start getting results until I communicated a digital vision. Our vision is simple, but it’s the right one for our business. It helps us focus, work toward the same goals, and measure progress.”

With this in mind, my post pushing leaders to take a gut check on the power of their digital visions — in the eyes of customers, suppliers and employees — is essential reading for execute seeking to drive digital change.

Please considering registering to attend our Leadership Symposium: Become a Digital Distributor, hosted by Achieve IT Solutions at Columbia University on Thursday, April 27, 2017

Leadership Symposium: Becoming a Digital Distributor

I’m very excited at the opportunity to lead discussions on what it means to become a digital distributor at a new symposium hosted by Achieve IT Solutions at Columbia University on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

We’ve planned a very productive day working to develop concrete plans and leadership visions for getting results from digital investments. I’ll share insights and examples from my three books on digital tools published by the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence, as well as new results of a pulse survey completed by distributors attending the symposium. Timothy Singleton, CEO of Achieve IT Solutions, will offer practical examples of successful implementations using today’s technologies. Together, we will answer questions and dig into specific challenges faced by distributors as they seek to leverage digital tools for improved profits, customer competitiveness and business innovation.

Please check out the full agenda and register here: Leadership Symposium: Becoming a Digital Distributor. If you have any questions about how this event can help your business, leave me a note here and I will reach out to you directly.

Why Data Sharing Leads to Better Value for Customers

 

Distributors are leveraging videos, configurators, and other digital tools to lessen their dependence on manufacturers for product expertise. My latest post on digital channel transformations goes to breakthrough strategies for value chain partnerships.

Read my complete post here: Why Data Sharing Leads to Better Value for Customers

Forget Strategy. Look for Inspiration From Your Customers

Over the years of working with wholesaler-distributor leaders, I have often heard that leaps of progress around the use of digital tools happen when things just click. Some distributors have used the phrase “aha moments” to describe these situations. Sometimes, they happen in the middle of a planned, sustained effort to adopt and use digital tools. At other times, aha moments happen when they are least expected – a customer says something, a simple phrase, observation, or request – and all the pieces fall into place. Aha moments are intensely personal and specific to one’s business. They are not broad generalizations about how digital tools will be used across all wholesaler-distributors in an industry’s value chain. Aha moments are about what your company should serve your customers while creating competitive advantage for your business.

Read my full post on “aha moments” here: Forget Strategy. Look for Inspiration From Your Customers

Digital Tools Were a Hot Topic at NAW 2017 Executive Summit

 

 

I had the pleasure of attending the NAW 2017 Executive Summit earlier this month in Washington, DC. This year’s theme promised to speak to many of the challenges faced by distributors today: a tough economy, advancing technology, rapidly changing customer requirements, shifting demographics, and tight margins. I found the program and presentations excellent, offering fresh ideas, hard facts, and useable recommendations. My many side conversations with wholesaler-distributor executives indicated that all topics hit home and that leaders are already pushing ahead with new solutions for serving customers and improving competitiveness.

Click here for my complete post: Digital Tools Were a Hot Topic at NAW 2017 Executive Summit

How to Build an Industry-Leading Sales Channel – Distributors in the Digital Era #3

 

 

I’ve been looking at how channel disruptors, including both incumbent distributors and outside players, might restructure distribution-intensive value chains. A few predictions are emerging, including one that is worth discussing now: Distributors will soon build world-class, industry-leading sales channels.

Read my full post here: How to Build an Industry-Leading Sales Channel – Distributors in the Digital Era #3

Making Sense of Digital Tools – Distributors in the Digital Era #2

 

Cutting Through the Fog by Recognizing That Success Begins at Home

My ongoing conversations with distributors reveals, over and over again, that leaders are inundated with a flood of urgent pronouncements about the need to make investments and build digital capabilities. Experts and vendors proclaim that distributors must go online to keep up with rapidly evolving customer preferences, and that disruptors—including incumbent distributors and online marketplaces (like Amazon)—are out in front and pulling ahead. Distributors must “go digital” if they are to prosper, or even survive. Action is required, but what are the right digital investments for your company? And, what can a leader do to drive his or her company forward?

Read my full post: Making Sense of Digital Tools – Distributors in the Digital Era #2

Don’t Leave Your Digital Vision to Chance – Distributors in the Digital Era #1

Follow a Process – Don’t Leave Your Digital Vision to Chance

Following a process will help ensure that your vision is not driven by a single point of view, that it works in the value chain and avoids inside thinking, and that it achieves the right balance of creative thought, industry experience, and analytic proof. There are many potential visions for wholesaler-distributors; the challenge is to build the vision that is right for your company. Our process is designed to do this, and also to give you the information needed to build the capabilities required to execute it and the logic and documentation needed to make adjustments as you take actions and learn from your successes and failures. 

Read my full post: Don’t Leave Your Digital Vision to Chance – Distributors in the Digital Era #1

Channelvation: Back in Business to Grow Your Business

With the beginning of the new year, we are officially relaunching Channelvation. Our goal remains the same. Channelvation helps clients grow. We leverage thirty years of go-to-market experience and work directly with leaders and teams to design, optimize and manage every type of channel — direct and indirect, inside and out, human and digital, local and global, incumbent and disruptive.

Please visit our Workshops and Solutions pages for more details and examples of Channelvation services. We offer free Assessments to help you get started. We “give back” through channel research and writing, though new and ongoing partnerships. We are up and running, reaching out and looking forward to working with new and ongoing clients. If you’d like to start a conversation, please click here.

Winning with CRM: New Results Require New Behaviors

Channelvation’s newest article is available online at Industrial Distribution Magazine. Two key excerpts:

Today’s CRM systems are innovative, flexible, and mobile, and offer considerable value for distributors. CRM can improve salesperson performance, upgrade sales management, and connect sales leadership with real-time data for making better and faster decisions. CRM can strengthen distributor competitiveness and profitability, often by allowing wholesalers to manage their sales organization as they run the rest of their business — with disciplined processes and metrics.

But there’s a catch — a missing ingredient in many distributor plans to select a vendor, integrate with business systems, provide training, overcome barriers, and encourage adoption. After months or years of effort, CRM all too often fails to deliver an acceptable return on investment, with failure attributed to salesperson resistance or a poor fit with distributor business models. In most cases, however, the root cause of failure is more fundamental, and it is a failure of leadership, of planning, or of vision.

There’s much more inside, so read the full article at:

Winning with CRM: New Results Require New Behaviors.

Get Real: Stop Assuming Your Data Will Bring You Riches

In his new article on HBR’s Blog Network, Sunand Menon offers sage advice on monetizing the value of data. Among his many useful insights, I particularly liked this passage (emphasis added)

I have come to realize that your target customer may not be your traditional customer. For example, a product evaluating nonprofit organizations may be highly useful to a wealth manager seeking to help his client to select a charity as part of a value-added tax efficiency service. Or a healthcare data offering evaluating physicians’ perceptions on a new drug may be useful not only to brand managers at pharmaceutical companies, but also to portfolio managers at asset management firms seeking to find promising investment opportunities.

Sunand’s full article is definitely worth a read. You will find it at:

Stop Assuming Your Data Will Bring You Riches – Sunand Menon – Harvard Business Review.

Good to Go: Channelvation’s New Digital Channel Project

NAW Institute LogoChannelvation is launching our second major research initiative in partnership with the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence. We are looking into digital trends, including e-commerce, CRM, social media, big data, mobility and multichannel. Our goal is to create a digital channel playbook and find opportunities for strengthening the wholesaler-distributor business model. We’ll gather experiences and insights, track the pulse of adoption and change, and help guide innovation and entrepreneurship. I’m looking for priorities as we get started, so please send your ideas through our secure contact form here, whether you are a distributor, manufacturer, vendor or customer.

The Digital Channel Project builds on Channelvation’s first NAW Institute book, Getting the Most Out of CRM: Best Practices for Wholesaler-Distributors. We are excited about our new initiative and committed to sharing findings along the way. Best of all, our plans include community and collaboration, so the Digital Channel Project will walk the walk as we talk the talk!

Chicagoland Event: Sales Enablement at the IBM Innovation Center

Please join me for a dynamic discussion of sales enablement, collaboration and CRM at the IBM Innovation Center in Chicago. Louis Richardson, IBM Social Evangelist, will share IBM’s experiences and ideas with an emphasis on what it takes to become essential to your customers. You can get to know Louis on his blog at http://www.creativitycrisis.com/blog/

I will be sharing research from my new book, Getting the Most Out of CRM, published by the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence. Scott Tabeck of Highland Solutions will add his considerable expertise and lead demonstrations of innovative solutions, focusing on collaboration and enablement.

Please click here (or below) to learn more about the event and register. Space is limited, so don’t delay if you plan to attend:

Shaping Sales Enablement with Highland Solutions, IBM and Channelvation.

Human Capital: Enabling Strategic Sales Growth

Channelvation has the lead article in Hay Group’s quarterly ESE report for Enterprise Sales Executives, and will be a frequent contributor going forward. I’ll write about channel and sales strategy, with an emphasis on human capital requirements. Please click below to find my article, and scroll down further to send me a personal message with your ideas and experiences. If you don’t know, Hay Group is the leading global management consulting firm focused on human capital, organization and change with a dedicated practice on sales effectiveness.

Click here for Hay Group’s ESE newsletter and my article, Enabling Strategic Sales Growth:

Hay Group’s Enterprise Sales Effectiveness Report