How To Think More Like a Customer in a World Full of Distributors

It’s time to stop thinking like a distributor. That’s right, you need to throw out the old practices and bring in the new—which means thinking about solutions, not selling.

For too long distributors have been focused on one thing and one thing only—selling products. Sure, that is the primary obligation, but along the way, they forgot that it’s not about the product itself, it’s about the solution it provides. 

It starts with thinking more like your customers and less like a distributor. This might sound a little different, but trust us, it will change the way you approach selling products and working with your customers. 

Here’s how you can do that in four easy steps:

Step 1: Know Your Customers Better Than They Know Themselves.

Before you can start offering solutions to your customers, you have to know their business inside and out. This means understanding the intricacies of who they are, what they do, and the problems they solve/services they offer to the world.

In today’s market, your customers demand that you know them and their systems, business model, and direction. It’s the foundation of any strong marketing relationship.

Creating this foundation requires some work. Commit to spending the necessary time to intimately know your customers and their business. This means reading up on the recent blog posts, educating yourself on their industry, and looking for new opportunities to garner reach.

As a trusted promotional product expert, you should be able to provide clear direction for their promotional strategy based on your knowledge of the business, before you even spark the conversation. Preparation only positions you better in the eyes of your customers, so don’t ignore this pivotal step.

Step 2: Ask Hard Questions and Listen Harder.

The only way you’re going to become the go-to resource for your customers is by asking questions. You’re not part of the day-to-day operations, thus you need insight into how they approach their marketing. This doesn’t mean asking the obvious questions like, “what are your goals” or “how do you prefer to market your brand?”

It starts with asking the tough questions—you know, the ones that don’t get asked out of fear or anxiety. The ones that most businesses never address until the problem is coming at them full-speed like a freight train.

Ask the tough, open-ended questions and then give your customers time to speak. Listen to what they say but also to what they don’t say. Oftentimes the answer you are looking for isn’t in their words but in their lack thereof.

If you’re wondering what these types of questions are, take a look at a few that we think you should use in your next meeting:

  • Who is your ideal customer/client?
  • Why do they buy from you?  
  • How do you bring in new customers/clients?
  • What do you do to keep them coming back? 
  • How do you connect with your employees and build your culture?
  • How do you measure effectiveness/success?

These questions can go on-and-on, but the goal here is to gain a deep, comprehensive understanding of how your customer sees their business and where they want to go.

Step 3: Be Less Of An Order-Taker and More Of A Solution Provider

Over the years, distributors have cemented themselves into the position of order-taker—where customers look at a catalog, then come running with an order in hand. Again, this is one function of a distributor, not the entire role.

By shifting the approach from a consultant to a collaborator, you become less of a salesperson and more of a consultant that provides top-notch products.

How does one do this?

Approach with a problem-solving perspective instead of a product-selling. It’s inherent in every salesperson’s DNA to sell, but not to solve problems. When you look at it from the opposite perspective, you see how it makes your role much more valuable to customers.

Imagine if you were stuck with a whole company working from home and you were starting to lose company culture because of it. Would you rather have the person who knows how to rebuild that employee culture through unique campaigns partnered with great products, or the guy who just wants to sell you a hundred stress balls and call it a day?

Distributors in today’s digital market need to be able to bring ideas that spawn marketing initiatives, rather than the customer always coming to the distributor. You want to be the first thought your customers have when they need a new initiative, not an afterthought.

Step 4: Focus On The People As Much As the Product

People make purchase decisions, not companies. Too often we forget that at the end of the day it’s one person who signs off on the check and that person needs to be your primary focus.

Figure out the goal the decision-maker inside the company is trying to achieve by purchasing promotional products, and show them how to make it happen.

This could mean speaking with the Marketing Director, Creative Director, or others who make the big decisions when it comes to a new initiative. They have been picked to lead the charge for their business, but they can’t do it alone.

That’s where you come in as the helpful sidekick with your utility belt full of opportunity. You already know the goals that the decision-maker has in mind, now use your expertise to deliver the actionable items needed to make that happen.

If you make that person look good, you’ll have a loyal customer for life, even if they switch companies.

Be The Best Problem Solver In The World.

The best problem-solvers don’t oversell. They don’t push, prod, or peck at customers, but rather provide. It’s time to reverse engineer your thinking to focus on delivering solutions to your customer’s problems.

Make them look good for trusting you with their promotional product needs. Then, use their business objectives to push your company forward and drive revenue. When you do so, you’ll be surprised at the number of customers willing to put their business in your hands.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can leverage digital catalogs to do such, set up a meeting with our team and we would be happy to walk through some strategy with you.