CHASING THE IDEAL

CHASING THE IDEAL

Ian Miller, head of sales at Data Select

Paul Callahan, VP business development Airvana

 
Chris Burney, head of dealer
Chris Burney, head of dealer managers at Daisy Group
 
Keane Beaken, mobile sales
Keane Beaken, mobile sales manager at Focus 4U

The role of a dealer manager is to act as the conduit between the dealer and the distributor or network operator, to facilitate the flow of connections and other business. An ideal dealer manager must fully understand the channel they are operating in, its dynamics, the requirements of the people within it, and what activities aid growth for all parties. Here, Heather McLean takes a look at this challenging role.

The role of a dealer manager (DM) is to act as the middle person between the dealer and supplier. A DM should work closely with dealers to ensure that all their requirements are being met, which means managing expectations on everything from lead times to commissions.

What is it?

Parven comments: “An effective dealer manager is one who is capable of wearing many hats to facilitate that; policeman auditor, silent salesman, trainer, and advocate. A strong personality and the ability to think and move rapidly in an ever changing environment are essential, as is the ability to balance the needs and requirements of the dealer with the direction and focus of the parent distributor.

“Dealer management is as much about relationships as it is about sales, however there is a fine line over which the relationship becomes more important than the quest for business. Effective dealer managers are capable of balancing this, as can be demonstrated by their ability to win the sufficient trust of a dealer to allow them to share business pipelines and prospect detail,” continues Parven.

Ideal attributes

Honesty, integrity and consistency are the three main attributes of a good dealer manager, says Horsted. “If something can’t be done, then I want to know about it, along with a reason why it can’t be done and the options that have been considered. With integrity comes trust and the ability to share sensitive information that puts the relationship on a different level.

“We all want to make money, and most of us want a symbiotic relationship that benefits us both, so trust is a vital component of the relationship. Consistency within any relationship enhances trust, which again reinforces the relationship. Experience is a ‘nice to have’ rather than a prerequisite, as it’s more important for the DM to have a ‘can do’ attitude that will allow their experience to develop,” continues Horsted.

The key attributes for any dealer manager working at Daisy, agrees Burney, are reliability, honesty, attention to personal care and the ability to get on with all types of people. “Dealers want to be sure you will do what you promised and to feel that they are your number one priority at all times. It is vital to be honest and not tell them that they can have something when you know it is not actually possible. And you definitely have to be a people person, with the ability to manage all the personalities that this job throws at you.”

The most important attribute required by a DM is the ability to listen to customers, says McBride. “This is what we tell our DM’s time and time again. The relationship with the customer is the most vital part of being a DM. It’s what gets you those extra sales when you need to hit margin, it’s what provides you with feedback as to why those headsets aren’t selling, and more. The relationship involves you listening and then using that information to provide tailored service levels that keep the customer coming back and telling others about it.”

Beaken concurs that personality is important from the dealer’s perspective: “If

you are dealing with someone on a daily basis it’s important that you actually get on. Good product knowledge is also key; a dealer wants to feel like they are dealing with a dealer manager who can easily answer questions and offer advice. However, the most important attribute is reliability. As a busy dealer, you need to know that your dealer manager will get back to you in a timely fashion and will deliver on any promises they make.”

 

DEALER’S FIGHTER

Keane Beaken, mobile sales manager at Focus 4U, states that Fone Logistics’ Ryan Neale is the ultimate dealer manager.

Beaken explains: “Unlike almost every other dealer manager I have worked with, Ryan always returns calls and follows up enquiries. This may seem like a fundamental function of his job, but so many dealer managers I have known fail to do this on a regular basis.

“Crucially, I always feel like Ryan is fighting in Focus’ corner and actually wants to help us resolve any issues we have. When O2 brought in the Rules of Engagement procedure last year, Ryan helped us navigate our way around a number of problems that this presented for us. This took many months and often appeared to be a futile fight, but Ryan didn’t give up and ultimately solved all of our issues,” states Beaken.

 

Job description

Yet Miller says: “We constantly receive feedback from customers about other distributors when they have been let down by their dealer manager. At Data Select, the emphasis is on account management rather than just straightforward sales. As a result, DM’s at Data Select are constantly passing through information on deliveries, new products, account updates and keeping customers up to date with all the latest information whether this is verbally, by email, or by providing customers with access to our web services so they receive the information in real time.”

The hardest part of the job has to be making sure you can fulfil your customers’ needs, even when the customer may not even know what those needs are going to be, muses Miller. “Forecasting handset requirements can be extremely difficult, but when done correctly can make all the difference, especially when the forecasts are produced in line with a marketing plan and incentive program,” he notes. “Our Platinum Club, which is two years old in October, has been instrumental in helping our key customers plan and forecast their business.”

Doughty comments that market awareness is vital for a DM: “The DM has to be able to see all sides of the situation, whether they are employed by the network or distributor, and they have to be able to understand and appreciate the needs of the partners they are working with.

“While they as individuals may be part of a much larger organisation, they have to have an understanding of the challenges dealers may face, and how best they can help dealers overcome these challenges and improve performance. Unfortunately, experience and black books are irrelevant if you don’t fully understand and appreciate the needs of the dealers,” he continues.

Trouble makers

However, this market awareness is an enormous challenge for DMs, states Doughty. “There is a lot of preoccupation with fighting over existing business, rather than really working towards bringing new products, customers, and propositions to help dealers grow and widen their business. If the same level of effort was put into helping dealers grow and diversify, as goes into switching business, then dealers would probably have a much wider menu of solutions to offer their customers.”

Beaken says that not returning calls and failing to deal with dealer’s issues are the worst faults of a DM. He explains: “This seems a common fault of the dealer manager, and it’s hard to say how it could be prevented. Complaining at a higher level to the distributor rarely seems to make a difference, which always seems odd to me. The best way to prevent this attitude from dealer managers would probably be for the distributor to monitor and manage their dealer managers more closely and engage in regular feedback sessions with dealers.”

While Parven notes: “A dealer manager sets himself or herself up to fail when they lose sight of the fact that they are effectively a resource for the dealer, and despite the closeness of the bond, it is a business and not a personal relationship they enjoy.

“However, a successful dealer manager is adept at managing this relationship mix and at adapting to market conditions and forces de majeure that exist within the indirect channel,” comments Parven. “They must operate dynamically within a rapidly changing environment that often places them in situations of delivering bad news. Therefore their ability to manage conflict and balance their obligation to the distributor with their desire to assist their customer is a skill in itself.”

Burney adds: “The hardest part of the job is making sure you know every detail of the offer on the table before selling it to the dealer. It is no good

Sophie Levitt, Data Select

Sophie Levitt, Data Select

QUEEN BEE Sophie Levitt has worked at Data Select for just over a year. She had previous experience in recruitment and field sales and has brought those skills with her to her role as a dealer manager, that have added to the skill set of the team as a whole.

In the time Levitt has been with Data Select, Ian Miller, head of sales at Data Select, says she has developed a base of customer ranging from large corporates to small customers with niche businesses.

“Sophie treats each customer the same, whether they buy five handsets a month or 1000,” explains Miller. “She is extremely proactive and is just as effective in dealing with customers over the phone as she is face to face.

“Sophie is a very talented sales person and backs up her ability with great attention to detail and a high level of customer service. She represents the company in the best possible way and makes Data Select the distributor of choice for all of her customers,” Miller claims.

While Levitt comments: “I always try to put myself in the position of my customer and say, how would I like to be treated? By thinking like a customer I hope that I truly understand the needs of my accounts and provide the best service I can.”

running to the dealer with a new offer still wet from the printer, only to find that you are unsure of the conditions of sale. If you have asked all the questions from the product managers’ right from the outset, the message you are giving to the dealer remains constant throughout and that is vital to the long term success of the product, and the relationship between the dealer manager and dealer.”

And McBride notes that a good dealer manager works on behalf of both dealer and supplier parties, promoting and pushing the products and services of the distributor or network, while acting on behalf of the customer to find the right solutions at the right prices. “If you don’t maintain a relationship based on providing your best efforts for the dealer as well as the distributor, then you’re just an order taker,” he warns.

 

Tech touch

Being a successful dealer manager is all about communication, to keep those relationships flowing. Burney says any items that can aid levels of communication contribute massively to this role. “I can’t imagine where I would be without my BlackBerry; I cannot count the number of times I have been able to resolve a small issue before it got out of hand by simply forwarding an email to the correct contact internally for it to be rectified.”

On what technologies can be used to aid dealer managers in their roles, Parven recommends mobile access to a central CRM system, to enable a dealer manager to control and manage their business with direct access to all aspects of a dealer’s transactions and enquiries.

He adds that to aid the sales process, giving dealer managers access to the technology they are required to sell is a big impact tool. “From simply deploying them with BlackBerry or other mobile email and PIM solutions, to developing services to sit on top of that technology to assist them in the role, such as remote access to inventory, mobile forms to capture dealer details for account openings, secure remote access to dealer’s ledgers, all can assist in delivering a slick, professional service,” Parven notes.

And that is what being an ideal DM is all about; delivering a slick, professional, responsive service to all. A DM has to provide a balanced, informed viewpoint to whoever needs it, while keeping relationships personal and amiable no matter what hits the fan. No easy task, but putting in the effort makes whole businesses tick.

Ed says: So how good are your DM’s? Nominate your favourite DM and tell us why you think they rock. Email your comments and their picture to me: heather@mbmagazine.co.uk n

Paul Offord, Genuine Solutions

Paul Offord, Genuine Solutions

STAR PLAYER Chris McBride, sales director at Genuine Solutions, says the company’s Paul Offord is a great example of what it takes to be a successful DM.

He states: “Paul has been with us almost as long as we have been in business, and his level of industry product knowledge is not only extensive, but always up to date. In fact, he gets involved in every aspect of our product offering; purchasing, reviewing, promotions and more, making use of direct customer feedback as well as his own personal product experience.

“However, the thing that sets him apart from most is the fact that his levels of service and relationship management are so good that he receives more testimonials, Christmas cards and emails of praise than anyone I have ever worked with before,” enthuses McBride.

“At Genuine Solutions we give dealer managers the freedom and support to develop relationships and offer solutions and service levels that work for their customers. Paul has taken this freedom and the opportunity it brings to excel at what he does.

“If you give the right person the right levels of support and opportunity, they can do as well as they want to and Paul is an excellent example of a great dealer manager, one that I would definitely join with his customers in singing his praises,” McBride states.