I dream of dealers…

I dream of dealers…

A dealer manager, the good old DM, is the lynch pin of the relationship between mobile distributor and dealer. This role is one of the most important in the industry, not only from the distributors’ point of view, but also for the man on the street, the dealer; without a strong DM providing timely advice and service, the dealers’ hands are tied and promises, just broken dreams. Here, Heather McLean takes a look at what makes the ideal dealer manager.

   

Top lad Steve Clitheroe, sales operations manager at 20:20 Mobile, on DM, Gareth Williams.

MB: “What makes Gareth so good at his job?”

SC: “Simple, his commitment to his job and his customers. The job doesn’t stop when the order is placed and he sees every order through whether it’s for one unit or a thousand. Every order is equally important to Gareth and his customers know that when he says he’ll do something he will do it on time, and well.”

MB: “What does Gareth do that makes him stand out?”

SC: “The key thing is he is never complacent, he knows there’s always something else that can be done for the customer. Our dealers’ businesses are constantly changing so we need to be evolving all the time. Gareth is particularly good at working with customers to launch new initiatives or services that offer cost savings or a better level of service.

“One of our corporate dealers called as they had been let down by another distributor after only part-shipping a delivery of Nokia and BlackBerry handsets for a major contract. When Gareth found out, he secured alternative stock for the customer and arranged same day delivery. The customer was able to fulfil their contact with stock delivered just four hours after finding out.”

Steve Clitheroe
 

Whiz kid Neil Packman, head of sales at Mainline Digital Communications, on DM, Stuart Thompson.

MB: 2What makes Stuart so good at his job?”

NP: “Stuart has been with Mainline for nearly three years and he is everything a DM should be; a team player with excellent product knowledge and a can-do attitude.

“He is not the stereotypical loud outgoing sales person, but with his unassuming personality he delivers an air of confidence, which is down to his knowledge, experience and understanding of customer needs.

“He is proactive and if you give him something to do he will do it straight away. He can always be counted on and is a valuable asset to the Mainline team and the dealers which he oversees.”

MB: “What does Stuart do that makes him stand out?”

NP: “Stuart has gone the extra mile on many occasions, such as for a major deal for a new dealer, he ensured that the delivery was on time and then he helped the customer to complete all the connections, thus making sure there was no downtime and the end customer was delighted with the service they had received.”

Neil Packman
 

New kid on the block Jason Kemp, head of marketing at Data Select, on David Horbury, key account manager.

MB: “Why have you taken on David?”

JK: “David joined Data Select five months ago as a key account manger as part of Data Select’s continued investment & commitment into its Platinum and key accounts program.”

MB: “What does he do?” JK: “Field based, David is responsible for the continued development of both SIM-free and Vodafone accounts, with responsibility for both existing partners and also new business prospects.

“David forms part of a unique account management team within Data Select, which not only ensures the partner receives a highly completive day to day commercial package, but also delivers long term strategic benefits, designed to drive incremental sales for the partner.”

David says:

“In my opinion what customers are looking for in any business relationship, is a feeling that we really genuinely care about your business model and will go the extra mile in delivering on the promises we make. Communication is everything! In particular the ability to really listen to what our partners are telling us, so we can provide that much needed bespoke solution.

“I really am proud to work for a company who genuinely care about the service we deliver to our partners day after day.”

Jason Kemp
 

The DM is the key mediator between distributor and dealer, notes Carlos Pestana, sales manager at HSC, often being the only human interaction the dealer gets with their vendor or supplier, network or distributor.

Role of DMs

“This human element is critical to creating a supply chain built on strong relationships,” Pestana explains. “The good DM’s are able to balance the requirements of the business against the needs of their customers. Distributors particularly value their DM’s enormously, as they are their eyes and ears in the market place, from the first line of protection against bad business, to advising on additional support to enable accounts to grow.”

Neil Packman, head of sales at Mainline Digital Communications, agrees: “Dealer managers are the frontline ambassadors of a business, and Mainline prides itself on offering dedicated unrivalled levels of service and support for customers. This is delivered by a high quality network of DMs. The role of the DM is to offer dealers overall support whilst helping them grow their individual business. This includes helping dealer customers to overcome any issues and challenges they face on a day to day basis.”

While Andy Tow, managing director at Avenir Telecom, comments: “From Avenir’s point of view, the role of a DM is to act as a mentor, coach and trainer in order to aid the dealer to increase sales and ensure retention of their client base. They should be able to bring all of the structure that an organisation such as Avenir has to offer, straight to the hands of the dealer. This means everything from working on strategic business plans and looking at pipeline deals, to aiding with administrative support and de-mystifying the network processes.”

Carlos Pestana, sales manager at HSC
Carlos Pestana, sales manager at HSC
 

Steve Clitheroe, sales operations manager at 20:20 Mobile, notes that the DM’s job is to make sure the company is maintaining the best possible service for its customers. “The DM’s role is to be proactive and work in partnership with the customer to maximise sales opportunities delivering new and innovative ways to work together. 20:20 offers value added services, so our DM’s job is to ensure the customer benefits from these. We aim to work with our dealers in a mutually beneficial way so that we can both develop and grow our respective businesses.”

 

Clever DMs

From research under taken by HSC, there are three areas of skill required for a DM: knowledge; service; and relationships. “Each of these areas if delivered correctly in unison offers a firm foundation to a DM’s success,” states Pestana.

“DM’s are expected to be able to retain massive amounts of information,” Pestana continues. “The mobile market moves quickly so they have to be able to stay ahead of the curve. It’s more about support than selling. There’s is an importance for the DM’s to be commercially astute, assisting dealers with their pipelines and active business deals. A deep understanding in the various network offerings and handset functionality is a given, especially, when dealing with multi network distributor like HSC.

“In some ways DM’s have to be a chameleons,” adds Pestana. “It’s important they having the ability to change their approach to suit the dealers personality and needs. They need to have the flexibility to operate on different levels depending on the personality of their customers. This honest human appeal balanced with a good sense of organisation and ‘can do’ attitude’ is critical. When you get down to small profit margins, service has to play a major part. It becomes the main differentiator.”

The key attributes as far as Avenir sees them are split into two categories: personal and business. In terms of business attributes, Tow states DMs should have commercial acumen to help really focus the dealers on what is important in building their business. He continues: “They must also be results-focussed and be able to cut through the noise that is the mobile industry. Planning skills are an absolute must as this is a real self starter role, and unless the DM, or business development manager as we call them at Avenir, is a self motivator they won’t be able to deliver what is asked of them.

Andy Tow, managing director at Avenir Telecom
Andy Tow, managing director at Avenir Telecom
 

“Equally important are the personal attributes such as creativity, to be able to think outside the box and find suitable solutions, excellent interpersonal skills, professionalism, good organisational skills and self discipline. They need to know where to go to be able to get things done swiftly and efficiently.”

Packman agrees: “A DM needs to have strong business acumen, be well presented, extremely professional with good sales experience and excellent product knowledge. They also need to be diplomatic, as sometimes there are difficult issues to handle with a dealer who may not be reaching targets or completing the right paperwork. So they need to have a positive attitude and be able to nurture and grow the dealer customer.”

While Roy Abbott, national sales manager for Anglia Telecom Centres, Daisy Group’s mobile distribution business based in Ipswich, remarks: “A DM should possess all the qualities of a good friend; they should be dependable, a good confident, available at short notice, have a good ear for issues and problems, and, most importantly, be able to give sound advice for the future.”

 

Techie DMs

There are a whole host of new technologies that can be used to aid DMs, Tow notes. “Obviously, mobile broadband helps enormously and emerging technologies are going to change their roles hugely in the future, such as the iPad and other such items that will make it much easier for our teams to carry all of our price lists and up to date product information with them. However, there’s nothing more key to this role than a good old fashioned, strong, mutually beneficial, relationship, and that’s what we at Avenir are proud of.”

Clitheroe comments: “At 20:20 we strongly believe in using IT to enhance the level of service we deliver to our customers. CRM is used to track customers and ensure that we are giving the product and service that’s right for them.

“Our partner portal was developed with our dealer customers in mind; rather than taking an off the shelf solution, we developed the portal from scratch based on the feedback of our customers,” explains Clitheroe. “This helps both the DM and the customer, making the process of ordering a quick and simple experience. It also frees up the DM and dealer to use the time to be more proactive and work with the customer to drive growth.”

Strong management information systems, like Mainline’s online account management tool, iManage, aid DMs in their day to day role, says Packman. This system helps keep dealer customers informed, cuts processes and improves operational efficiency.

Having mobile access to HSC’s online portal enables the company’s DM’s to have access to dealers live information where ever they are, says Pestana. “YourHSC.com has been developed to make it easier for our dealers to view a reliable ecommerce system with real time online stock availability. Having the ability to view all your reports, connections or review commission queries leaves time for the DM’s to discuss development plans and how to grow the business. The portal also has a technical suite. This means the DM can ask any question, however technical, at the touch of a button and the answer is emailed back from our technical support team, there and then.”

 

Faulty DMs

On what the most common faults of DMs are, Clitheroe claims the biggest frustration our 20:20’s customers is being let down. “Sometimes that’s by DMs that promise the earth, but fail to deliver,” states Clitheroe. “Customers don’t like being taken for a ride; being open and honest earns more respect in the long run. We’d rather manage their expectations, so that they can manage their customers’ expectations. We work hard to support our DMs so they can give the best possible service to their dealers.”

Tow agrees that DMs over-promising just to get a deal or to sign a dealer to the base is an issue. “It is imperative that from the very outset of a relationship the dealer understands what we can and can’t do for them,” notes Tow. “Managing expectations is highly important and the Avenir team prides itself on being able to deliver what we say we can. And, if for reasons sometimes outside of our control, this is not the case, then we also pride ourselves on being open and honest and being able to find an alternative solution.”

HSC’s Pestana continues on the same point: “Some DM’s are too keen for the kill. It’s not about ramming as much stock as you can into a dealer store room; account management and keeping the dealer account in order and ‘runway clear’ is the best tool in growing a region, as well as having a genuine interest in the dealers business.

“It’s about managing the intake carefully so the account stays in a healthy position. This reduces unneeded exposure on accounts while putting the dealer’s business at risk. It’s about building long substantial partnerships not just a quick sale. At HSC we run regular questionnaires that give the dealers to an opportunity to score the business on all sales, finance, logistics and support functions. We find this feedback vital in addressing and improving areas. Our DM’s are scored as part of this under our business development heading. We find listening to customer’s needs and feedback enables us to structure the business appropriately,” remarks Pestana.

 

Hard working DMS

Abbott states: “The most common faults of DMs are simply not returning phone calls; it’s often the basic stuff of building a rapport with business partners that general account managers in the industry forget. We always have to remember that business partners are our customers and pay our wages; if we remember this basic rule everything else becomes manageable. Thankfully Anglia account managers have this understanding of the basics of the job.

“The hardest part of the job for some is the easiest to others. I’m talking about networking, rapport building and leading by example with business partners, such as being prepared to muck in and help when a business partner most needs it,” says Abbott.

The hardest part of a DM’s job is delivering bad news well, states Packman. “This can be very difficult if they are unable to deliver on a commitment. Good communication skills are required when delivering the messages positively, accurately and explaining what is being done to overcome the problem asap.”

Pestana agrees: “The hardest part of the job is managing everybody’s expectations when you don’t have complete control. Delivering against certain SLA’s can be testing when you are reliant on other sources. Communicating regularly is important so expectations can be delivered through the chain.

“Being the middle man, you need to be realistic and open,” concludes Pestana.