Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

Improving Electrical Sales CallsBy David Gordon

There are really only two ways to increase sales: sell to new customers or sell more products to existing customers. Both require that distributor sales management and salespeople more effectively evaluate their customers, and identify new opportunities and manufacturers’ salespeople (direct and reps).

Marketplace competitiveness requires a back-to-basics sales approach that differentiates you, especially in light of the movement to more e-communications/e-commerce. No longer will “let’s see what today or this week brings” succeed. Planning and applying basic selling skills are the order of the day, so ask yourself these eight questions:
•    Why am I calling on this account?
•    What products is he/she not buying from me?
•    How can I find out what application problems they are experiencing?
•    Are there safety, code, labour saving or energy products I can sell them?
•    How can I bring value to new customers?
•    What resources do I and my company have to effectively cultivate new orders?
•    What types of projects/companies does my customer (contractor) work with?
•    What are my customer’s and his customers’ issues? Or for industrial or institutional accounts, what are their business initiatives and how can I help?

The question becomes, are you and perhaps more importantly your salespeople thinking this way?

One way to effectively increase sales is through joint sales calls. A time-tested strategy that requires some trust among channel partners but can be improved by planning. And it converts your salespeople from customer service resources (or order takers) to demand generators, hence increasing their value to the customer.

Yes, we know the horror stories and the issue of “Do I trust the rep?” But can you afford not to conduct joint sales calls with your key suppliers? What happens if “your” customer hears of a product from someone else (e.g., the Internet, direct from the manufacturer, a competitor)? What happens when the niche products that they need are presented by someone else? Or consider how many times your customer wants to hear, “Do you have an order for me?”

Effectively planned joint sales calls with objectives can be a very productive tool. The problem has always been setting expectations, pre-planning and follow-up. Here is where the sales or the marketing manager comes into play.

First, conduct a review of targeted accounts to determine, by generic or manufacturer product group, what each customer purchases. This product mix report is your key to selling something “new” (either a product category or a specific item) to existing customers. With this in hand, an examination of the data will reveal opportunities. Inviting the manufacturer’s sales rep for the product line to review the opportunities will further prune the list so there are no conflicts if the manufacturer is already getting the business (while also revealing interesting competitive insights to you).

Second, determine which products, new or existing, should be presented to each targeted customer. Products that support application solutions and are profitable are the best picks.

Third, motivation is key. To maximize effectiveness, consider an incentive for the distributor salesperson that rewards for activity (number of calls) and effectiveness (sales achievements). Joint calls require a lot of work. For the distributor’s and manufacturer’s salespeople, a reward is extremely important for success. Ideas that we’ve seen work include:
•    spiffs
•    promotions/contests, which may include non-cash rewards and gift certificates
•    double or triple commission on specific products for a defined time period
•    tickets to a special event (sport or concert)
•    having the president/sales manager wash both salespeople’s car

Another key element is motivating the customer. While visibility is good, sales are better. To encourage customers, consider answering their WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Non-pricing strategies can help preserve long-term profitability. But remember, not every customer needs the presented product today. Extend customer purchasing benefits for 30-60 days. Experience has shown that you need to plant seeds for sales to grow.

And while the distributor benefits from increased sales as well as many intangible benefits, capturing the business frequently requires having sufficient inventory to support the desired (expected?) demand. Manufacturers: make it appealing for distributors to have more inventory at the point of influence (in the branch/CDC). Consider extended dating, sales guarantees with no-restocking fee for 6 months, competitive stock buy-backs if necessary, SPAs, and more. Distributors: ensure you have the appropriate marketing collateral from the manufacturer. Typically, joint sales calls don’t happen in a vacuum. They are part of a concerted effort to grow specific product areas. An integrated sales and marketing approach is important as both reinforce the message.

And consider joint calls to engineers. They want to see product and are the influencers of what gets speced/purchased. Being their friend can generate significant sales as they frequently have purchasing authority.

Joint calls can be effective when planned, increase business, and add value to your customer relationships. With every distributor and customer seeking an edge, joint sales calls ensure that your customer hears from you and your manufacturer.

David Gordon is Principal of Channel Marketing Group, Raleigh, NC 27614; Tel: 919.488.8635919.488.8635; www.channelmkt.com.

CEW market research 400By John Kerr

The past nine weeks have been to say the least a challenge across the electrical industry. From agents to suppliers, from end users to the electrical channel, all have been affected, all have been forced to think differently and all have begun the journey to retooling the way we operate.

This is the third report in our series quantifying and exploring how electrical wholesalers have had to adapt and how they are looking to find a way forward. For this we have taken a different approach from our previous reports in that we have incorporated the results from our recent survey alongside personal interviews and discussions with electrical distributor teams across Canada

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arkest Before the Dawn, Part 2

CEW 9 JK Figure 1 700By John Kerr

I spoke in my previous article about my father’s quote darkest before the dawn. Well, he had another saying clearly brought forward by his growing up in the depression. He would say, “Money is not everything. It just helps,” and at a time like this when there are so many storylines of effort above and beyond the call, and so many initiatives underway by electrical distributors, there will be a rallying right across the country. The electrical distributors are moving, reacting, and more adaptable than ever before. 

The current situation we find ourselves in is to say the least fluid, dynamic and somewhat disconcerting for many, but underlying it is a focused, disciplined approach to addressing the new norm and new reality. Some branches remain closed, some open with minimal staff, and others rotating staff and working differently than ever before.

Recent public reports by Wesco and Rexel have indicated drops approaching 23% through mid April and clearly ones that demonstrated a slowdown from mid March. Our discussions with both distributors and end users/contractors alike confirm their buying and purchasing activity were curtailed more aggressively in early April.

Over 106 electrical distributors responded to our recent survey with 73% from corporate and branch management. 

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Gurvinder ChopraBy Gurvinder Chopra

This June, Canadians will commemorate Electrical Safety Month; June also marks the fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic national lockdown. For many Canadians, working from home has become the new normal. As confinement continues, the demand for constant power feed to connect to the world we now live, work, and play in at home has grown substantially. Homes are being equipped with new technologies that offer plenty of benefits, but they also place high demand on electrical systems at home, potentially causing serious safety risks. 

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David GordonBy David Gordon

In talking with distributors and manufacturers it is clear that many are actively in the planning and pivoting mode, moving from survivability to thriveability. They’ve stabilized their business financially, emotionally (from a staff viewpoint) and operationally. Now they are looking at “doing business,” and more financially secure ones are identifying ways to take share.

This doesn’t mean that others are not planning and pivoting. Some didn’t miss a beat; others typically don’t do much planning and live in the moment. 

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Building Permits - MarchThe total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased 13.2% to $7.4 billion in March, with declines reported in seven provinces and two territories. The $1.1 billion national decrease was the largest since August 2014. This reflected notable drops in Ontario (-12.9%), Quebec (-18.1%) and British Columbia (-19.4%), which coincided with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 Value of residential permits down

The total value of residential permits decreased 13.1% to $4.6 billion in March.

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Changing Scene

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Northern TransformerNorthern Transformer Corporation, a manufacturer of power transformers for the North American utility market based in Toronto, announced the acquisition of the North American brand, products and designs of VRT Power Ltd. of Tel Aviv, Israel. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

With more than 300 utility grade power transformers and mobile substations installed in North America, VRT Power’s best in class technology for low noise, compact footprints, tailored solutions and proven reliability is highly regarded by leading utility clients.

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Sonepar's Gaurav SharmaA new video featuring Sonepar’s Vice President of eCommerce and Digitalization, Gaurav Sharma, answers COVID-19 related questions regarding Sonepar Canada’s digital solutions, his team, and the future of eCommerce in the electrical wholesale industry.

Among new solutions introduced by Sonepar: customers can now create an online account through a simple text message. Traffic on Sonepar’s website has tripled since the pandemic began, and the number of new accounts has doubled. Many Sonepar locations also feature curbside pick-up.

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Schneider ElectricThe Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Hugo Lafontaine, Vice-President Digital Energy at Schneider Electric Canada. CABA is an international nonprofit industry association that provides information, education and networking to help promote advanced technologies for the automation of homes and buildings.

“We are delighted to welcome Hugo Lafontaine to CABA's Board,” said Ron Zimmer, CABA President & CEO “He brings a stellar background in building systems integration and the building automation market, and a wealth of insight into the digital platforms and solutions that will define smart-building innovations now and into the future.”

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Harold HayesHarold Hayes, a stalwart of the electrical industry, passed away peacefully in Scarborough, Ontario at the age of 90 on May 9, 2020.

Harold joined the industry as an apprentice at age 18, working first for his father’s business, Power Cable Installations, and then for Comstock. Among his later accomplishments, he formed Federal Pioneer Electric’s electric heating division, served as president of the Ontario Electric League in 1985, and while in his 80s consulted for Intellimeter Canada Inc.

 

 

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Sarah SilversteinBlake Marchand

Sarah Silverstein is a principal with Liteline along side her two brothers Mark and Daniel. Together, they lead the company founded by their father, Steve Silverstein, who retired in 2018.

Although she initially pursued a career in outdoor education, Sarah was instrumental in the company’s expansion into architectural lighting and the U.S. market. She joined Liteline as a project manager in between stints working in outdoor education. Now she leads Liteline’s U.S. distribution arm and marketing department.

 

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