Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

 Joint CallsBy David Gordon and John Salvatore

There are really two ways to increase sales. Sell new customers or sell existing customers more new or existing products. These require planning on the part of distributor sales management, distributor sales people and the manufacturer sales team to more effectively evaluate their customers and to identify new opportunities. This continues to challenge distributors and manufacturers because, in the end, joint sales calls are either effective or a waste of time. So how can you avoid these traps and make the joint sales calls more effective?

For a distributor sales rep to arrange a day of joint sales calls with a manufacturer salesperson / rep, takes time and planning to orchestrate an effective two-way engagement. With the abundance of reps who request a distributor’s time, the traditional joint sales call day must take on a different meaning and be profitable, especially with sales calls costing at least $300 per call.

Joint call basics

To begin, distributor reps need to be selective about where they take the manufacturer rep. They need to 

•bring the rep into accounts that make sense and offer a realistic chance to create, or close, business

•gear joint calls toward a targeted customer with a targeted product that responds to the customer’s needs and interests

•selectively insert the manufacturer “expert” into their sales activity at the right time

Manufacturer reps need to deliver on expectations. What are those expectations?

•a high degree of product knowledge

•ability to sell product features and benefits as per the customer application

•quick follow up, whether that includes pricing and or following up with technical assistance

•lastly and most importantly, loyalty and trust. Make sure the distributor knows you are working with them and them only on this opportunity as they have brought you into the customer (even if you previously knew the customer). The distributor is using you as their product specialist — an extension of their team.

Here are some questions for distributors to consider:

•How many of the rep agencies that call on you do you trust?

•How many of the joint sales calls that we conduct are effective?

•Would you prefer not to have the pressure of conducting joint sales calls and instead call the reps when you need them?

And a key question for manufacturers: Do you want your reps to do joint sales calls? Would you prefer they call on end-customers / contractors directly to create demand and then let the business go to the most “aggressive” distributor salesperson?

Both parties need to see clear value. If the distributor rep doesn’t feel that the manufacturer rep is bringing technical value, then the manufacturer rep will most likely not get invited to the account, for this or any of the lines they represent, or be invited by the salesperson again. On the other hand, the distributor needs to make the day with the rep worthwhile. This takes planning to surgically insert the rep into the process. Once a date is in the books, neither party should back out of the commitment. Breaking a joint sales call day commitment is a bad message to send to either part and can build ill will. 

Manufacturers today want top of mind, they want the mind share of their distributor partners. If they are willing to commit qualified technical resources to assist the distributor in the selling process, as partners, the distributor needs to take advantage of these opportunities. With the abundance of lines that a distributor sales person needs to sell, this level of expertise should be welcomed. The manufacturer needs to deliver the deep expertise. When these qualifications and expectations align, it is a win for all parties.

And if the rep does not have the expected level of expertise, the distributor needs to advise the manufacturer so that the situation can be rectified or alternatives identified. 

Linkage to operations

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.

And while the distributor benefits from increased sales as well as many intangible benefits, frequently to capture the business there must be sufficient inventory to support the desired (expected?) demand. Manufacturers should make it appealing for distributors to have appropriate inventories at the point of influence (in the branch / CDC). Consider extended dating, sales guarantees with no-restocking fee for six months, competitive stock buy-backs if necessary, SPAs and more. Also, does the distributor 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. This is a team sell; you need inside, outside and operations all on board. Your tech specialist can also apply this same methodology to their customers and vendors. Everyone needs to know the targets, and a well planned and executed joint call cadence should become a vital part of the everyday sales agenda and business plan with key suppliers.

Joint calls can be effective when planned, can 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.

The competitiveness of the economy requires a back to basics approach to selling that differentiates you, especially in light of the movement to more e-communications and e-commerce. Joint calls can generate sales.

David Gordon is President of Channel Marketing Group. Channel Marketing Group helps manufacturers and distributors in the construction and industrial trades generate ideas to accelerate revenue through strategic planning, marketing planning and coaching and market research initiatives. He can be reached at 919.488.8635919.488.8635 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

John Salvadore is a senior sales executive with over 30 years of electrical industry expertise in sales acceleration, revenue creation and sales strategy development and execution. Contact John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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