Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

Mar 25, 2021

Frank HurtteBy Frank Hurtte

Earlier, we talked about the impact of distributors and their customers working remotely and how the changes impact distributors. In the eyes of many, the story would end here. However, a distributor is a middleman, the entity positioned between those consuming and those creating products. Distributors are a critical part of what could officially be called the supply chain.

A bit about the supply chain 

A supply chain is a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product to the final buyer. The companies providing raw materials to supply-partners are part of their supply chain. The distributor and supply-partners are steps in our customer’s supply chain.

If the distributor’s supply-partner experiences delivery issues and the distributor cannot deliver, the customer’s supply chain is impacted. If the distributor mishandles an order, once again the customer’s supply chain feels the pain.

Another portion of supply chain management involves forecasts and feedback from sellers in the field back to the factory making a product. To illustrate, let’s look at a product like a programmable controller (PLC). The product is produced using a wide range of “raw materials” ranging from printed circuit boards to electronic components, along with less high-tech things like plastic housings. If there is a shortage of any of these products, no PLCs can be made or shipped. If a company fails to predict dramatic upturns in the economy, they cannot anticipate the need for the raw materials going into their product. They suffer two ways: 

• poor delivery to their customers

• higher costs for materials that must be purchased outside normal supply contracts

How does this impact the distributor/manufacturer relationship?

Returning to the topic at hand, we are talking about the impact of COVID-19 on people. Nearly all supply-partner field sales teams have been under very strict lockdowns; definitely more stringent than their distributor counterparts. Reports are these lockdowns will be in force for longer, perhaps significantly longer, than those of their distributor counterparts. Exacerbating this fact, most supply-partner salespeople lack the deep customer intimacy enjoyed by distributors. This translates into fewer customer interactions during the pandemic. Manufacturers are starving for the kind of information needed to build solid forecasts. Hence, our first point.

Distributors should expect questions and provide answers tied to opportunities being tracked with customers, the chances of success with those opportunities, and competitive activities focused on specific customers. Supply partner managers are leaning heavily on their teams to gather and report the information on a monthly (or more frequent) basis.

Many have cut their salesforce

Reports from the field indicate many supply-partners cut their salesforce during the pandemic. This points to manufacturer-based sellers being stretched even thinner than before. One could surmise distributors will be asked to provide even more opportunity/order tracking in the new normal.

Distributor salespeople, who are often tight-lipped about opportunities, must understand the reason for the calls and sometimes seemingly extraneous reporting required. Providing this information will serve to stress the importance of their distributor partners. Pushing further, distributor managers should have candid conversations with key supplier sales management to set ground rules on how the information will be used and eliminate potential outside interference from manufacturer salespeople who are not intimately involved in the process (and may not fully understand the customer dynamics).

Expect more responsibilities to fall on distributors

Historically, manufacturers typically find the need to reorganize their teams during or immediately following recessions and economic disruptions. The tea leaves point to a similar story as we move into the new normal. In fact, several manufacturers have already started laying out these changes.

These changes have fallen into three categories:

• elimination of field-based technical or support people. In order to maintain the same level of customer support, distributors will need to rely on product specialists and others to field customer application questions. While manufacturers will funnel calls to technical hotlines or customer support numbers, experience indicates customers demand faster response time than is often available through these channels.

• consolidation of inside sales help into regional or national centers. Once again looking at previous moves of this nature, distributors will need to work on developing advanced skills on the distributor portal to solve routine problems as well as develop tools for getting to the right person at the manufacturer’s regional center.

• larger territories for the remaining sellers. Supply-partner sellers will be pressed for time. In the crunch, they will be more hesitant to invest time in distributor training. Internal training will fall more heavily on the distributor’s team which has been a trend since the Recession of 2008-2009.

Expect more supplier people in flex worker status

Following the 2008-2009 recession, supplier outside sales teams were relocated to home office environments. The move created a few ripples among sellers with young families, but for the most part the transition was without distributor-related issues. A few distributors took advantage of the situation, however, to create even closer bonds with key suppliers. Here is a short list of steps taken:

• a special workspace for select suppliers in the distributor facility. Sometimes a person needs a workspace to maximize their time between customer visits. A dedicated workspace equipped with a computer connection, printer, fax machine, and scanner makes for better productivity than a coffee shop or working in the car. Providing this improves both the interactions between the distributor and the supplier as well as productivity.

• use of the distributor conference room for customer meetings. There will be times when there is a need for a working customer meeting. Rather than meet at the local Starbucks, the supplier salesperson is allowed the use of a conference room for such meetings. Since the meeting is being held at the distributor’s facility, the customer better appreciates the connection between the companies.

• use of storage for large demos and other equipment. Many supplier salespeople have a large assortment of demos and samples. Some report large sections of their garages full of this type of equipment. Assigning a spot for them to store at the distributor does two things. First, it encourages them to share with your team. Second, it provides easier access for joint calls and serving customers.

• access to a literature storage area. If suppliers have access to your literature area, they can be charged with maintaining an adequate supply and keeping things organized. This provides more and better-maintained tools for the distributor team too.

• Shipping/receiving of incoming literature, demos, and other things. Why not create a special account for supplier partner sales teams who need to ship equipment to customers or back to the factory? The extra productivity frees them from waiting in lines at the local UPS store.

A few parting thoughts

The areas covered in this article focused on the selling side of the business. There will be similar issues faced with marketing, accounting, and dozens of other interactions between distributors and their supply-partners. Time and readability hampered us from touching on each one; however, your comments and suggestions on the topic are always appreciated. If you have discovered something that works exceedingly well for your organization, please shoot me an email or just comment below.

Frank Hurtte is the Founding Partner of River Heights Consulting. He combines the battle scars of 28 years of front line "in the trenches" experience with over 13 years of service to knowledge-based distributors and their manufacturer partners. Email or call today to make these virus-driven times work for you: www.RiverHeightsConsulting.com.

Swati Vora-PatelBy Swati Vora-Patel

The electrical market is at the helm of innovation — from robotics and automation products that support advanced manufacturing to smart technology in homes and businesses, our industry leads innovation and competitiveness in Canada.

With advanced electrical and automation products shaping how we work, live and play, our industry is continually at the forefront of designing technologies that meet the needs of Canadians today.

 

 

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Merertu Mogga FrissaBy Merertu Mogga Frissa

Someone once asked me why we struggle with diversity and inclusion in Canada. My response was that we have never taken the time to discuss the value of both as a society. While Canada identifies itself as a multicultural country, the diverse make-up of the population itself is made to exist in a vacuum and outside of what multiculturalism seeks to achieve.

This oversight forces the discussion about racism to exist within the limits of communities impacted by it while completely removing it from conversations at social and institutional levels.

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Business Openings - March 2021In March 2021, the number of business openings increased by 1.6%, as public health restrictions were less restrictive in many provinces compared with earlier in the year. After rising steadily over the previous three months, the number of business closures edged down 0.7% in March. The number of active businesses in March was 1.3% below the level observed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decrease in business closures from February to March 2021 was relatively widespread across provinces and territories, with the exception of Yukon, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, where closures increased slightly.

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Catalyst For ChangeBy John Kerr

At this time of year my colleagues and I here at Kerrwil are in the final throes of producing Pathfinder, the annual benchmarking report we publish in collaboration with Electro-Federation Canada (EFC).

After reviewing the changes and the recent acquisitions and moves of the past year through the lens of COVID, I share below some notes on milestones of the past year. They provide context for what I see as a new direction the industry may be taking.

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David GordonBy David Gordon

As we transition from the pandemic many wonder about the future of sales, meaning, “What will the sales process (sales model) look like in the future,” and, essentially, “What is the role of / for outside salespeople?”

In reality, this question was asked pre-pandemic as management lamented that Sales wasn’t being as productive as they desired. Companies are always seeking to improve their processes, whether it is having salespeople better penetrate accounts, identify and call on new customers, use a different (new?) sales method...
 

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Changing Scene

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AD Spring Network Meeting  AD’s electrical team hosted the 2021 Virtual AD Spring Network Meeting April 21-22, welcoming over 300 member attendees from U.S., Canada and Mexico.

While the meeting itself took place over two days, AD hosted weekly strategic supplier webinars for several weeks leading up to the meeting, where AD members heard updates from supplier partners on market conditions, plans to win with AD and opportunities available in areas like training, unique products and AD program participation and engagement.

 

 

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Arkadiusz TuroczyArkadiusz Turoczy has joined ECS Electrical Cable Supply Ltd. as the company’s ECS team as Regional Manager of the Quebec region, reporting to Rick Vascotto, Executive Vice-President Sales, Eastern Canada.

Arkadiusz will be responsible for leading the sales organization in the Quebec region, working closely with Marie-Claude Marois and Rick Vascotto, to continue growing market share in the Quebec region and building business. Arkadiusz has industry experience working with Future Electronics as a sales manager and most recently as an international account manager. He will be located at his home office in Montreal.

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ABB RailWith passengers' safety, reliability and sustainability at the forefront, ABB delivered its traction power substation, the electrical heart of the Finch West LRT in northwest Toronto.

In collaboration with CYMI, a Grupo ACS company specializing in rail electrification systems, ABB successfully installed the traction power substation of the Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. After achieving this important milestone, ABB is on track to deliver the balance of the traction power substations that will ensure continued support for the new LRT line in 2023.

 

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EFCRegister today for this whole new virtual experience, featuring dynamic speakers, sought-after keynotes, concurrent learning tracks, expanded programming and more.

Learn from a dynamic group of speakers about change management strategies and execution, risk management and forecasting, and diversity and inclusion practices.

 

 

 

 

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Peers & Profiles

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Illumisoft Lighting is an innovative company headquartered in Ottawa that focuses on suspended ...
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Brett NicholdsBy Blake Marchand

Illumisoft Lighting is an innovative company headquartered in Ottawa that focuses on suspended ceiling troffer LED fixtures that utilize optical film technology to achieve a high level of performance and efficiency.

Their flagship product is the EcoWing, which is available for new construction and fixture in fixture retrofits. Their primary application target is office buildings, hospitals, and dealerships. Recent projects include the Department of National Defense building in Ottawa, AMPED Sports Lab, Queensway Carleton Hospital, and Surgenor Automotive Group.

 

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Jeffrey MoyleBy Line Goyette

“The ongoing integration of Rexel Utility into our Canadian business platforms has underscored our responsibility as an organization to find creative solutions for today’s challenges, as well as to prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities.”

This quote from Jeffrey caught my attention. Vice President, Supplier & Digital Strategy at Rexel Canada Electrical Inc., Jeffrey has extensive experience in the industry and is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a Master’s in Business Administration, focusing on internarial leadership.

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