If you have been wondering, why some dealers can´t reach their goals or get anything done despite years of pep talk, it´s most probably time to terminate the collaboration. But before you do it, think about the issue from the dealers´ perspective. To understand them better, ask yourself first, why Maslow´s Hierarchy of Needs is worth adapting to your business? It has all the basic elements that drive people to perform and it is no coincidence that it can be applied successfully to B2B business.
Let´s start with the basic needs, which are physiological fundamentals like food and water etc. In dealer relations’ case, they are marketing and sales related. Your dealer can´t work without marketing materials, prices nor product trainings.
“Maslow´s Hierarchy of Needs has all the basic elements needed to improve the collaboration with your dealers.”
Security is also one of the basic needs. In this context, it means trust. As an example, your dealers should trust that you won´t steal their business, contacts, etc. It can also mean that you are empathetic to their problems. Naturally, the one worry for them is always the high price of your product. This price point issue, by the way, relates also to Maslow´s two other elements which in sales channel terms are the communication of your brand and vision.
So now, if the basic needs of the dealer have been satisfied, sales should materialize.
The world is changing and even B2B sales is becoming B2ME. The third element (love) reflecting this change is “user centric” approach to all. I.e, dealers need to feel “being loved” and getting attention. Does your dealer get enough attention? Does your dealer feel that he/she belongs to your organization?
Or, on the contrary, is your company´s policy to treat all dealers with “one size fits all” or “ironfist” approaches? Does your dealer feel like being “part of something” bigger, when being your exclusive dealer? This “we together” factor is important when communicating and dealing with channel partners.
A Finn does not communicate like an American and Japanese do business differently than Italians. Thus, paying attention to cultural differences is very important, especially nowadays, when global and local politics across the Atlantic and Asia set the tone for social interactions.
Fourth and also psychological need is “prestige” and “feeling of accomplishment”. This is probably one of the hardest needs to fulfill. The question is not, why dealers can’t meet their target, but rather, how they sell other principals’ products? Are they proud when selling ours? If they sell other principals’ products well, the question should be then, are we just “nice to have” add-on and “picture on the wall” to them? If this is the case, we should know why?
The reason can be found out in the peak of the Maslow´s pyramid: “self-actualization” i.e, how we can realize our full potential and what we need to achieve that goal. Do we have a common vision with our channel partner? Have we shared our vision with our dealers? What more can we bring to the dealer than competitors?
“Your channel partners want to hear more about B2ME than B2B.”
If your goal is to be the best partner for your dealers, you need more than Maslow´s first level. I.e, the marketing materials and “annual dealer meetings” where talk is about technology and products.
The bottom line is, we all are demanding consumers and clients. We want good service, better prices, exclusive attention and feeling of belonging. This is why your channel partners want to hear more about B2ME than B2B.
Oh yes, the price. It´s important indeed, but product availability, good service, reliability and brand recognition, influence often more the purchase decision than the price.
Written by JUHA SEPPÄNEN (CEO, NORDIC INDUSTRIES DEVELOPMENT)