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Dealer Research: The Most Effective Sales Enablement Tools for Manufacturers

19 August, 2022

Sales incentives. Warranty programs. Co-op advertising. Lead generation. If you’re a manufacturer selling through a dealer network,  you’ve heard all these terms before. These are just a few of the tools in a marketing team’s toolbox to support a distributed sales channel.

But which of these sales enablement tools is worth the effort? And where can you get the most bang for your marketing buck?

We’ve walked through these very questions with manufacturers of all sizes over the past three decades, and we recently completed some research to help inform our work. Let’s dig into what the research shows and how it applies to manufacturers selling through a dealer network today.

DEALERS SPEAK UP

We recently surveyed more than 200 retailers of big-ticket outdoor items like boats, RVs, and ATVs, asking them a number of questions about the current state of their relationship with the manufacturers they carry.

The results of our research revealed two key takeaways that could be a game-changer for manufacturers looking to step up and support their dealers this year.

Takeaway #1: The manufacturer/dealer relationship is definitely strained.

Delivery slowdowns, supply chain issues, and not to mention the headaches of warranties and difficult-to-use ordering systems … all these factors continue to get in the way of a successful working relationship 

Challenges Dealers Face

 

When asked about their greatest challenges in working with manufacturers, dealers responded with a laundry list including speed of delivery, product quality, price point, and a host of customer support and sales process details.

In fact, almost one-quarter (23%) of retailers reported their greatest challenge was with the manufacturer’s ordering or sales process. This points to one huge opportunity for manufacturers to ease the path to a sale for their dealers with a better order experience.

It also points to our second big takeaway …

Takeaway #2: Technology offers a path to mending that relationship.

Namely, technology in the form of sales enablement and marketing tools. Our research found that a whopping 72% of dealers believe sales enablement and marketing tools from the manufacturer are very or extremely important.

While manufacturers may not be able to do much about supply chain delays or material price increases, they can certainly do more to provide dealers with the tools they need to succeed.

 

WHICH SALES ENABLEMENT TOOLS MOVE THE NEEDLE?

The bucket of “sales enablement tools” is a big one, including anything that helps equip a sales team throughout the sales process, from lead capture to a closed deal. And since no manufacturer has infinite funds to spend on technology for their dealer network, the logical next question becomes: Which tools are worth the investment? 

To get to the bottom of this, we simply asked the dealers.

For dealers in growth mode (those growing both in revenue and the number of brands they carry), the most critical sales enablement tools touched on each stage of the sales journey, from generating the lead to supporting the customer with a warranty after the sale.

WHAT ARE THE MOST CRITICAL SALES ENABLEMENT/MARKETING TOOLS THAT A MANUFACTURER CAN PROVIDE?
(GROWTH MODE RESPONDENTS)

  • WARRANTY AND SUPPORT 53%
  • INCENTIVES 31%
  • SALES LEADS 31%
  • COOPERATIVE ADVERTISING PROGRAMS 29%
  • SALES LEAD FOLLOW-UP 29%
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE OFFERINGS 27%
  • SALES TRAINING 25%
  • SALES EVENTS 22%

In summary: companies in growth mode leverage tools like warranties, incentives, and sales leads by aligning their sales approach with the best-performing programs.

But to be impactful, sales enablement tools need to be simple to execute and include multi-faceted campaigns with dynamic content and cohesive branding. Dealers can then take the tools given to them by manufacturers and align their approach with the customer journey.

 

TECHNOLOGY AS A VALUABLE DEALER INCENTIVE

What’s one thing that connects all the sales enablement tools mentioned in our research? The use of technology.

Now we all know that technology can be a roadblock to success if it’s not easy for your average dealer without advanced training to implement. And sometimes, dealers need to be extra motivated to embrace that technology.

Manufacturers who incentivize the use of their sales enablement tools see greater engagement and adoption with their dealer networks. 

Offerings like local online marketing services, web hosting services or microsites, and through-channel marketing automation systems all help provide leads to the dealer along with accountability for following up on those leads.

When asked “What are the most valuable technology offerings that a manufacturer can provide as an incentive?” dealers were somewhat divided by the size of their dealership footprints. Yet across the board, these three themes emerged:

  • ONLINE ORDERING Nearly two-thirds (63%) of retailers representing dealerships with more than 20 locations are looking for online ordering technology from manufacturers.
  • DIGITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT (DAM) Providing a “marketing hub” to house sales sheets, videos, and other assets ensures easy access to materials that can help dealers sell your products. If you’re in need of an asset management solution, our sister brand Lariat Marketing Hub is a great place to start.
  • WEB HOSTING & LANDING PAGES Dealerships with fewer locations (1 – 5) place a high value on technologies like web hosting services and microsites provided by the brands they work with.

Dealer Requested Technology Incentives from Manufacturers

Cooperative Advertising Programs offer another strong outlet for manufacturers to support the dealer sales process. By creating advertising for use in print and online, manufacturers tap into a cost-effective way to control the messaging and build their brand at the local level, and at the same time help your dealers sell your products.

In fact, 68% of retailers surveyed agree that manufacturer-provided cooperative advertising programs are very or extremely important to their business.

But how can these co-op programs be improved to better serve their needs?

Dealers responded:

  • 48% want more flexible policies and programs
  • 42% want better online access to marketing materials
  • 36% want higher reimbursement percentages
  • 36% want more manufacturer-branded marketing materials  

 

HOW TO BECOME A DEALER’S HERO

Ultimately, all these findings remind us that dealers are looking for a hero in the manufacturers they work with, one who will help them become more efficient in their sales and marketing efforts.

Here are a few additional tried and true ways for brands to be a hero to their sales channels: 

  • Host an incentive trip for volume purchases. It’s a nice reward, and a great way to reinforce relationships.
  • For loyal, active dealers, protect their territories with a vengeance. 
  • Host special events that focus on them, recognize them and thank them for their business. 
  • Create marketing tools to help them sell your products. They’ll not only be proud to show off materials that make them look good, but it will also enhance your brand as well. 
  • A PPC program to drive physical traffic to local dealerships with a focus on finding your products when they get there.
  • Give them a compelling story to tell about your brand and your products. There’s nothing more empowering for a dealer salesperson than a story they can tell their customers that truly differentiates you from everyone else. 

Sales Enablement tools are an extremely effective way for manufacturers to support their sales network. By easing the path to a sale, brands build a strong and lasting relationship with dealers that’s difficult to replace. If you’re curious about which tools would be most impactful for your dealers, well . . why not just ask them?

 

Get the full report and insights here

 

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