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RRN Insights: The Future Is Bright for Solution-Oriented Distributors and Reps

By Bruce Bolger and Guy Achtzehn

The two most valuable assets for a salesperson are relationships and solutions. The world’s promotional products distributors probably have more relationships with buyers across all industries in human resources, marketing, sales, event, and fund-raising administration than anyone in business, and many incentive representatives have established relationships of their own. There is an unprecedented opportunity for them to add to their solutions, as the need to engage key sales and non-sales employees, customers, channel partners, and volunteers and donors has never been greater. Now, more than ever, enterprising distributors and incentive representatives can rapidly expand the solutions they offer to meet the full range of needs of their customers. 
Yes, the many distributors who did not pivot to PPEs suffered terrible losses last year.  That does not diminish the enormous opportunities for enterprising promotional distributors and incentive representatives. Many have everything companies need: access and relationships and the ability to offer solutions limited only by the needs of their customers to help engage all key stakeholders and relationships in almost every business department. 
The only problem is that most distributors, reps, and their clients don’t yet know the full breadth of solutions they can offer. Effective distributors and incentive representatives add value by identifying client needs and then saving those clients the time-consuming process of narrowing down the choices and getting pen put to paper on terms and conditions, saving their clients valuable time. Why should their solutions only include promotional products? Buyers are so used to the range of services offered by distributors and reps, it wouldn’t occur to them to reach out to them for all of the other engagement programs for which they are accessing third-party solutions. 

Distributors Can Sell Engagement if They Wish to 

Out of over 20,000 distributors, there are many well-educated, savvy people that are capable of learning about all the other areas of engagement of which their solutions are only a small part. They can easily learn about the business through resources provided by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance (see below.) In the same way they do not need to master every nuance of the thousands of different products they sell, they need only to understand the basic principles of Enterprise Engagement, the different types of tactics involved, and how to source the best solutions for their clients.
Many suppliers of engagement solutions are eager to find new ways to reach the people designated to shop for solutions in human resources, sales and marketing, events, fund-raising, etc. Most solution providers would be skeptical at first to believe that distributors could learn enough about their services to identify potential prospects. Anyone taking the time to watch this EEA’s Youtube channel on the Role of Distributors in Brands and Engagement will see that distributors indeed can understand the difference between a solution provider specializing in branding, coaching, assessment, communications, rewards and recognition, etc., and who are capable of learning the right questions to asks of prospects related to identifying all their engagement needs. 

Once a need and potential solutions are identified, the appropriate choice of solution providers take over, using their discovery and sales processes, while keeping the distributor in the loop. In return, the distributor can receive a finder’s fee or commission far in excess in most cases of what can be earned through the average promotional products order. More importantly, by helping clients find solution providers, distributors and reps create even more opportunities to support their needs with other solutions. 
For HR, sales, marketing, and other management, the task of sorting through the thousands of engagement solutions are far more challenging than the promotional products field. A leadership job at almost any level of human resources, marketing, sales, or other management area requires a need to be a jack of all trades and master of none. There’s no way the typical small- to medium-size or even large business can easily source the best solutions for all their engagement needs without large amounts of tedious web searching, networking, evaluation, even more complex than most promotional products programs. Distributors can play a valuable role. 

Distributors Have Enviable Access 

Many companies in the engagement and broader human capital management and marketing space would envy the access many distributors have to the actual people often assigned the job of finding solutions for their companies in nearly every department, including human resources, sales, marketing, fund-raising, or wherever an organization has an audience to engage. Because, in fact, promotional products are always part of some bigger effort to engage key people, whether through an event, training program, incentive or recognition campaign, or at retail. The little acknowledged secret is that many organizations leave preliminary sourcing to administrative personnel. 
Based on the educational and marketplace information provided by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and the Brand Media Coalition, the amount of time for distributors to acquire sufficient industry knowledge to identify broader engagement needs from their clients and to identify reliable solutions in each key engagement category is probably less than the time spent away from home for a single national trade show.
So, why do distributors only limit themselves to the smallest part of an engagement budget, when in fact harried buyers in many organizations would dream of having their equivalent in other areas of their engagement needs? There’s a great reason: they didn’t need to because they could make a good living selling promotional products. 
With so many companies in need of solutions for branding and culture, assessment and feedback; digital, face-to-face, virtual, print, etc. communications; learning; innovation and collaboration, analytics and more, why should distributors limit themselves to pens, flashlights, and mugs, when their clients have so many other engagement needs as well. 
Here are the multiple resources available to distributors seeking to enhance their horizons.
Training and Thought Leadership 
  • Founded in 2008, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance provides outreach, learning and certification in Enterprise Engagement, an implementation process for Stakeholder Capitalism and Human Capital Management and Measurement and ROI of engagement. 
  • The International Center for Enterprise Engagement provides training and certification in ISO 30414 human capital management and ISO 10018 people engagement standards.
Engagement Media 
Enterprise Engagement Advisory Services 
  • The Engagement Agency helps organizations develop strategic Stakeholder Capitalism and Enterprise Engagement processes and human capital management and reporting processes and helps solution providers profit from the emerging discipline of human capital managementand ROI of engagement.
For More Information
Bruce Bolger
914-591-7600, ext. 230
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