Your distributor can play a key role in your Discovery interviews.
In some industries, the relationship between the supplier or “principal” and the distributor is problematic. The distributor can be like an impermeable clay layer, through which valuable information passes in neither direction: When meeting with customers, the distributor doesn’t properly represent you, your products, your capabilities, and your aspirations. And the distributor doesn’t do a good job of helping you fully understand the needs of these customers.
You can use Blueprinting interviews to change these troublesome dynamics. You can not only work with them to directly interact with customers on your current project… but also to set expectations for how you want to work with the distributor in the future.
Some distributors feel threatened when their supplier meets directly with customers. They’re afraid they’ll be “cut out” of the relationship, and this is understandable: It’s not uncommon for a supplier to “take back” a customer and let their own direct sales force service them.
So clearly state your intentions: You want to engage your distributor as your partner in better understanding market needs. The goal is to develop exciting products for the future, so you can both benefit. Let them know you want a partner that can not only help sell, but also help learn.
Begin by asking the distributor to represent “the customer” in a Discovery interview you conduct just with them. This accomplishes several things:
- It lets you preview what customers are likely to say in interviews.
- It gives you insight into how much your distributor knows about customer needs.
- Most important, it gets your distributor comfortable with these interviews. They’ll be more willing—and capable—of scheduling them once they’ve experienced them as “the customer.
After this, ask the distributor to set up customer interviews… that you will attend together. In most case, your distributor will act as the Observer, while your team-mates serve as the Moderator and Note-taker. Be sure to send them a link to www.blueprintingforsales.com to help them prepare for the interview. Your post-interview debriefing session with the distributor is an excellent opportunity to keep building their capabilities.
Keywords: distributor, agent, sales representative, trader, jobber, middleman, distribution, distributorship