Why Switch? How to Convert the Modern B2B End-User To Your Industrial Brand

Why should an end-user switch to your brand over what they’re currently using? If your response draws attention to an innovative product feature or specification, then your selling proposition needs some retooling.

Today’s buyer doesn’t care about your brand.

They don’t care about your latest innovative product either. What they care about is in their facility. They care about the problems that their teams are experiencing. End-user buying behavior has changed through the COVID era and is continuing to evolve. Manufacturers and distributors need to evolve their sales and marketing approach to stay relevant. Your competition is not sitting idle and is getting stronger every day.

In this session, learn how the modern end-user seeks solutions to their problems and how you can cater your sales and marketing approach to break through the clutter and convert buyers into advocates of your brand.


  • Understand how the modern End-User shops for your type of products and services
  • Discover how you can break through the clutter and capture the attention of End-User decision-makers
  • Learn how to win more market share by converting End-Users into using your brand over competitors

Video Transcript

James Dorn:  I’m James Dorn, President and CEO of The Dorn Group.

J Schneider:  And I’m J. Schneider, Managing Director of the Consulting Practice at The Dorn Group, and welcome to ISA 2022 session, Why Switch? How To Convert The Modern End User To Your Brand. Today’s interactive session is really between James and I to go over the success factors that you will need as a firm in being able to attract the modern end users. But I want to start with the title, how to convert the modern end user? And that’s imperative here. We’re talking about buyers and end users today.

Those buyers have changed over the last several years, their behaviors have changed, how they buy has changed. And so we’re really talking about those end users, not the ones maybe that you had when your business started years ago, or even ones five or six years ago. Today’s modern end user has different needs, different wants, and different requirements. And so those are the ones that we’re talking about here.

What you see behind us is our framework. This is all that you’re going to see today besides our two smiley faces on the screen. This framework is designed to kind of give you a perspective, both from an internal and an external view. On our Y-axis, we have the functional groups of your organization. Those functional groups are sales, marketing, distribution, product, and service.

Now, the good thing is that below your screen, you can click on this document that we’ve shown you, and you can follow along on that, or you can follow us on the live screen here as well. So there is a copy of this for you to see, but the functional group really represents your internal view of your business, how your business runs and the functional areas. We’ve highlighted five.

Now, there’s more. You’ve got accounting and finance and IT, and other departments within this, but these are the five that we were going to highlight and talk to you today. On your X-axis, these are really your success factors. What we believe are critical to your business success. Alignment across the commercial supply chain, innovation beyond the product and we’ll talk about that and what that means in today’s environment, solve pain better than users’ current efforts. We’ll talk about how the customers are currently solving pain and what you can do to improve that and go beyond what they’re currently doing, and then mastering customer engagement. So these are all areas that we feel are critical in success of your business today, and how to convert that modern end user into your brand.

So with that said, where do we start? Right? Where do you go with this? There’s a lot of information on the board.

James Dorn:  There’s a lot here, J, but what I would say is it’ll be great to start with the first section of really aligning your commercial supply chain because if you get your team in order and you get your team aligned on how you will ultimately deliver incremental value to that end user, that will make all these other success factors that much more easier to actually deploy. And you’ll start to see kind of that compounding performance gains across each of these.

So I would say let’s dive into alignment across this commercial supply chain. And when we say commercial supply chain, what we mean by that is if you look across like the ISA community, there are three key stakeholder group groups. There’s the manufacturer, there’s the IMR, and there’s the distributor. And all three of those stakeholder groups work to serve the end user and to deliver incremental value to that end user.

So when we say commercial supply chain, it’s those three stakeholder groups that I just mentioned, but what you’ll see blue here is we dive a little bit deeper through the lens of a manufacturer, right? So if it starts with kind of looking at it from that perspective, we look at the cross-functional groups within the manufacturing organization. So when we say sales, that means any sales individual within the manufacturer itself, could be direct salespeople, and that could be working in conjunction with an IMR in a hybrid structure.

When we say marketing, that’s also from the manufacturing lens of what marketing support does a manufacturer actually have on site? And then distributors, kind of isolated in its own row here to where we’ll talk to what the distributor does to serve that user just at a high level. Product, once again, is from a manufacturing lens, it could be R&D, it could be engineering, it could be product management or a combination of all of that, but it’s just that product cross-functional group. And then service would be any type of customer success teams that you have, whether it be customer service, tech service, and however a manufacturer would view that.

So now that you kind of have some context around the supply chain, what we really look for here within this alignment success factor is how well are these teams actually aligned in working together, right? And what strategies are they actually collectively working towards? So many times we hear from our clients and people in the industry that some groups may be well aligned with one another, whether that be sales and marketing or sales and service, but there might be other groups that just aren’t as aligned with the broader commercial team, and then that’s just inside the organization.

Once you start going outside the organization into how well are we aligned with our IMR partners? How well are we aligned with our channel partners and across the different forms of distributors that they may work through? And you start to see a lot of this breaking down in some cases, right? So that’s one of the challenges that we try and help clients solve, is get more integration, more alignment with your commercial team, and then that will make all these other aspects easier.

So some of the ways in which you could do that, you can get aligned on KPIs, is a great way to bring your teams together of what are we working towards as a team, and how do we integrate all the different functional groups to work in unison and work as one to where they all have full transparency on what are we doing and what are we actually accountable for?

Another way to do that is through larger integrated programs, right?

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  If you can bring your teams together with programs that they’re all activating as one team, that’s another great way of really bringing the teams together. So at a high level, look internally, but also look externally to see how well your commercial supply chain is actually aligned and how well they are working together as one, because that will make a big impact as you start to get to these additional success factors.

J Schneider:  That’s great, James, but how do we know if we’re good at it? That’s the reality. It’s, “Hey, I think I’m good at it, but I don’t really know if I’m really aligned.” And how do you really know? I think more on that a little bit later in this discussion?

James Dorn:  More later, because yeah, some companies are more advanced.

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  There might be further along in this conversation from an alignment standpoint, but yeah, we’ll shed some more light on that later.

J Schneider:  Yeah. And that is absolutely a hard thing to understand sometimes, is where you are. So we’ll talk more about that. So let’s dive into innovation by the… or innovation beyond the product. And what I want to start with here is that most companies think of innovation as it pertains to the thing or the service that they make. And that’s the definition of innovation within their firm today. And they may have dabbled in innovation outside of that, maybe their business model, maybe some customer service things, technology, IP or IT systems.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  E-commerce, things of that sort they may have dabbled in, but the reality is that for the most part, companies by and large think of innovation as the product or the service that they sell or they make. And what we’re advocating here as part of a critical success factor is look beyond the product or service, and look beyond it within your functional groups, and then look at the alignment to deliver those services kind of beyond that product.

And let me give you some examples within each one of these functional areas that might be able to help. So from a sales perspective, you are on the front lines of your organization day in and day out. So if you think of not relying or anchoring your discussion or the work you do with your customer, as on the product itself, think about it in the form of demos or on the job training, or industry information, which is hugely valuable, what else is the market doing? Where else can I succeed as a company? Do you know my business enough to be able to help me with appropriate or reasonable information from the market that will help drive my success in my business?

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  And then the last one there is teaching and best practices. What else can I do with this product that maybe I’m not already doing, or maybe not already leveraging? We’ve seen it hundreds of times where more often than not, customers do not get the full benefit out of the thing they bought. They use half of what the value is, a quarter of what the value is, maybe three quarters if you’re lucky. Rarely is it a 100%. So what else can I do with this thing? How else can I generate or leverage this within my business?

And then from a marketing perspective, we look at user segmentation, understanding the end market, how they’re behavior is, how you can divide and segment those personas and address those personas uniquely within your own business. And then that chooser-user dynamic and understanding that those who select a product are necessarily always the ones who use the product.

James Dorn:  Yes.

J Schneider:  And being able to drive innovative solutions and assist or help those individuals that go beyond the product itself for the chooser or the user. So then we move to distribution. So from a distribution perspective, you got things like installation, repair, as well as professional network, as an example. So from a network perspective, we find this hugely valuable from a success factor perspective. Where else can these people, or these companies get information that will help them better their business? Whether it’s an adjacent space, whether it’s within their own space, that network from the distributor can be highly valuable in helping them grow their own business. Whether it’s adjacent companies that can supply materials, whether it’s entering a new market or an adjacent market, the network of the distributor or the IMR can greatly assist those end customers in expanding their own business. So leverage that professional network to the best that you can.

From a product perspective, whether it’s engineering R&D or product management, as James talked about earlier, you’ve got non-product value added services that you can be delivering, whether it’s technical advice, technical information, and demonstrate your capabilities as a firm from an engineering perspective, whether that’s testing, certifications, kind of going on site and understanding application based performance of those products and solutions within that environment will go a long way in providing additional value to that end user that maybe goes far beyond the product.

And the last, but certainly not least is service. So when we think of the front lines of the organization, we think of sales and you think of customer service in many regards.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  And these are individuals within your firm that are in the soup every day out in the market, trying to advocate for your brand, and you’re also trying to work with those end users to better their business on a daily basis as well. But you look at things like support, training, certifications, and this isn’t necessarily new information, but providing that in a unique way, that’s directly beneficial to your customers will be noticed and will establish you as a differentiated provider. So it’s not just standard support or standard training, or I certify this product, or we’re ISO 9000 this or 9000 that. It’s going beyond that in allowing the customers to leverage your training and support, to directly benefit their business, which is hugely important.

The last two are around knowledge and how to. This is really creating a knowledge base that’s open for all, that they can leverage. Even if it’s not directly tied to your product, but it’ll benefit their business. That is important for these end users today and it’s a critical success factor in being able to understand what other information do they need and how can I provide that information to help better their business. And the technical know how, whether it’s content, video, text, documents, that’s all going to be really, really important for customers to really understand what else can I do that I’m not doing? Or how can I better be efficient beyond what I currently have done in the past?

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  So these are kind of those success factors we feel within each one of these groups to support kind going beyond the product with your innovation.

James Dorn:  Yeah. And this is a huge topic, J.

J Schneider:  Yeah.

James Dorn:  We could spend days just talking about innovation beyond the product, but one thing that we see a lot is manufacturers have a really hard time thinking beyond just what’s within their four walls.

J Schneider:  Yeah.

James Dorn:  Right? And it’s no criticism of them. It’s just, they are enamored with making their products better, bigger, faster, whatever it may be. And as you get outside of the manufacturer, you tend to see the IMRs and the distributors having more of the interaction with that end user. So I think this one is so vital to get manufacturers especially, but also the whole commercial team to think beyond just the product, because that’s really ripe ground for making innovation and adding value here to the end user.

But with this one, J, I’d be curious, can you give us an example of innovation beyond the product?

J Schneider:  Yeah. And as I kind of dive into that example real quick, what we’re really advocating here is that innovation goes beyond the product group.

James Dorn:  Yes.

J Schneider:  Or maybe even the marketing group and designing requirements for that. It’s really a cohesive strategy for the entire organization.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Innovation is no longer tied directly to the responsibility of the product group. It’s now tied to the responsibility of the entire organization and if your organization is not aligned, meaning that they don’t understand how to drive innovation into the market, it’ll be difficult to be successful in this pillar.

James Dorn:  Yes.

J Schneider:  So that’s why we started with the alignment and then we kind of dive into innovation, but an example. So several years ago now, I was with an industrial manufacturer making industrial products. And the challenge was, is that we created a technical service group specifically to address field market issues.

James Dorn:  Okay.

J Schneider:  Field issues, and the reason why we did that is because the customers in the field or in the market had really nowhere to go to get answers about how to solve complex problems with our products or even with our competitors’ products. So three individuals sat in a center of the building and they would just take technical calls every day, all day, 225 days a year, minus the weekends on whether it was our product or anyone else’s product.

James Dorn:  It didn’t matter.

J Schneider:  Didn’t matter. 14,000 calls a year they took, 14,000 calls, and many of them had nothing to do with our product directly. It had to do specifically with, “Your product is in this chain, but it’s not working.”

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  “Or we don’t understand how to maximize our value with it, or something isn’t getting me what I need out of it. Can you help me?” And they had nowhere else to go. So we were selling a product, but we ultimately became like a system integrator with this group because they really felt that they had nowhere else to go and no one else to help them.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  The benefit to them was, “Oh, okay. These guys clearly know the market. They have helped me.” And what it ultimately did is it drove thousands of new leads into our organization.

James Dorn:  That’s great.

J Schneider:  And it was as simple as, “Hey, I’m using this product.” Well, what product? “Well, I’m using this product X, Y, Z model. Well, we don’t make that product. Well, it didn’t matter. “Well, let me tell you about X, Y, Z products.” So our three individuals were just as expert on our product as they were in the competitor’s product, as well as the market, as a whole. And we found that, that benefit directly translated to them doing their job or solving a pain much easier than what they would otherwise.

So it’s a great example of going beyond what you would normally do and the idea of, “That’s not my problem.”

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Right? Like, “You know what? I make this thing, those other things aren’t my problem.” And that’s a challenge because that’s typically how manufacturers, distributors, and IMRs thinks. Like, “Well, that’s not our stuff. We don’t really care about that. That’s someone else’s issue. I don’t want to spend my resource on that.” But the issue is that these companies are looking for help and you are a critical piece of that. So when they’re calling you, what they’re effectively telling you is, “You are a leader in this market. We see you as a leader in this market and we would like you to help us as a leader or a primary supplier in this market.”

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  So take it as a compliment, not necessarily as a bad thing.

James Dorn:  No, that’s great. And you become a go-to resource-

J Schneider:  Correct.

James Dorn:  For everybody in a channel. And I love the example because it’s not just something that a manufacturer does. It’s something the manufacturer invests in.

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  That it supports the IMR and it supports the distribution side of it as well, bringing the entire ecosystem of stakeholders together, to add value to that end user.

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  So great example.

J Schneider:  Right. So let’s dive into solving pain better than current users’ efforts. So this is an interesting one for a success factor, and here’s why we have it on there. There is no pain your customers aren’t currently trying to solve themselves. They’ve identified it. They understand that they have an issue. It could be performance, it could be technical. It could be people related. It could be talent and skill and training, hundreds of other things in-between.

But the challenge is that, do you understand how they’re trying to solve that pain today? And that’s where the miss is. So we talk to clients all the time and they’ll say, “Yes, I understand the market pain. The market pain is that this takes longer than expected.” Okay. That’s great, but what are they doing to solve that today? How are they trying to overcome that problem?

James Dorn:  And it’s usually through a lens of a product, right?

J Schneider:  Correct.

James Dorn:  What a product could do for you-

J Schneider:  Correct.

James Dorn:  Not the other way round of what is the pain the end user is experiencing, and how could all the other aspects help them?

J Schneider:  Right. Now, if they’re solving that by throwing bodies at it-

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Well, that’s good information to know, right? Because your solution should reduce the number of bodies you have to throw at it, or eliminate that completely.

James Dorn:  Right.

J Schneider:  If they’re solving it by resetting it or rebooting it, or changing out something every 30 days, you need to understand how they’re solving that pain. It’s really, really critical that you understand how they’re solving the pain. So if you look at that from a functional perspective, solve pain better than users’ current efforts as a critical success factor. Think about it from, again, the tip of the spear, the frontline groups of sales, customer needs and requirements, what do they really need to be successful?

Not what they need to be successful with your product alone. What they need to be successful in their business, which uses your product amongst other products, right? You’re not the only product that they buy.

James Dorn:  Right.

J Schneider:  And that’s kind of this idea like-

James Dorn:  Upstream or downstream.

J Schneider:  This is the only thing they buy from us.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  It’s like, well, no, it’s not the only thing. They buy hundreds of other things. You’re one piece or one part of this bigger pie. But how does their business make money to do that? Conduct or become the conduit to your organization. Bring that back to your business, unfiltered, unbiased, and say, “This is where the market’s at.”

James Dorn:  Yep. Very important.

J Schneider:  That’s critically important, and develop sales strategies to execute on that is really, really vital. From a marketing perspective, understand the need, look at the self-help content and tools. Put it out there, say, “Hey, this was an issue a customer of ours had a year ago.” Let’s talk about this issue and how we solved it, so others don’t have to go through the same pain. Let’s advance the ball further,” and you will find that your customers will appreciate that. But also, you’ll move the market significantly further, faster, if I can say that.

Awareness, which kind of is pretty basic, right? It’s like, “Okay, create awareness out there and generate the awareness regarding how to solve that pain,” but let them know that you can solve it.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  That we are a resource. That’s like, “We’re the company that no one ever heard of because we try to hide out in the market like please buy our product, but don’t get too engaged with us because we might have to solve something we don’t want to solve,” right?

James Dorn:  The industry’s best kept secret.

J Schneider:  Yes, exactly. One of those. Those days are over.

James Dorn:  Yes.

J Schneider:  If that’s the model you’re playing, then it’s probably not serving you well, and then understand those perceived barriers. From a distribution standpoint, those site visits are critically important. Really understand and take a look and say, “Okay, what is going on here? And how does this affect their business?”

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Look at and become that application knowledge, that customer intimacy, and then resolve those issues, are critically important to really solving that pain. You can solve the issue at distributor, you should do it. If you need to help with a manufacturer IMR, pull them in.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Collectively work together to solve that because the next time that happens, the distributor’s going to be well equipped to solve it. It’s not like, “Wow, that’s their issue, and then let them deal with it and they’ll come back and figure out if they solve it or not.” That’s probably not going to serve you well. From a product perspective, market back VOC. This goes beyond customer VOC, it’s market back VOC. Look at the whole market, understand how users are solving that pain, look at the jobs to be done. What are they ultimately trying to do? And then become that problem resolution.

And then from service, again, kind of that tip of the spear, the application knowledge. Look at the whole ecosystem, drive that. Look at how you can resolve those issues and then become that supply chain logistics, meaning they still need delivery. And we know supply chain’s been a massive challenge for everybody on this session in today. It will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future, but let’s continue to support that, communicate, over-communicate, be that resource for them to help solve that pain. And a lot of pain is revolving around supply chain.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  So solving pain better than customers’ efforts, we think is a critical success here for your business moving forward. You got a great example of this James, that we can share with the group?

James Dorn:  For this one, absolutely, J. Yeah. This one’s… it’s so far reaching, right? Because there’s so many ideas that you could really throw at this type of approach, but I think one, just to help the audience kind of think through here was we had a client a few years back that they manufactured a large array of products, breath-end depth. And then they also had a brand portfolio, and what we were seeing when we looked market back at their performance was the end user really saw these type of products as, we’ll say of low levels of strategic importance, which translates to low mind share. Right?

So you have all these little products that you’re trying to market or sell to an end user, and they have so much going on in their factories and plants that they’re not going to focus on it.

J Schneider:  Right, right.

James Dorn:  So that was a major, major obstacle. So one of the things that we did was we tried to figure out, okay, how does the user solve pain? And in this case, it wasn’t at a level to where they’re looking at it from a small product level. So what we decided to do is aggregate all of these products and all these brands into a single solution to where now, when you talk to an end user, you can get high up the organization, the safety manager, an HR executive, a facility manager saying, “Wow, I am interested in solving this pain with a solution that you guys are now bringing me that aggregates all of your products and brands into a single solution.” Right?

J Schneider:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Dorn:  So great example of looking at it through the lens of an end user, but also working back through the channel now and putting all these pieces together, you have at the manufacturer this integrated solution for a specific type of user out there, user segment out there, and now you start to enable your IMRs with this. Right?

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  And then the IMRs starts to enable distribution with the DSRs or the distributor sales reps. So you just have this chain link effect of everybody in the channel now has something simple. They have something that’s really insightful and advantageous for the user to now see this as a much more important solution that they can actually use to solve pain.

J Schneider:  Yeah.

James Dorn:  So delivering incremental value to that user, but making it simple across the entire commercial supply chain.

J Schneider:  Right. Which we kind of ladder back to this.

James Dorn:  Yep.

J Schneider:  It’s so critical in today’s market.

James Dorn:  Yep.

J Schneider:  Last but not least, customer engagement.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Where do we go from there?

James Dorn:  Yeah. This one is definitely super important, right? It’s not last because it’s least important, but it’s last in today’s conversation because you have to do some other things to really master customer engagement, and part of that is getting your commercial team aligned. Another part is looking at the world through the lens of an end user and trying to understand what incremental value you can deliver that user because without that, you could spend millions of dollars in resources and marketing and sales programs, and the end user just doesn’t care enough about it because they’re enamored with what’s going on in their plant, with their problems with their people.

So this last one is super important to get in motion and master, as you’ve gotten these other elements a sound foundation. But when you look at the first part of it from a sales standpoint, at the manufacturing level and the IMR level, you’ve got to have technical expertise, right? The end users are craving technical expertise because they just don’t have the resources internally that they used to have, and with labor shortages and whatnot, somebody has to bring that technical know-how to the end user, and who better than the manufacturer who is spending so much money in R&D and research. So building out that sales team, whether that be through direct or hybrid strategy with your IMRs, make sure you’re providing that technical expertise through the channel to the end user.

The other part of this would be channel support, right? Make sure that however you segment your channel partners, make sure that they have strong programs to actually activate the ideas that you’re developing. So the example we gave here, if you’ve got a single assessment program that aggregates your products, make sure your channel can really execute those programs. So getting it set up in their systems and making sure you’ve got the know-how to do all that.

And then finally, within sales, you’ve got user support programs. So that’s, as I mentioned, with whether that’s assessments or helping with speeds and feeds on CNC machines, or helping with speed to completion and construction, whatever that end user value may be, making sure that you’ve really distilled that down and are communicating it aggressively to the user community.

Marketing, looking at the entire buyer journey, very, very important especially through COVID. A lot of companies invested in this, so really looking at that complete buyer journey from problem recognition all the way through product consideration to using the product even loyalty. So in developing content and tools to align with that buyer journey across their decision-making process. So content is vital, but understanding how users actually purchase and go about their research and purchasing process is foundational.

And then of course, building out self-service content and self-service tools. We all know this, that users want to… a lot of users, more users today are wanting to educate themselves outside of calling somebody, whether that be a manufacturer, an IMR, or a distributor. So being able to have that content and tools is vital here.

Demand creation is another way of seeing awareness with tangible sales results. Marketing has to be more than just placing an ad and developing awareness. It has to get users to actually take action, believe in your brand, and stick with your brand. And then loyalty, right? We’re seeing marketing make a huge surge right now for user loyalty. Once you get this business, it takes a lot of money to convert a user, right across all of your resources and all of your spend, you’ve got to keep that business loyalty or that business loyal to you somehow, some way. So with distribution and with manufacturing working together, you can keep that business sticking.

Distribution. You have huge investment in technology. We all heard last week, it’s omnichannel, right? Instead of seven channels, you need eight or nine, or 10, 11 channels. So making those investments to really enable the user on how they want to purchase, and having some of these smart tools behind the scenes with AI and ML to recommend the right products. There’s a reason why distribution is valuable in these situations because they can aggregate what one user does in one vertical, there’s probably another user who looks just like him or her, that you can recommend different products and different solutions to them, and have it be very applicable. So using that collective intelligence and some of these tools to help users see that value.

Sales is being broken apart from what we’re seeing and to very specific roles to make it more effective. You got inside sales, inbound sales, outbound sales, and you got field sales, which is focused more on hunting. So those types of teams, you’re seeing that specialization really take shape today. And then relationships that never went away. Local relationships-

J Schneider:  Never will.

James Dorn:  Yep. It’s high frequency touches, right?

J Schneider:  Yep.

James Dorn:  And always being in front of the users, right? Product, right? Manufacturers solving that pain, right?

J Schneider:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Dorn:  Really making the investment to understand the jobs to be done, what the pain is at the user level, and building the solutions accordingly. Training programs, help everybody through the channel understand those key aspects.

J Schneider:  Yeah.

James Dorn:  And that feedback loop, making sure this isn’t a one and done type exercise.

J Schneider:  Yeah. People are sometimes afraid of that feedback.

James Dorn:  Yes.

J Schneider:  They don’t want to hear it, right? It’s critically important.

James Dorn:  Keeping it moving, right?

J Schneider:  Ask them. They’ll tell you. It’s that [crosstalk 00:31:15].

James Dorn:  And final service, right? The responsive issue resolution is vital, user history, making investment in CRM, understanding what these users are purchasing, and trying to keep a good history of their preferences.

J Schneider:  Yep.

James Dorn:  And then proactive communication is another one.

J Schneider:  Critical.

James Dorn:  So J, a lot to unpack here.

J Schneider:  There is a ton there in engagement, and engagement is critically important, right? That is the new battleground-

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Out in the marketplace today and we cannot stress that enough, but I know we want to save some time for questions and we’ve got some time left, but okay, great. Awesome framework. Now what? Where do we start? Where do we go from here? And that’s the $10,000 question is, as an audience member I’m looking at this going, “This is awesome, but where do I start?” And kind of going back to that original question we posed at the beginning of the session today.

James Dorn:  It could be daunting, right?

J Schneider:  Yeah.

James Dorn:  Right. What I would say to that, J, and what we recommend to a lot of the professionals that we come across, when you look at this from a commercial excellence standpoint, every organization out there, regardless of who you are, you’re at some stage of your journey. You might be super advanced, highly developed, or you might be more underdeveloped in some of these areas.

So the first thing I would recommend is trying to figure out where you are today, where is the organization today?

J Schneider:  Your starting point.

James Dorn:  Get some level setter, right? Try and do some type of assessment and that could be something simple, informal, doesn’t have to be anything robust where you’re calling in consultants or whatnot, although it would be good, but you could do this internally, right?

J Schneider:  Correct.

James Dorn:  It doesn’t have to be anything advanced. See where you are, and then make decisions from there as far as where you would invest. And that’s where these four success factors are going to be extremely valuable for you to actually frame the conversation and build out the planning of where you’re at and where you need to go, and you could do that collectively as a commercial team.

J Schneider:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Dorn:  Everything you’re seeing up here, this is just high level, right? These are just the top aspects that we see important to commercial team members today, but these go much deeper. And that’s where I would say, figure out where you are, look across these four success factors and rate the organization, figure out where your gaps are.

J Schneider:  Right. And if you need help, great. If you can do it internally, that’s even better, but take an unbiased, real look.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  And areas you might be pretty strong in which you may not realize, and other areas, might need some attention, but either way, it’s okay. Regardless of where you are, it’s okay because you’ve had success to this point.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  We’re trying to move beyond that current success and move into the next phase as that modern end user needs to look at how they’re buying. And so the change that’s occurring, the success you had five years ago wouldn’t necessarily translate to today.

James Dorn:  Correct.

J Schneider:  So I think we’ve got some time for some questions, so I’m going to turn Brendan back on or hopefully come back and see if there’s any questions from the audience, which I expect there’s probably some.

Brendan Breen:  So first thing, I can hear you guys, which is amazing.

J Schneider:  Yes, yes.

Brendan Breen:  We got that problem call, but you know what? You guys are total pros. You picked it up right away and ran with a great session by the way. I agree with you, James. Each one of those different bullet points could be a session on their own. So they do really go deep but as I’m listening to this, I’m thinking to myself one thing, these end users do not make it easy. They are-

James Dorn:  No.

J Schneider:  No.

Brendan Breen:  [inaudible 00:34:57] and they wanting access to whatever they want, when they want it, how they want it, and that could change tomorrow. So getting a step ahead is really important but one thing I thought that was really kind of consistent through your whole messages is channel alignment and strategy, and how you work together and channel with manufacturers, IMRs and distributors.

So I had a question. My first one was how much are you seeing joint business planning happening across channel partners? And if it’s not happening, what advice would you give to either a senior leader or somebody that thinks that this should be happening? How would you get that started?

J Schneider:  I’ll take a stab at that first real quick, Brendan, and then I’m going to turn it over to James. I know he’s got an answer for this, but let me just kind of frame it this way. If you’ve gone through the work to have your IMRs and your distributors on your team, and you’re not doing joint planning, then what is the point? Right? Why did you even go through the effort-

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  To do that work? And we see this all the time and it is sad, actually. It actually can be frustrating and sad because it’s like, you’ve signed up the IMRs, you’ve trained them, you’ve educated them. You’ve worked with these distributors. You’ve done all the heavy lifting. 80% of the efforts already done. Now, what you need to do is collectively work together and attack the market to put your customers in a position so they can win.

So ultimately, if your customer is success, you’re going to have success. But the way I would describe it is if you’re not doing joint planning, you’ve already gone through all the work to sign up these IMRs and train them, then it’s like, you’re completely missing the point of why you did all that work, but I’ll let you kind of answer it.

James Dorn:  No, I love it, J. They’re very, very simple. Brendan, to answer that, I’ll kind of take a step back to why we even are talking about this topic today? The big reason is because we work with a lot of distributors, manufacturers and IMRs, and this topic comes across our desk all the time. And the biggest problem out there is a lot of times a manufacturer will put too much trust into an IMR to say, “Hey, here’s our product. Just go sell it.” Or they’ll put too much trust in distributor, say, “Here’s our product, go sell it,” to where there is not this complete picture of how to actually add value at the end user, right?

So we get involved a lot to really help bring the synergies of all these groups together to where they are working in unison, to both share insights that they’re hearing and seeing, and share ideas of what could be developed to really add value to the user level, and it’s not getting easier.

So alignment and integration and planning, it has to be part of what you are excellent at as an organization, working with the resources you have because they’re hugely valuable. And to your point, J, why establish those relationships and just treat it cookie cutter of here’s what we’d like to do this year, or here’s our goal, without ever doing the work to really bring together new ideas for value and-

J Schneider:  Sell more.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

J Schneider:  Great.

James Dorn:  Right. It’s-

J Schneider:  Didn’t see that one coming.

James Dorn:  Yeah. And I think part of it is just kind of prioritizing it-

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  Brendan, and just really getting everybody into a room, right?

Brendan Breen:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Dorn:  To really understand what they can all do collectively, and exercises like this help just to broaden everybody’s thinking but there could be other ways of doing it and simply getting into a room, doing some joy planning and having the right people in the room to really challenge what’s being done and what more could be doing.

J Schneider:  Right.

James Dorn:  Done rather.

J Schneider:  Yep.

Brendan Breen:  Yeah. We at ISA definitely are leaning into this model. Obviously, we’re a channel organization. We try to get this channel to work better together, and specifically with our manufacturers and reps, we are encouraging them through a certification to do joint business planning for that exact reason. But also, it solves for the WIIFM, the what’s in it for me? They get to align on goals so that they both walk away feeling like they’re getting what they need. It’s not about what the manufacturer wants or what the distributor or IMR wants. It’s about how can we all win and solve the end user’s problem. [crosstalk 00:39:26] So I think that only happens when you do a joint business plan. So excellent answer guys.

So the other question that I saw come through that I think is an excellent one, say you’re out there in the audience and I know that there’s a bunch of you out there who were tapped by their boss to say, “I want you to go and hear this session. I want you to go listen.” Maybe you’ve been at the company for a year and you’re just learning this channel and you’re understanding, but everything that J and James are saying right now is like, “Yes, yes, yes.” What advice would you give that individual that maybe doesn’t have the seniority level to be able to float this up to the C-suite?

J Schneider:  Yeah.

James Dorn:  Yeah. I think that’s a question of kind of coaching, Brendan, to where there is a huge amount of the workforce that’s coming up today that may not have all this background industry insight, but they’ve got a tremendous amount of ambition and new ways of thinking. And some of it’s isolated up here, but to be able to empower that next generation of the workforce from a commercial excellence standpoint, I think that is exactly what sessions like this are designed for.

So bring this type of information to somebody that you can trust, somebody that is mentoring you, and use that to build a larger case, to actually start to persuade the leadership team on doing something larger. And when we say something larger, it’s exactly what we talked about with joint planning, right? Figure out where you are, and then start to really move down that road of doing more exploration with the end user and how you can deliver incremental value to them.

So I think that would be some great action steps for someone in the audience.

J Schneider:  Yeah, absolutely. Start with what you know, network, ask, learn. But more importantly is this session is really designed to be thought provoking, to think about your issues within your firm and your customer differently. And you’re not going to have an answer for all of it, but start in any of these success factors. Start with any of these functional groups and I think you’ll find that you’ll continue to expand on that knowledge. And then you’ll continue to build that alignment and the organization will be pushed forward to better serve that customer, who will ultimately reward you with their business and hard earned money.

James Dorn:  Yeah.

Brendan Breen:  Yeah. I think that the framework you have here, these boxes and these bullets that are in there is great because think about it as an exercise. You can take this framework and you can jot notes next to each one and say, “We’re either doing something that accomplishes this or we’re not.” And if you’re not, then you can start thinking about it. It’s a great framework from which to build some strategy internally.

So guys, we are at the end of the session. We could talk about this forever, but phenomenal job. Everyone out there in the audience, if you are interested in reaching out to these two guys and their firm, they are The Dorn Group and their contact information is below, and their website URL. Definitely reach out to them, really sharp guys, great ISA members. And obviously, they know their stuff and there’s so much more that they can get into.

So definitely reach out to them, but guys, great job. Thank you very much for being here.

J Schneider:  Thank you, Brendan.

James Dorn:  Yeah. Thank you, Brendan. And good luck everyone.

J Schneider:  Have a great event this week.

James Dorn:  Yeah.