Aligning B2B Marketing and Sales in Electrical Wholesale

How closely do marketing and sales work together at your company?

Often sales and marketing function as separate silos, which can lead to duplicated efforts and inefficient use (or even non-use) of marketing materials. Communicating and jointly planning efforts significantly improves marketing and sales alignment.

My experience as part of a joint marketing and sales team gave me unique insight into the benefit of working on strategies and plans that drive results and increase sales. An experience with the electrical wholesale industry stands out to me.

Electrical Wholesale Marketing Planning

During my tenure at Fortune 500 Electrical Wholesaler, WESCO Distribution, I helped key manufacturers raise awareness and strengthen relationships with WESCO branches and the corporate office.

The challenge: How do you make a product line stand out among MILLIONS of other products in the catalog?

The answer: Targeting

To increase awareness and ultimately drive sales results, our joint marketing and sales team had to target our efforts, which meant the following:

  1. Narrow down geography: Limited focus to 30 branch offices instead of all 350
  2. Select featured products: Three or four new and innovative product lines
  3. Identify vertical markets.  Commercial construction, specifically education, new commercial buildings or renovations

 Integrated Communications Plan

Our team (the manufacturer’s national account manager, the wholesaler’s buyer, and the wholesaler’s marketing representative), mapped out the objectives, sales goals, and marketing plans for the year.

Communications Plan Elements

  • Branch Employee Survey
  • Internal Communications
  • Sales Promotion
  • Trade Shows
  • Joint Sales Calls
  • Direct Mail Campaigns
  • Catalog Pages

Branch Survey

Since it was the first year of working jointly on corporate and field marketing, we sent out a survey to branch employees to help assess product knowledge and the current relationship with the manufacturer’s field representative.  This also established a baseline to help measure results and define action items, including selecting focus branches, scheduling field training, improving response time to branch inquiries, and increasing branch visits.

Internal Communications and Programs

To help raise awareness of new product lines, we created internal communications to educate and train branch employees followed by an eight-week long sales promotion at focus branches to incent sales of targeted product lines.

External Communications

Events at focus branches, such as trade shows and joint sales calls with both wholesaler and manufacturer’s representatives, helped further increase product knowledge and the customer’s exposure to targeted product lines. Similarly, it helped improve the overall relationship and interaction between the branch and the area manufacturer’s representative.

Finally, direct-mail to customers in selected vertical markets and geographies helped raise awareness at the end-user level.  For a broader reach, catalog pages included featured product listings to help reinforce and integrate messaging of the overall communications plan.

Tracking and Results

On a monthly basis, the team reviewed and tracked key performance indicators (KPI’s) to help determine if we needed to adjust our marketing plan. For example, I tracked sales data at the national, regional, and branch levels on a monthly basis. Similarly, sales reviewed the branch co-op spending report, an often under-utilized resource that the manufacturer’s field representatives could address by suggesting co-op use for local trade shows or specific sales programs.  Finally, annual branch surveys assessed the strength of the relationship between the manufacturer and field branch locations.

Overall, the manufacturer experienced double-digit sales growth for the year and received more direction on how to proceed with sales and marketing plans for the following year.

Aligning B2B sales and marketing plans certainly takes time, but trust us, it is time and money well-invested.  If you need help expanding your bandwidth to improve your planning, we should talk soon.

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