Category Archives: Distribution Strategy

137. Amazon’s Channel-Model Innovation Challenge

LEVELS OF INNOVATION: INCREMENTAL, BUSINESS-MODEL, CHANNEL-MODEL

All businesses innovate. But, rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic (an incremental innovation) is not as powerful as getting an iceberg-resistant ship or an ice-berg-free route.

Business-model innovation is when you rethink the system of how you organize your resources to create a breakthrough value for some target group of customers. You may also, simultaneously, eliminate wasteful or dying activities. Common phrasings: Weed to feed. Prune to grow. Downsize, Upgrade, Refocus and Revitalize. Do a “Blue Ocean Strategy”, etc.

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136. SELL WIN-WIN, LOWER PRICING (?)

PRICING EFFICIENCY ISN’T PRICING EFFECTIVENESS

Practice good-pricing hygiene. Don’t underprice SKUs or customers if they will continue to (happily) buy from you at higher prices. But, consider also the positive trade-off of lower prices in exchange for larger average order-size buying. What are your general buying and selling incentives for increasing order size?

CASE STUDY ON ORDER-SIZE ECONOMIES

For 2018, a $100MM contractor-supply distributor had roughly 4000 active accounts. More facts:   

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133. Your Reply to the 2020 “Crisis of Capitalism”

FIRST-WORLD EMPLOYEES ARE RESTLESS

The “Yellow Vest” protests in Europe echo the “We are the 99%” (Occupy Wall Street movement) – back in August ’11. Both are symptoms of declining, discretionary income for the bottom 95%+ of households (in first world economies). Buying homes and having kids in the US is unaffordable for the average Millennial. And, if you have any promising, young employees, are they job shopping?   

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132. Multiple Models for Fill-Rate Economics

Charlie Munger, renowned investor, advises: “To become wise you’ve got to have a latticework of models in your head”

WHY MULTIPLE MODELS?

Research proves our evolutionary brains are riddled with “cognitive biases”. Good for species survival, but bad for innovating service value. 
We don’t know, what we don’t know. And, thanks to “confirmation bias”, we prefer to listen to people who share our data-free beliefs. Willful ignorance is common; we humans struggle to cope with too much math reality

Because models are simplifications of reality, they are flawed with blind spots. But, not as flawed as our thinking. And, multiple models can offset the others’ blind spots. Let’s look at some fill-rate models.

THE DOMINANT FINANCIAL LENS

  • Inventory is your biggest asset, so turn it faster for a better ROI. 
  • Improve two related financial ratios:

GMROI= Warehouse Gross Margin Dollars (divided by) average Inventory Investment.

TURN X EARN (GM%)

  • But, slimming inventory reduces fill-rates. What’s the optimal target fill-rate percentage that balances declining service-value to customers with increasing ROI?
  • Graph inventory investment vs. fill-rates. Find the sharp bend in the graph where diminishing returns set in. In a classic, hardgoods-distributor case, at 92% fill-rates inventory would need to double to improve fill-rates to 95%? So, target all SKUs for 92%?   
  • And, fill-rates increase with: knowledgeable substitutions; inter-branch transfers; and back-ordering, non-urgently needed stock outs. 

COST-TO-SERVE LENS AT THE LINE-ITEM/SKU LEVEL

  • Completing orders with inter-branch transfers and back-orders creates significant operational activity expense. Fatter inventory improves: fill-rates; transactional costs for both distributor and customers; and productivity of your people. All positive trade-offs.
  • About 5% of SKUs are super net-profitable. Why not target those for especially high fill-rates?
  • Another 5% of SKUs are very: popular yet unprofitable small-dollar-picks. Target higher fill-rates, but also pursue a blend of other profit-improving moves for these SKUs.

HIGHER FILL-RATES FOR TARGET CUSTOMER NICHES 

Having best fill-rates for all types of customers is tough. But, what if you have historically strong sales and fill-rates for a peculiar niche of customers? Or, do you want to target a specific niche? Then, model what the niche buys and beef up those SKUs.Best fill-rates will both retain and win more niche customers. Increased fill-rates also boosts average Gross-Margin-Dollars per order and employee which in turn cranks profit-dollars per employee.

CONCLUSION

Financial ratios for inventory don’t see any of my under-linings! Get a Cost-To-Serve model at the line/SKU model to win.

131. Rethinking Rep Caliber, Skills, Territories, and Incentives

“What Is the Best Incentive Plan For My Reps?”….

A question that always sparks heated debate amongst distributor principals. The ancient “5% of all sales in a territory” (and its refinements) has accumulating drawbacks. Now, with accelerating Omnichannel Cloud Commerce targeting B2B channels, what other Sales-Force questions come first?    

LOOKING-BACKWARD QUESTIONS

  1. Have you written down and ranked the drawbacks and injustices of your current plan?
  2. (Assuming no fears about losing best reps), What account reassignments should be done?
  3. Can any incentive plan magically cure:
    • Weak reps whom you would not hire again?
    • Veteran Reps coasting to retirement while harvesting their (and possibly your) best accounts?   
    • A weak, unfocused, me-too strategy?   
    • The many net-unprofitable customers and SKUs leeching your business? (Get a cost-to-serve model – at the line-item level – to identify and fix them!)

FORWARD-ENVISIONING QUESTIONS TO ASK

  1. What accelerating trends will converge to make 2021 selling different, and stress traditional rep orthodoxy to possibly breaking?
  2. What are your suppliers envisioning for B2B, Omnichannel, Cloud-Commerce in 2021?
  3. How do you plan to develop e-selling skills?
  4. How will you score current reps for their 2021 fitness? 
  5. In ’21, how will you segment your customers to then sell them:
    • Different service-metrics’ benefits and terms?
    • Customized supply-chain replenishment solutions?
    • Factory Omnichannel scenarios involving both dis and re-intermediation?
      • With what multiple selling-cost models?  
      • Are too many, too-small accounts currently assigned to reps?
      • Are some huge accounts desiring supply-chain solutions that require a team selling process still assigned to solo reps?   
  6. What analytics will help answer these questions and guide action plans?
  7. Based on answers for 1-6: how will you “right-size and upgrade” your reps to:
    • Solve all historic problems?
    • And, spark a big increase in sales and profits from best accounts?
  8. Finally, what will be an incentive plan that will be customer-centric and please your best reps within a new e-selling era?   

Help With Answers?    

I could write an e-book on “B2B Distributor Sales Management Opportunities: 2019 to 2024”. But, only if:

  1. I get lots of “do it” demand from regular readers who in turn…
  2. Persuade others to vote “YES” and get trade or buying groups to offer some sponsorship.

Interested? Email your thoughts to:  bruce@merrifield.com. Otherwise, blogs will continue!

129. For Big Gains in 2019, Forgive to Change

2019 STORM-CLOUD SOLUTIONS?

The global, debt-fueled, everything-bubble is deflating. Will the US economy go into recession? Accurately unforecastable and uncontrollable by us! Why not, instead, make controllable changes that will out-perform possible downturn effects?     

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