Strategic Insights 20


As people costs continue to rise, jobs – in which there is no offsetting productivity or value improvement – are replaced by more efficient service options. Old-fashion service is nice, most of just don’t want to pay for it. Live symphony orchestras are, for example, great to listen to, but iPods are winning today.

With good net-profit, per-customer analytics, most distributors are discovering that they have accumulated too many sales reps calling on too many net-profit-losing small accounts. How to serve the small accounts profitably is the tip of an iceberg opportunity. 


The fully-loaded, average cost of an outside sales call for a distributor continues to rise well past $100/call for most distributors. Calculate your average cost per call, then answer these questions:

1.     How many calls should a rep make annually on a customer to have a productive relationship?

2.     How much margin dollar spend per month and year should a customer have to support the sales service cost and still be net-profitable?

3.     How many active accounts currently (and potentially) meet or exceed the minimum margin dollar per year hurdle?

4.     How many accounts assigned to reps fall below the hurdle and are likely to remain so?

5.     How many outside sales reps do you need to cover all larger, qualifying accounts?

6.     Weakest reps typically have the most, losing small accounts and sit on the most upside potential in their few best accounts. What could a best rep with team support do with big sleepers?

7.     If you:

a.     Reassigned all of your too-small accounts (from all reps) to a new, service-model division.

b.     Assigned all underperforming biggest accounts to your best reps (more than offsetting the loss of the small accounts).

c.     Transitioned to a net-profit growth incentive system.

d.     And, outplaced your small-account, weak reps….



The cost of distributor supplier reps is typically about 5% built into your buying price. Would you prefer 5% lower prices and to pay for the rep on an hourly basis as needed just as you do for professional services? Why should some of your biggest customers feel any different about your reps one day?

Before this slow-growing, compensation-value mismatch trend creates a problem with a key account, why not embrace the “supply chain solution” trend? Whenever a customer asks us to – “ a bit more competitive” – counter with a variation of the “Price-shopping Judo” speech:
   “Glad you asked. Why shop just for 1-2% less when we might also be able to co-create much greater, supply-chain-cost dollar savings! IF we can do a quick audit of the buy-sell, inter-business processes that have grown up between us, we’ll find inefficiencies. Neither of us has yet thought of re-tuning and/or re-designing these processes, we may find ways to: 

1.     Lower potentially all 11 elements of :”total procurement cost” (TPC)

2.     Improve the uptime economics of those who use, consume or re-sell our products?

3.     Improve the (next-step-in-the-value-chain) customer satisfaction, retention, penetration and referral – economics.

4.     Lower our “total cost to serve you”. If we can lower our CTS, then we can share those savings with you in the form of a lower price.

5.     Decide to do more total volume together, because the cost of buying elsewhere in the traditional way would be too high. 

   Playing a few “good” distributors off one another for immediate, measurable “price savings” while we try to sneak up our margins is a zero-sum, win-lose, activity-cost struggle. We’ve been distracting ourselves from finding and co-creating bigger, win-win, supply chain benefits. When shall we schedule the audit?”


How do you get from arms-length, price haggling to delivering and following through on the “Price Judo Speech”?

1.     EDUCATION: Reps will have to get fluent in supply chain concepts:” CTS; TPC; Uptime Economics; Customer Retention”.[1]

2.     ACCESS TO VPs OF SUPPLY CHAIN:  Managers will have to call on supply-chain counterparts who can:  understand and change buying system economics. Buyers don’t like reducing TPC which is their current job. 

3.     SERVICE GUARANTEES: The service team can offer 2 to 5 target accounts per rep unconditionally guaranteed, perfect service and extra-efforts to be more partner-able.

4.     NET-PROFIT AND CTS ANALYTICS AND INCENTIVES: Invent (or more effectively subscribe to) a complete net-profit analytics capability with incentives for net-profit development for customers. Paying on margin dollars misaligns reps with both the company and customers win-win opportunities.

5.     AHA MOMENT: To study this new paradigm start with a demo of Waypoint Analytics’ service and/or attend the “Advanced Profit Management Conference” March 29-30 in AZ. (see below)

Be the first amongst your competitive peers to embrace sales force changes that meet best-customer’s changing needs and grow your profits five ways! . 

Bruce Merrifield                                                                         


You're invited to the spring
Advanced Profit Improvement Conference
in Scottsdale on March 29 and 30th

Description: the conference, executive teams from wholesalers and distributors will learn about the latest techniques for driving significant profit increases without the need for new sales. Past attendees have achieved multimillion dollar profit gains using the strategies and tactics learned at this conference.

This year's expanded lineup of conference leaders adds new perspectives and new techniques to the wide range of time-tested strategies we cover. Unlike other events, conference speakers are part of the audience during the conference, so you can discuss your business with some of the best thinkers in distribution. Also, you'll be mixing with team leaders from other companies with challenges not unlike your own, and this affords an excellent networking opportunity.

Teams are encouraged because everyone learns the entire conference content at the same time, and can immediately begin to evaluate and choose the best strategies for fast results. Your team can execute on new profit initiatives as soon as they return home, rather than a single person trying to effectively relay two days of content upon return.

If you've attended before, the conference content has been revised and expanded, and new speakers bring additional strategies you can use to continue to drive your profits upward. Companies frequently attend multiple times to refresh their knowledge, deepen their understanding of the most advanced techniques, and to learn how to refine and extend their profit programs for the future.

$299 / person

Register Today — Space is Limited.


  • Quantum Profit Management
  • Accelerating Profitability
  • Getting Paid for Service Value
  • Getting Breakthrough Results
  • Selling Win-Win Cost Reductions
  • Advanced Sales Compensation Design
  • Strategic Pricing Programs
  • The Three Elements of Profitability
  • Profitability Tools and Technologies

Registration and info: 623-434-8931

Brochure and registration form:


[1] See training manual at: And, sign up for e-alerts on youtube e-training clip announcements.