When it comes to loyalty, cafes and bagel shops have the right idea. With those little punch cards, they ensure customers come back for lox and lattes, time and again.
Sure, there are plenty of options for breakfast. But why go to the competition when they won’t offer you something in return?
If only keeping your independent sales reps loyal was that easy. Since they sell multiple brands of similar products in the same industry, they’re often beholden to diverging interests, each wanting them to push their products to customers.
So, how can you ensure loyalty? First, consider why we trust.
Loyalty & Trust
Loyalty and trust aren’t the same and you need to have one before the other. In fact, flipping those two around can spell disaster.
“Leaders who seek loyalty before trust often find the workplace equivalent of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,” writes Nan Russell in Psychology Today, “complete with disengagement, distrust, finger-pointing and silos.”
Let’s put that in another context: you’re loyal to your local bakery because you trust them to make a reliably delicious pumpernickel, day in and day out. If they didn’t, you’d find somewhere else to go. Your bakery earned your trust by consistently performing and delivering you an excellent product.
While you can require your independent sales reps to show up to work, participate in meetings and call prospects, you can’t require trust or loyalty. You have to go beyond the baseline.
By delivering information and actively garnering feedback that helps your independent rep become more successful, providing them beneficial training or offering marketing and communications tools that help them meet their goals, you earn trust.
Just as that bakery consistently demonstrates excellent baking, by reliably demonstrating that you’re invested in the success of your independent reps and offer the resources they need, you create an experience worthy of trust.
Here’s how to exhibit trust and earn the loyalty of your independent sales reps.
Communications Show You Care
What’s the number-one reason married couples split up? Communication issues, according to the Huffington Post.
While you’re not in a married relationship with your independent sales reps, communicating with them effectively and consistently is a pillar of a loyal channel partnership.
Make sure your communications stand out from the day-to-day materials your independent rep is bombarded with—seeing the same-old-same-old is not likely to grab their attention, build excitement and demonstrate your trust and respect.
Outside of online and print communications, in-person visits between regional sales managers and independent reps are the perfect opportunity to build rapport, trust and loyalty. These meet-ups offer two-way communication and feedback—both powerful ways of showing your reps they matter, that their input is valuable and your organization cares enough to listen.
Events Galvanize Relationships
“Nothing focuses the mind like surprise,” writes Dr. Shahram Heshmat in Psychology Today.
For instance, no matter how interesting or surprising a movie may be on the first viewing, it’s less impressive on the second go-round. When something is emotionally intense and unique, our attention is on it.
The same principle inspires loyalty in your sales reps, too. When you throw an event that deviates from the norm, your independent reps remember your message.
Events also give your reps a chance to network and establish relationships with senior executives, allowing the rep to build trust both with the distributor and the product. Additionally, relationships formed between independent reps can help build a knowledgeable network of peers, furthering trust and loyalty toward you.
Related: Check out these 8 foolproof best practices to align your team using sales meetings.
Training Emboldens Independent Sales Reps
It’s hard to sell a product you don’t know well. It’s even harder to sell one you don’t personally trust.
Just as trust must come before loyalty, people need to trust your product will meet their clients’ needs before being loyal to you and recommending it.
Training gives your company another opportunity to build loyalty with your independent sales reps. As they learn more about the product, you quell their objections and are more likely to sell it.
After all, the importance of sales training is apparent:
- Sales managers at world-class sales organizations spend 8.6 hours per month on skills development and product training
- ROI on sales training quadruples when employees receive in-field coaching and training reinforcement
Related: Read more about how you can empower channel sales reps to sell more effectively by making product training a priority.
Incentives Validate Trust
Recently, American Airlines announced the reintroduction of a long-departed benefit of air travel: the in-flight meal.
Why? To keep customers loyal.
Just like air travelers, independent sales reps have a lot of options: what to sell, which clients to attend to and much more. So why would they do business with you? What’s in it for them?
By rewarding your channel sales reps for choosing to sell your products, or by giving back to them for participating in training, your company shows how much they value reps. You’re spending time and effort to make them better at their jobs and to inform them of the latest and greatest in your industry.