The most significant way for original equipment manufacturers to grow their dealer sales is to ease the process of doing business.
Dealers have lots of options. And just like all human behavior, they like to take the path of least resistance. If you want to attract new dealers and grow the dealer network you have today, you must find ways to remove resistance when doing business with you.
One of the most profitable places to start is with your aftermarket. According to a McKinsey study, billions of dollars are unrealized because of the need for more investment in aftermarket sales. Aftermarket parts and services provide a consistent source of recurring revenue and offer higher margins than new equipment. But since OEMs often underinvest in the aftermarket business, OEMs and their dealers are missing out on a tremendous amount of revenue potential. This missed opportunity means a lot of room for growth, and reimagining this business area can lead to incredible returns.
So, what’s the best way to grow aftermarket sales with your dealer network? We’re going to lay out four simple steps OEMs can get started on today.
Step 1: Create a Secure Place to Find Information and Order Parts
This first step is the most important. In order to grow parts sales, dealers need a secure place to identify parts, locate service information, and place orders. They need information available at their fingertips. More and more buyers prefer digital options to not only place orders but to research as well. Without providing them with a 24/7/365 solution, it will be nearly impossible to lower resistance, ensure you are the brand they want to choose time and time again, and grow your parts sales.
Completing this step is incredibly important because if companies don’t transform digitally, they won’t be able to remain competitive. So, taking this step and dipping your toe into digital platforms has become a necessity as the industry continues to shift online. This digital solution can be an open ecommerce site (with limited functionality for anonymous users) or a dealer portal — what matters is that you’re providing dealers a digital option. Your dealers expect advancements in your online tools. Such tools will make dealers loyal to your brand and positively impact revenue.
Selling online is no longer just a nice option for OEMs, it’s a must-have.
Step 2: Provide Access to Everything Dealers Need
A digital offering is only as good as the information it contains. In fact, 87% of customers said the lack of product content lowered their confidence in a brand. So, there must be up-to-date information on bills of materials (BOMs), associated drawings, technical publications, and procedural instructions for the equipment they sell and service. Think about it like this, any information a dealer or customer might call to ask about has to be online. So that means they need access to dealer pricing, product availability, and order status as well.
While adding this much information can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to. To get started you can always follow the 80/20 rule. Update the information for the 20% of products that make up 80% of sales. This is a great starting point and can be expanded as time goes on.
But creating a digital platform that makes dealers want to purchase more extends beyond just the information. It should be where they go for every step of the equipment support process. So, things like requesting returns and managing warranty claims need to be available too. The name of the game is making it easier for them to do business with you. Creating efficiency and simplicity is what will keep them coming back to a site and lead them to purchase more. If someone enjoys their buying experience on your site, they’ll never feel the need to buy anywhere else. So, make sure you’re creating that seamless experience that keeps them coming back, and you’ll end up seeing a major increase in repeat purchases.
Step 3: Inform Your Dealers
This may sound simple, but this step gets passed over a lot — you need to tell your dealers about all your offerings available on your website! Digital platforms only provide value if they’re used. So, pull out all the stops to make sure your dealer partners and customers know about your online offering.
This is where sales, customer service, and technical support teams must get involved. They are the teams that know your dealers best and can have the greatest influence over their adoption of your tools. While dealer partners are hungry for these options — they are busy, and change takes time. Educating them on all your tools have to offer is key for instilling lasting change over time and getting the greatest ROI from the investments you’ve made.
Step 4: Get Feedback and Iteratively Make Change
If you’ve followed the first three steps, then you should see online parts sales rise and a decrease in routine tasks for your sales and customer service center. Dealers are choosing your brand over other options because all the information they need is now only a few clicks away. It’s time to deploy dealer feedback and review data insights from your digital tools.
Develop a mechanism to capture dealer feedback and remember to utilize the insights in your website analytics to help prioritize and manage changes to your online content. Once you’ve made the powerful changes that are going to help with product conversion, use promotional marketing tools like banners, upselling, and email marketing to tell your dealers and customers about the change.
The best companies maximize their site performance by continuing this cycle over and over to get small incremental improvements that lead to profitable wins. Getting a digital platform up and running is a great achievement, but the real test is in refining the site and continuing to learn and grow.
A Continuous Journey
Enjoy watching parts orders come through your website and listening to dealers rave about how much easier you are to do business with. As your dealers’ sales grow, so will yours, and this symbiotic relationship means more sales for everyone.
A digital platform is a sales channel that, like all sales efforts, takes continuous improvement and will always have room to grow, but the hard part — getting started — is over. Take time to appreciate the new tools you and your dealers now have access to and go to work on finding the next area of business improvement.
About the Author
Kristina Harrington is the president and chief operating officer at GenAlpha Technologies, which provides digital commerce technology for manufacturers. Prior to joining GenAlpha, Kris worked for more than 10 years in leadership positions at two large multinational original equipment manufacturers, Bucyrus International and Caterpillar, supporting the mining industry. In her various positions, she worked with internal stakeholders, dealers, and customers to deliver business results both in aftermarket and equipment sales. She can be reached at [email protected].
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