Our industry has seen a steady increase in mergers, acquisitions and consolidation over the last decade or so. We now have large publicly traded companies as the powerhouses in animal health distribution. The manufacturing landscape continues to change with many product names remaining the same but the companies that produce them are now different.
It is a great time to be in the animal health industry; it is considered to be one of the steadiest markets to be involved through ownership, investment, and employment. The U.S. Animal Health industry is often referred to as recession resistant, and economically sound.
With consolidation and changing ownership structures come some relatively basic, almost automatic activities. Creation of efficiencies is one of the primary focuses for company leaders as they guide their newly formed teams through the often tumultuous waters of M&A. Duplication of efforts are identified quickly. Maximizing resources is an ongoing refinement process. Minimizing costs and unnecessary expenses are also immediate goals of executive teams on their way to building a company that will end up better than the sum of its initial, individual parts. These are all good management practices, and almost assuredly a focus of any publicly traded company answering to the demands of Wall Street.
Where the OSR comes in
I sometimes find myself wondering what this means for the outside representatives in our small industry. Everyone understands that with mergers and acquisitions that there will be some level of overlap and duplication in outside representation. That is a hazard of the profession these days. What additional impact does a company focused on efficiencies provide for outside representatives? As your company becomes more easily accessible to your customers through online ordering, texting applications, and smart device apps, you should be cognizant of how your role should be evolving along with these forms of efficiency. What are you doing to evolve and remain relevant to your customers and your company?
As sales reps, we pride ourselves on customer service, and our ability to form and foster meaningful relationships with our customers. The bond between a sales rep and one of their key customers is usually quite strong and similar to that of family and friends outside of the work environment. Many times these relationships cross over from a professional setting into personal settings. These are the kinds of relationships that can overcome pricing objections, provide enough mutual respect to overlook minor errors from time to time, and almost always, frustrate the heck out of your competitors. Great relationships often drive good business. People doing business with people. What happens when the people that you work for want more efficiencies, and the customers that you serve suddenly start asking for the same? It may seem that the value of the relationship is becoming diminished or devalued and replaced by a focus on efficiency.
Many people in this world are averse to change. Embracing change is the first step to putting yourself on a trajectory that will benefit your customers, your company and ultimately you. You can catapult yourself past internal and external competitors by being an advocate of positive change. Dig into as much detail as you can find and formulate your plan to execute the changes in the best way possible for you and your customers. Formulate transitional plans and be vocal about them to your superiors and to your customers when the timing is correct.
The successful sales rep of tomorrow is already formulating plans on how to increase the use of ordering technology in their territory. They are the advocates that help make the efficient ways of ordering and order processing a success for their customer, their company, and their territory. Sometimes these can be used as a competitive edge against a competitor. Your systems may be better than others, or provide something uniquely beneficial to the customer. Fearing technology and its role in the future of the outside rep is a sure way to become prematurely obsolete.
There are many ways to embrace technology to ensure the vison and goals of both customer and company are aligned with yours. Our world continues to move to one that provides immediate gratification. No one wants to wait for things these days. You can parlay this trend into something meaningful for your customers by teaching them the benefits of technology.
Embracing technology and forming strong relationships with customers is still probably not going to be enough to guarantee a long and fruitful career in a consolidating landscape. Creating value to both customer and company is paramount. What value can you provide that positions you as the unique resource needed? Concentrate on the larger picture of animal health and guide your customers through some of the changes that are taking place in our industry. Become a trusted resource for information that will have a direct impact on your customer’s business. It is one thing to represent products and make certain that you get the sale. It is a completely different level of salesmanship that creates relationships. Relationships are based on trust. Once trust is established, your customers will willingly rely on you to provide them with information that is relevant to their success or future.
Using your abilities and insight to provide additional information aimed at a practices’ success or growth may be the very thing that keeps your competitors at bay. A focus on efficiency, opportunity, and growth within each practice can take the level of partnership, the trust, and the confidence that your customer places in you to another level. The leadership of your company will recognize growth in your territory. Growth while creating efficiency is something that many people will struggle to provide.
Be a leader. Embrace the changes in front of you. Guide your customers through the confusion. Provide them insights to make their life easier and their business more successful. This will ensure your future in your profession. Being successful has many different definitions. Create your definition and work to make it a reality. No one can take that away from you.
Todd Brodersen is President of Same Page Consulting, Inc.