2. How can your organization help with those challenges?

Wilson: At AFFLINK, we’re focused on preserving the relevance of the independent by innovating ways to differentiate them amid the turmoil of a consolidating market. Our time and resources go toward creating programs that add long-term value to our members, not merely rebates. In the past year we’ve created segment-specific training and certification programs for our members’ sales forces, developed the technology for them to offer a publicly facing ELEVATE e-commerce site with negotiated national pricing, and a host of customizable marketing assets to help them compete and drive more sales for their businesses.

Haines: DPA helps by connecting our distributors with the right suppliers for their company and customers’ needs. Consolidating purchases to a few choice DPA suppliers will enable a distributor to better manage its inventory and cash flow. Many of our supplier programs include extended terms, better prepaid freight policies and lower minimum order requirements.

DPA believes that independent distributors will always have an advantage when they sell their value and technical expertise. We help our members sell value and not just price. Helping a customer choose the right product for the application can save a customer time and money. There will also always be a need for local product when there’s local demand.

Over the last several years, we’ve brought in professional sales experts to teach our members how to manage their sales teams both in the office and out in the field.

Prosser: Pro-Link has provided our members a very cost-effective testing process that helps ensure they hire team members who are the right fit for their organizations. To compete with these large national entities, whether they are traditional brick and mortar or digital in nature, we work with our members on several fronts to help them achieve success. Differentiation is key. Our members have to provide what the larger companies do not. As local, independent distributors, they are able to provide services and expertise to their end users, above and beyond products, that the large companies cannot or are not willing to provide. As smaller organizations, Pro-Link members are able to create and perpetuate a level of customer intimacy that huge companies simply cannot. Our team of regional managers works closely with our members to provide the training needed to achieve this.

Huffer: The United Group is actively partnering with our preferred suppliers to help members understand how they can maximize an e-commerce platform to generate sales and compete with other marketers. Industries ranging from manufacturing to software service providers are cooperating with us in this effort.

McGann: SMA helps distributors navigate these technological and shopping and buying process challenges by identifying resources and providing education necessary to keep pace with change. We also focus attention at the meta-market level, above the fray that the individual distributor competes in, day in and day out. That perspective can lend clarity to direction and strategy and help the distributor optimize investment and profitability.

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