Hearing the Voice of the Customer (VOC) through your Sales Channel

Your channel sales partners, distributors and retailers - can provide valuable data and insights on trends

Many companies rely heavily on customer information via outside channels to determine the voice of the customer (VOC). For instance, major publishing houses regularly rely on their distributors – and major bookstore chains – to tell them what is selling a. Above expectation, b. Below expectation, or c. Just as expected. This helps them mark trends, tailor their publication pipeline, and decide which books to publish next quarter.

Why not copy a successful business model for your own industry? Distributors, in particular, can help you determine the VOC by region, and they can continually add to your body of knowledge concerning current customer demands on the region-by-region basis. Now, depending on the type of product or service you sell, you may or may not have a channel to help you sell the product.

How can a distributor or retailer help you spot a trend?

Think of, let's say, Croc shoes. While this comfortable, affordable fashion footwear seems to have come out of nowhere, feisty and fact-finding companies quickly caught whiff of this growing trend and were able to respond with crock like items, such as the generic – style rubber clogs found in the “Mart” stores and even Croc – like accessories. And these accessories attune to every imaginable need, such as little buttons – shaped to appeal to everyone, from Mickey Mouse fans to Star Wars fans – that pop into the ventilation holes on top of the shoes.

How did those first responders to the Croc wave of success find out about it? Did they have a magic ball? A psychic? Hardly. They were able to tap into their gold mine of information resource experts, partners like distributors and even retail shop owners, who are consistently feeding them information on what's hot and what's not.

Now, in the “what's not” department, Crocs felt kind of backlash as many feel they are overexposed in bad for the feet. What will be next? In footwear or elsewhere? People know. And those people are quite often your distributors and retailers who have their fingers on the buying populations pulse, especially when they are using a partner enablement platform

Naturally, what goes for footwear trends (or even the bestsellers) also holds true for gardening equipment, pet food, music and fashion trends, toys, games, etc. The key is to find allies in your channels in continually seek information from them.

Ask them questions like:

  1. Given the changes in your country/region and industry, how do you see the customer needs changing?
  2. What are the current customer challenges?
  3. Based on early orders, what are emerging trends?

Author: Mahesh Rao

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