In our previous article, “What Distributors Need to Know about Oil Analysis”, the WHY behind lubricant distributor provided sampling programs is covered. Distributor Sales Representatives should have a foundational knowledge of the product as it relates to supporting their core product and creating differentiation. This article focuses on what happens after the initial sale is made.
A recent investigation performed by Fluid Life revealed that as many as 75% of customers who purchase oil analysis test kits through a lubricant distributor never place a second order.
That is a scary realization from two perspectives:
1. The wasted effort of sales resources
2. A poor customer experience
Wasted Effort of Sales Resources
To begin with, lubricant analysis is not an easy product to sell.
Oil analysis can’t be seen or touched, it is not a product someone can hold in their hand.
Oil analysis is a science, as is the application and understanding of its results.
There are many different oil analysis providers including Equipment OEMs, Lubricant Manufacturers, Commercial Laboratories and on-site products.
Sales Rep Experience
Sales reps will have varying degrees of comfort with the product itself classifying them as basic, intermediate, advanced or anywhere in between.
As a result, most distributors will either have 1-2 products offers that they try to differentiate or they will carry a huge number in an attempt to be all things to all people. Lacking differentiation the product/service becomes a commodity subject to price war sometimes even within your own product lines.
When a sales rep is successful bringing on a new customer the last thing anyone wants is for them to return 12 months later to sell the service all over again. It is worth pointing out that the sale is more difficult the second time around as the customer has already had a negative experience.
A Poor Customer Experience
Inevitably, whoever sells the product will be held accountable for the customer’s experience. It is important therefore, to ensure that the customer experience is consistent with the other products and services they buy. If a customer does not place a second order then it means the process fell short and they are generally unimpressed. To satisfy a customer they must be constantly engaged and setup for success. The most influential factor in this is the Onboarding Process.
A solid, structured onboarding process will ensure that the new customer does not fall victim to one of the three initial gaps that will tarnish the program before it ever truly begins.
1. Program Logistics
Logistic problems are probably the simplest, but are often overlooked. After a customer has purchased a case of sample kits they need to know two things:
- How to properly take the sample.
- How to return that sample to the laboratory for testing.
If the customer is unsure how to extract the sample then they simply will not do it. They typically have other things to do and oil sampling will take a back seat to these priorities. This will cause massive delays in the program roll out.
2. Account Setup & Implementation
Typically when an oil sample arrives at a lab from a new customer (via a third party) there are problems.
- The distributor is not identified – While the customer will be filled out on the card, the distributor will not. This usually means that the proper sales rep will not be included on the results. This undercuts the reps ability to properly support the account and the product.
- Missing unit/component information – missing or incorrect component information will result in the wrong flagging limits being applied to the sample and cause confusion during interpretation.
- Missing lubricant information – missing or incorrect lubricant information will not only impact flagging limits but can also result in the lab being unable to perform tests that the customer has paid for.
The largest program gap comes in the form of training and education. The customer does not know:
- How to interpret the result.
- If the issue is time sensitive.
- The appropriate corrective action.
The customer receives a report back that may or may not contain various flags and some generic industry comments/recommendations. The sample report gets filed away without any corrective response and the customer receives no value from the data.
Is it any surprise that many programs stop after the first round of samples? No matter what problem a customer experiences, if it is viewed as unsuccessful it will reflect negatively on the distributor that sold them the product.
Setting up for Success
Implementing a successful program requires a higher level of communication between the lubricant distributor and the analysis service provider. It also requires constant contact with the customer at integral points in the onboarding process to ensure high impact; valuable information is received when they need it most. This style of program also greatly reduces the need for post purchase support by the distributor. The “lowest cost options” are not usually able to provide the level of engagement required to ensure success. If a sales rep is going to spend the time and resources to sell an oil analysis program, ensure it is one that will leave your customer more satisfied, not less.