A senior leader of distribution that we were interviewing for the next issue of I Carry The Bag magazine was discussing his outlook regarding the landscape for wholesaling 3-5 years in the future.
And, the implications for wholesalers that are rooted in days gone by.
We dusted off this piece which was originally written in 2009:
According to Wikipedia: Prehistorians typically use a Three Age System to divide up human prehistory, named for their respective predominant tool-making technologies:
- The Stone Age – a broad prehistoric time period during which humans widely used stone for toolmaking.
- The Bronze Age – the period in that society when the most advanced metalworking evolved. The Bronze Age also included the domestication of the horse is case you needed to know.
- The Iron Age – the stage in the development of any people in which tools and weapons whose main ingredient was iron were prominent.
As I have been around wholesalers and wholesaling for more than a few years I would consider myself something of a historian as well. With that idea in mind here is the Three Age System of Wholesaling and the tools that they employed:
- The Basis Points for “Marketing Assistance” Age: Outlawed and out of fashion since the 1980’s this age of wholesaling was the easiest to understand and slimiest to undertake. Having no foundation in relationships or product merits, this style of wholesaling only required two skills: a large expense account and a blind eye.
- The Have Multiple Cocktails, Then a Big Steak Dinner, Then Back to the Bar Age: Though most frequently practiced in the decade of the 90’s, wholesalers of this age are not necessarily extinct. Known for their unique business hours (generally not starting their day until noon and ending when the last drink is served) and their tawdry jokes, wholesalers of this age had one primary card that was played: The Buddy Card. I’ll be your pal, we’ll drink and carouse, and you’ll write my business.
- The Alleged Value Added Age: The dawn of the alleged value added age followed the supposed commoditization of both product and wholesalers. With so many wholesalers traveling the land representing substantially similar products, selling firms began to demand, and receive, tools that promised to help advisors grow their business – separate from the products.
Modern Day Wholesaling: When the great historians look back at the current age of wholesaling what will they find? What attributes will be identified with the greatest wholesalers as the 21st century continues to unfold and the greatest recession in 70 years continues a slow climb to recovery?
A partial list (feel free to add more via comments):
- The ability to build deeper relationships built on a solid bedrock of trust.
- Having a global understanding of the world’s economies so as to speak intelligently on a host of topics. A true student of the business.
- Technologically savvy in a way that streamlines their business, gives informational insights into their clients and a leg up on the competition (hint: think RSS)
- Wholesalers who create a reputation and following that goes well beyond the stellar performance of their product. In fact they are the product.
- Meticulous attention to efficiently covering the territory.
- A collaborator and mentor. Someone who willingly gives time and ideas to raise the profile of the firm and the success of the team.
So many leaders in distribution speak of the dawn of a new era. One in which resources will be allocated differently and old assumptions of what works in wholesaling will be challenged.
Modern Day Wholesalers should be quick to embrace the changes, lest they find themselves relics of a soon to be prehistoric age.
Join me April 20th and avoid extinction.