The Battle for National Accounts
McKinney acknowledged a national account for a group of small business owners is like suddenly being faced with a 400-pound gorilla, and IBSA needed support in fine-tuning its strategy. Consulting firm Normandy Group International has recently begun assisting IBSA in developing a long-term plan addressing separate affiliate, supplier and customer issues in order to create more synergy between all three groups. Two full-time regional managers are already in place for coordinating selling large accounts with affiliates, and staff is being added to the accounting, sales and marketing departments as IBSA builds a dedicated organizational infrastructure.
McKinney said top priorities include developing a more effective way to reward the best suppliers and affiliates, and looking for new suppliers to increase product and service offerings, such as promotional marketing items, innovative patient identification systems and software companies specializing in electronic medical records (EMR). He went on to say the group is finalizing a deal with the supplier of a med/surg product which he could not reveal, but IBSA is anxious to begin offering it to customers.
Another 2007 goal is an IBSA branding initiative showcasing the group’s contract-winning strategy. It will emphasize the local expertise of individual affiliate distributorships combined with the nationwide strength of the IBSA organization in bringing value to national account networks. “We also need to do a better job of informing affiliates and suppliers about what we are doing for them,” added McKinney.
And, plans are in the works for building a comprehensive systems platform enabling direct communication between IBSA, affiliates and suppliers. “Currently, our affiliates can upload orders from TopForm, Quantum and Xetex to our system, but then a lot of what we do is manual in communicating that to...supplier[s],” McKinney explained.
What IBSA looks for most in affiliates is a strong desire to work national contracts. “When an updated Novation listing showing thousands of members is handed out, we want distributors who [will] take that list and hit it hard—not those interested in simply maintaining the status quo. It sounds like an old cliché, but we want the hunters, not the farmers,” McKinney said. By hunters, he means progressive distributors interested in different ideas and growing their businesses through new solutions. “Products such as EMR and promotional marketing items will be a very large part of IBSA in the future,” stressed McKinney.