Are you afraid to cross the line?

For many DSR’s the contacts in any given account include the purchasing agent, office manager, facility manager, or BSC site manager. These are all valuable people that every DSR must have a good working relationship with. However, there is a line to cross in order to establish a sound business relationship with the production/operations center of the account. Let’s take a look at who’s on the other side of the line, how they can be approached, and why it’s important to overcome the fear of crossing the line.

Who’s on the other side?

  • Plant Manager - their primary concern is the overall profitability of the entire operation including, production, quality, cost control, and safety. Do you have any cleaning solutions that might help the plant manager improve a process or cost driver? 
  • Environmental Health & Safety Manager (EHS) - their primary concern is to make sure the work environment is safe and in compliance with OSHA regulations. Are there sanitary solutions in your arsenal of products that might educate, promote worker safety, or improve the impact on the environment for the business operation?
  • Quality Improvement Manager (Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, 5S) - this manager uses a wide variety of problem solving and process improvement methodologies to drive cost out of their plant operations, and improve quality of the products and services they deliver to their customers. Is there a chemical or delivery system that you have access to that would present a business case for improved quality of a specific process? 
  • Production Manager - this person has the mission of running a high quality, efficient, manufacturing operation. Any suggestion for improvement may peak his/her interest in you and your distributorship. According to Bill Moore, Senior VP of Channel Management at SKF, “Running a plant is not about buying or replacing a part. It is about making sure that the plant is operating at its highest possible productivity level. As a specialist distributor, you are equipped to help your customer achieve this goal.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everyone with whom you need to know on the other side of the line, but these are certainly among the primary people who are central to the overall operation of the business. You may find that most if not all of these individuals overlap in their duties and areas of responsibility.

How Can These Key Players Be Approached?

Allow me to suggest two effective ways to approach these individuals: real case studies of your own, or case studies of your manufacturers. Obviously it would make a great impact on a new plant contact if you presented a few well documented case studies in which you were able to make a positive impact on the customer’s business by implementing one of your fantastic cleaning solutions. However, if your just starting to build your reputation as a problem-solver with one of these people, then the next best thing is to borrow case studies from your product manufacturer partners. Chances are someone in the company somewhere in the world has encountered a similar operational (cleaning process) challenge, and the solution may fit your customer’s circumstance. What does this type of approach do? It provides instant credibility to the new contact that says, “this DSR can deliver results”, and “they care about solving problems not just making sales”.

Why is it Important to Overcome the Fear of Crossing the Line?

Let me state the obvious, if you don’t make a concerted effort to do business deeper and wider in each of your accounts, your competition will. It’s that simple. As a side benefit, the very same people that you’ve been calling on; buyers, office managers, facility managers, BSC site managers, etc., will gain a new appreciation of you because you’ve finally made the effort to really learn about their business on the front lines. You’ll know how the plant is cleaned and by whom, and on what shift. No, not the office cleaners. This is oftentimes a completely different entity. You will learn how the production areas including machines, wash bays, transportation docks, material handling areas, recycling areas, are all maintained. Most of these areas will have a need for the latest and greatest sanitation products that you offer. So, I challenge you, go beyond the restrooms, conference rooms, break rooms, and office cubicles…see how the business operates. Make new contacts, open new doors of opportunity (for you and the customer) - overcome the fear of crossing the line.

Bill Huss, Regional Sales Manager