I’m 30 years old and I have the greatest job in the world! I’m a sales manager in the material handling industry. As a sales manager for R.H. Brown Co. (Seattle, Washington), my greatest responsibility is to direct and lead a team of four material handling sales representatives and two engineers, covering a 400 square mile region which includes parts of Oregon and Washington. I am also responsible for the operation of a Portland, Oregon branch.
My future is wide open in an industry that is well-rooted and here to stay. There will always be a need for material movement. The steady progression of technology which influences our everyday activities is not our enemy but is our ally. The successful distributor must be capable of adapting to the changes that are rapidly taking place in our industry. And I, as a sales manager, must be capable of creatively maximizing the impact of the changes created by technology. It is exciting to work in an industry in which there are no limitations impacting growth.
My vision for the future includes more management responsibility. I believe that a good barometer for the measurement of my own success and that of my company is the level of success achieved by each person on my team. In order to be successful in attaining my own goals, I must create a situation in which my employees can be successful. My primary goal is to manage a team of professionals who are enthusiastic about their ability to meet company expectations.
As part of management, I am conscious of the need to earn the respect of those I manage. Like many other sales managers in our industry, I was promoted from a sales position. Over the course of a two year period, I was responsible for a particular sales territory’s increase in sales of 25 percent. However, my ability to sell successfully does not automatically mean that I can manage and lead successfully.
While recruiting, training and developing new sales representatives, it helps that I don’t forget my initial perception of our industry. I honestly believed that when compared to other industries like computers and technology, that material handling was second-class and behind the times. Boring. Lacking an opportunity for creativity. To the contrary. In the last five years, we have seen rapid changes in technology and an increase in competition. As professionals, we must constantly be first with the most complete solutions to our customers’ problems. The formerly small distributor is becoming large as a result of increased merger and acquisition activity. I very quickly developed an understanding of the potential for challenges and growth.
Real world experiences that come from placing myself on the firing line have been my greatest teacher. As a sales manager, I must keep my pulse on the industry at all times, continually challenging the sales representatives. I spend a good portion of each day instilling in each person on my team a level of enthusiasm that matches my own. We all must continue to learn and adapt to a rapidly changing industry or risk becoming dinosaurs.
The opportunities presented for networking and education through vendor-supported programs and through membership in MHEDA have been invaluable. At various junctures during the past two years, I may have considered myself successful. Then I spoke with the guy sitting next to me at a MHEDA conference. Not only did I learn how to approach a challenge differently, but I’ve learned there is always someone out there who is doing more and blazing new paths for growth.
Each Monday, I meet with our salespeople in order to plan our strategy and objectives concerning various projects that are in the works. During a review of customer needs and a marketing plan designed specifically to meet the needs of each customer, I continually ask questions. Each member of my team will be asked, “What does R.H. Brown Co. need to do in order to help you to meet your objectives this week?”
6:30 A.M. In order to spend the greater portion of each day in the field with a salesperson, my day begins at 6:30 A.M. Because of the size of my territory, I will spend one night each week on the road. Whether driving a distance to meet a salesperson or in the office, I spend the earliest hours of the day on planning and implementation of company-wide marketing strategies. Targeting sales objectives for the day, week, month or quarter, I remind sales representatives to remain focused on what we as a company do best. It is my responsibility to direct our resources into projects that we have the highest percentage of closing.
8:00 A.M. My enthusiasm for each salesperson’s success helps to fuel their drive, motivating them to achieve even more than they did the day, week or month before. As I accompany a salesperson on the day’s appointments, I am conscious of the need to see the big picture, relating relevant market issues to the trends impacting the individual salesperson’s specific territory.
The time spent at a prospective customer’s site and time spent with the individual salesperson is an invaluable resource for me. My priority is to monitor the demands of the marketplace. While driving to the next appointment, the sales representative and I are able to review and refocus on the strategies established earlier in the week. Down-time spent in a car or over lunch provides an excellent opportunity for teaching as well as challenging.
Throughout the day, I am in constant communication with our offices in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. I utilize my cell phone and pager throughout the day as I respond to voice mail messages. I find myself utilizing e-mail to communicate more frequently with other company personnel, suppliers and customers.
5:00 P.M. For the next 60—90 minutes, I will respond to e-mail and the latest voice mail messages. There is still time to prepare for a full day on the road with another salesperson tomorrow. The decision of how to spend my time is critical. I am juggling several balls in the air at once. It is imperative that I remain focused on my number one priority‹managing the department responsible for gross sales.
I am still a salesperson. As a material handling sales manager, I am now selling ideas and to a large extent the vision that I possess of a vibrant, exciting industry that is filled with a potential for growth. Time management, continuously monitoring changes in the marketplace and remaining focused on company-wide objectives are all a part of each day in the life of a material handling sales manager.
|Meet the Author
Scott Larsen is sales manager at R.H. Brown Co. in Seattle, Washington.