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Teamwork Leads To Big League Success

Proactive distributors and manufacturers can team up to sell more projects than either will sell alone.

Material handling equipment distributors and manufacturers know how challenging the business climate has been. While the economy is improving, it’s clear that “business as usual” is not a viable option for those who want to hold, let alone increase, market share.

Fortunately, in danger there is opportunity; the prolonged sales drought has delayed capital projects and created pent-up demand. In retail, for instance, companies seeking a competitive edge are looking to automated systems like AS/RS and multi-level pick modules to reduce operating costs.

Proactive distributors are teaming up with the right national storage equipment manufacturers to take on projects they previously thought were too big or complex. They’re not only boosting business but also positioning themselves for success no matter which way the economy goes. As in baseball, developing the right skills, attitude and teamwork can decide who sells in the big leagues and who’s sent back to the minors.

Building a Big League Team
The truth is, despite the Internet, proactive manufacturers and distributors still need each other.

Storage equipment manufacturers depend on local distributors to be their eyes, ears and “boots on the ground” in all the places they cannot be. The manufacturers need local dealers not only to build local relationships and generate and qualify leads, but also to notice telling details—like oil on the warehouse floor that shows a need for a lift truck maintenance plan. When warehouses go up locally, the manufacturers depend on local dealers to see if the owners need help with the racking or material handling equipment and to ask about future expansion plans.

Manufacturers need local dealers to build local relationships, generate and qualify leads, and notice telling details—like oil on the warehouse floor that shows a need for a forklift maintenance plan.

While storage equipment manufacturers need a local sales force, many local distributors could benefit from the sales, marketing, training, engineering, technical and after-sales support that teaming up with the right manufacturer could provide.

But long-term success in the material handling equipment business, just as in baseball, depends on having the right relationships in place. That requires building trust, communication and a willingness to go to bat for the team, since the team can accomplish more than any single player.

On a winning team, everyone shares the success. On the other hand, a hot-shot player can be bad for a team if he or she focuses on personal stats—whether home runs or monthly quotas—at the team’s expense, when an effective bunt could set up the winning run or project sale. A “team” can also be bad if it doesn’t build trust and share the rewards with its players.

For proactive manufacturers, team-building with proactive distributors means avoiding trust-killing tactics like selling direct to a customer instead of forwarding the lead to a capable distributor in that sales territory. It means rendering faster, more accurate quotes, preliminary drawings or CAD models, when these can help the sales proposal. It means offering technical support to ensure the customer meets the latest seismic, building permit or universal building code requirements. It also means honoring warranties, keeping local dealers updated on the latest products and going on sales calls with dealer staff to model, guide and offer feedback on the most effective sales techniques.

Dealers benefit from the sales, marketing, training, engineering, technical and after-sales support that teaming up with the right manufacturer provides.

For local distributors, team-building means avoiding self-serving check bids really meant to sell another manufacturer’s products. It means bringing the right manufacturer into the sales cycle from the beginning—when they can help—not at the end, when closing is difficult because customer knowledge and trust is missing. It means allowing the manufacturer to run with the job, when the dealer feels it’s beyond their expertise or comfort level, knowing the manufacturer has their back and will reward them with a finder’s fee or negotiated commission, depending on their agreement and chosen level of involvement.

Winning for the Customer
Whether it’s a state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar ballpark or material handling project, ballplayers and the sales team must never forget who they’re working for—the customer. When the customer solves a problem and happily comes back or refers a friend, the whole team wins. The sales cycle continues. But each game, each customer and each warehouse or distribution center offers unique challenges, so a one-size-fits-all game plan simply will not work.

When the heat is on or you need to end a slump, your odds of winning in baseball or material handling equipment sales rise if you’ve got access to big league resources.

That’s why proactive distributors look to team up with a  manufacturer with winning resources: wide product offerings; design, engineering, manufacturing and technical expertise; an ability to expedite or special deliver as needed; and the financial resources to stay in the game. With “one-stop shop” resources in place, it’s possible to go from concept, customization and specification to delivery, installation and post-sale service in one smooth process. When one manufacturer’s resources aren’t enough for a project, they should be willing to enlarge the team to include other trusted, reliable vendors who can help get the job done.

Taking advantage of such resources can help material handling equipment sales professionals the same way that consulting a batting, pitching or exercise coach can help a pro ballplayer stay in top form. And when a player is in top form, he’s ready to perform for his team, customer and company. With that kind of dedication to enhancing skill and fitness on a personal level comes lasting success on professional level.

While the jury is still out on when the economy will finally kick into gear, proactive dealers and manufacturers aren’t waiting for economic trends to improve. Together, they’re actively working for success by helping their customers solve big league material handling challenges.

By teaming up for success, proactive material handling equipment distributors and manufacturers will exit the industry’s slump faster than competitors. They’ll sell more big material handling projects than either is likely to achieve alone. By building trust and working together for the long haul, they’ll keep their winning edge. Their game plan takes greater dedication, cooperation and communication than most are used to, but the rewards are greater too.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Skip Eastman is vice president of sales at Steel King, located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and on the Web at www.steelking.com. Meet the Author
Skip Eastman is vice president of sales at Steel King, located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and on the Web at www.steelking.com.

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