Intense. Frenetic. Those words come to mind. It's not hard to figure out why Dellon's name came up far more than any other in nomination forms for Rep of the Year.
- "Dellon's sales team is as thorough as they come. No job is too small ?their follow-up to problems and their resolve is second to none," wrote one vendor.
- "We owe a tremendous amount of our success in New York City to Dellon," said another.
- "They are extremely aggressive and have excellent relationships with wholesalers, engineers and contractors," went another comment. And so on.
Data That DazzlesInspiring these quotations are some stunning achievements. One company represented by Dellon saw its annual sales volume get boosted in the territory by 2,000%, from $20,000 to $4 million, in the year Dellon's crew took over.
Or consider what happened when one of New York's largest wholesalers got peeved at a perceived lack of service by reps. They decided to keep a log of visits made by rep firms to all company branches over a three-month period. They intended the information for vendors and never told the reps they were keeping track. Some reps found out afterward.
Over those three months the wholesaler tallied 80 visits by Dellon personnel. The next most active rep firm made around 12 calls. One rep was marked down for only three. A manufacturer fired that rep and gave the line to Dellon Sales Co.
This despite the fact that metropolitan New York is an outside salesman's nightmare. The roads are metal glaciers all day long, free parking is virtually nonexistent, and the city is peppered with tiny supply houses operating out of storefronts in crowded ethnic neighborhoods. I asked Dellon's sales team to identify some of their biggest problems, and several cried out in unison, "Traffic!"
Yet, wholesalers are only part of Dellon's customer constituency. For their spec lines in particular, Dellon's 11 outside salesmen leave no buying influence out of the loop in calling on architects, engineers, contractors, building managers, maintenance staff, city agencies and anyone else who might have a tiny bit of say over what gets specified or substituted. "You never know who might influence a purchase," says owner Scott Dellon, "so we make friends with everybody."
They have some 1,500 names on a Dellon Sales Co. newsletter mailing list. Every two weeks they do a broadcast fax targeted at one of the customer groups. "It's by far the most successful form of advertising we do," notes Dellon's marketing manager Brent Brake.
"Mass Hysteria"Pop psychologists are fond of labeling people as Type A (impatient) or Type B (laid back). Scott Dellon belongs in the Type AAA category, which can be defined as having a few drops of blood in one's adrenaline system. His waking hours are a blur of conversations and a continual state of motion, juggling multiple tasks simultaneously.
But when his body comes to rest for a few milliseconds, he gets uncommonly articulate. "The Dellon culture is one of mass hysteria, cultivated with a central purpose to satisfy and keep customers happy, and make sure our customers think of our vendors first," he observes.
Dellon's business philosophy boils down to "sell more of everything we represent, more often, to more people." It also means selling more lines. Dellon Sales Co. represents 25 PHCP vendors as of this writing.
Joe Knott, Dellon's general manager, says, "The secret to successfully marketing so many vendors simultaneously is that most of our lines are so complementary. For instance, on a commercial job, we will market a line for the plumbing fixtures, toilet seat, flush valve, supplies and traps, the faucet, shower valve, shower base, water cooler, carrier, drains, rough wall system, cast iron, acid waste, couplings, stainless fixtures and more."
We designated Dellon Sales as our Spec Rep Firm of the Year because most of the nominating tributes came from specification product vendors. However, Dellon also would qualify as one of the largest stocking reps around, maintaining a warehouse crammed to the rafters with constantly turning inventory valued at around $2.25 million.
Promotional FlairThe pressure is enormous to sell more and more to cover the substantial expenses incurred in running this bustling business. Partly that's due to the economic facts of life in NYC with its $70 business lunches, $3.50 one-way tolls, $30 parking lots and $7 cab rides from the parking lot. (Along with $55 parking tickets!) Beyond that, "We are willing to employ whatever resources are necessary on promotion, service, employees, information systems, training, trade shows and in support of industry associations," says Dellon, who has added four new employees in the last year alone.
Holder of an MBA in Industrial Marketing Management, Scott Dellon prefers growing revenues rather than spending energy bean counting. This company is renowned as a party animal that puts on events that leave people remembering who they and their manufacturers are. Examples, just over the last two years, include:
- Hosted fully catered parties two nights at last year's ASA Convention in Las Vegas, occupying penthouses and ESPN Zone.
- Hosted a party at the ASHRAE show in Atlantic City in a 10,000 sq. ft., two-level penthouse. Similar to the ASA parties, it had ruffles and flourishes such as a cigar bar, private blackjack table, lavish catering and open bar.
- Hosted five Met baseball game outings in which they entertained hundreds of different customers. (Dellon keeps wholesaler outings separate from engineer and contractor events.) These evenings begin with a spectacular "tailgate" barbecue party at Dellon's facility, located little more than a tape measure home run from Shea Stadium, with guests shuttled to and from the game.
- Hosted a specifiers' holiday party for around 300 guests at one of NYC's largest "gentlemen's clubs," with free-flowing food and drink.
- Organized plant tours and training sessions, using luxury buses, on behalf of Symmons and Tyler Pipe, as well as customer training trips to Tyler and Chicago Faucet.
- Conducted numerous dinner training sessions at supply houses or restaurants.
- Dellon Sales Co. supports meetings, golf outings and trade shows of 11 different PHCP trade groups. Typically they are the largest purchaser of booth space at these shows and take pride in the most elaborate displays and best giveaways. "These events give customers the opportunity to actually touch and feel the product, which creates a lasting impression," says Rob Barba, Dellon's director of residential sales. They also are generous buying ads in association publications.
Add to this constant entertaining at sports events, restaurants and night clubs by individual Dellon sales reps for smaller groups of customers. Some have been known to be occupied with customers seven nights in a week.
Plus, they do the usual giveaways of t-shirts, hats, golf balls, shirts, desk calendars, pens, jackets, tape measures, etc. "Visit any specifier or contractor in the city, and you will notice our stuff on their desk. No one else does half the promotional work that we do," says Dan O'Neill, director of technical sales.
People PowerMost of Dellon's outside sales staff are plumbing industry veterans who ran their own rep firms or held top-selling positions with manufacturers. "Every one would be the top person in another rep firm next to the owner, and each one costs me more money than the commission I make from most of my top lines. So if I want to keep them, I have to keep finding ways to make more money, regardless of the economic climate," says Dellon.
Scott pays them salaries rather than commissions. This promotes a team selling approach. There's a degree of specialization, but you won't hear "that's not my responsibility" spoken here.
The owner would be frazzled beyond the breaking point trying to manage every detail of representing 25 vendors. So he delegates. Each employee is master of his/her own product, area or administrative niche, with Dellon looking at results a lot more than methodology. Managers have considerable leeway to invest resources as they see fit.
"Hardly ever do I tell my people they're spending too much money," says Dellon. "You have to spend money to make money. The key to our success is constantly growing market share for our manufacturers. I can't do that by reducing salaries or getting rid of salespeople."
Challenges AheadAccording to Scott Dellon, "the days of the pure spec reps are over." He reasons that with niche manufacturers disappearing and most of those remaining well-known names, engineers assume most products are similar and thus are less inclined to hold specifications. "In the past, engineers could be held to firm specs, and spec reps would for the most part ignore wholesalers and even the trade," he explains. "Now we need to call on everyone."
Philip Torch, Dellon's veteran specifications manager, is quick to point out this in no way minimizes the importance of the "modern" manufacturers rep. "Without us, new product introductions, enhanced features, training and service would be nearly impossible. The 'value-added' rep helps keep the industry innovative, vibrant and profitable."
Dellon's team is just as aggressive in the field service end of their business as in front-end selling. Sean O'Connor, Dellon's one-of-a-kind director of contractor relations and service, who looks like a bouncer in a Brooklyn bar, adds, "Most contractors keep us on their Nextel radio. They know that if they use our lines, we make sure everything runs smoothly, and any problem will be solved at once."
Dellon's quotations department is also major league, handling over 75 quotes a week. They have the ability to quote and prepare submittals for almost every product needed in any job situation from their own mix of lines.
Like every other rep one speaks with these days, Dellon feels more and more demands being put on them by their principals without corresponding increases in compensation. Frequently they are asked to participate in commission cuts for sales to buying groups. He does not so much complain as accept these blows as a fact of life, but it is constantly on his mind in looking to maintain Dellon Sales Co. as a viable business into the future.
The impact of Sept. 11 on NYC is immediately apparent as soon as one visits Dellon Sales. The Stars and Stripes and "God Bless America" proudly decorate their building's front entrance. Dellon t-shirts have the Ls in Dellon shadowed to resemble the WTC towers, with our flag rising from the top. Their Web site opens with a copy of Scott Dellon's "industry statement" that they broadcast-faxed to their entire list the morning of Sept. 12.
The terrorist attacks brought business in the NYC market to a virtual halt at first, although business conditions are slowly returning to normal, reports Dellon. The slack pace hasn't had much impact on the way they operate, though. "We have always viewed a recession or a slowdown as an opportunity to double up on our promotional activities. We work harder and smarter, and spend more on marketing and sales, not less, in slow times," says Dellon.
Steve Maldonado, vice president of sales, multiple MBA and Scott's college buddy, adds: "With fewer competing promotional activities out there, our return on investment is even higher in slow times.
"Our goal is to cultivate a partnership with our customers that goes beyond the rep-customer relationship. We do this by spending time with them not only during business hours, but socially as well. By making our customers our friends, we form a much deeper relationship that will take both of us a long way," says Maldonado.
SIDEBAR: Company OverviewHeadquarters: Corona (Queens), NY, 25,000 sq. ft.
Annual commission sales: Excess of $50 million
Employees: 39 - 11 sales reps, 10 inside sales, 6 warehouse, 3 accounting, 3 field service, 2 drivers
Top management: Scott Dellon, president; Steve Maldonado, vice president of sales; Brent Brake, marketing manager; Philip Torch,
Specifications manager; Danny O'Neill, director of technical sales; Sean O'Connor, director of contractor sales.
Territory: Metropolitan New York, Westchester Country, Long Island, northern New Jersey.
Vehicles: Two 22-ft. trucks with lift gates; 9 SUVs.
Market segments served: wholesale plumbing, PVF, industrial plastics, waterworks, HVAC, refrigeration, fire protection, turf and irrigation.
Computer system: Data General mainframe with custom distribution and 36 terminals. Also, 10 networked PCs with high-speed cable data access and modem broadcast fax services.
Web site: www.dellonco.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Scott Dellon's Plumbing Pedigree
Scott Dellon is the fourth generation of his family to serve the American plumbing industry - and the fifth generation with a plumbing background dating back to a great, great grandfather who worked as a plumber in czarist Russia. His great grandfather, George, came to America in 1892 and held NY Master License #1.
He did a huge amount of plumbing as the industry exploded in that city around the turn of the century, but lost his fortune in the Great Depression. George's son and Scott's grandfather, Earl, was an oil burner parts wholesaler who later started Dellon Sales in 1949, along with Scott's father Gene Dellon and his twin brother, Stan.
Son David, 19, is majoring in marketing and supply chain logistics at Penn State University. A nephew, Brian Brendell, is a third-year engineering major at Tufts University. Both have worked part-time at Dellon Sales and are poised to carry the business into a fifth generation if they so choose.