Forty-year industry veteran, author and speaker Jim Ambrose provided attendees of the recent North Central Wholesalers Association Convention in Dublin, Ohio, with a host of tips and strategies related to a distribution company’s salesforce and how to drive profitable share gain.

Ambrose stressed one key is to make sure companies target the proper customers. “You can’t be everything to all customers,” Ambrose told Supply House Times in a video interview available at
“Management has to identify the right customers to go after and the right ones to keep. Without that, you probably are doing a lot of things for a lot of people and probably are mediocre at best. Identify the accounts that are the best fits for the business and the ones you can make the most money on.”

Ambrose said his data shows an average of between 40% and 42% of an outside salesperson’s time is spent engaging the customer face-to-face. “That’s a terrible stat,” he said. “We hire outside salespeople to engage with the customer. Less than 50 percent is a stat we can fix. Get the salesmen out of the office and in front of the customer.”

And during those customer engagements Ambrose is a proponent of pre-meeting preparation with the use of a call packet that outlines what will be discussed. “It improves quality engagement,” he said. “The salesperson creates a packet of what he or she wants to talk about with the customer and it allows that person and the customer to explore additional items and ideas. I call it pathological selling. If a salesperson doesn’t prepare that, they are more likely to wing it.”

However, Ambrose stressed the road to profitable share gain has to start with company leaders. “Upper management needs to talk about profitable share gain by identifying the right customers and having the selling skills to get that customer,” he said. “If senior management doesn’t produce the resources, support, style and culture, the outside salesperson is out on his or her own.”

New NCWA members announced at the convention are Iron City Pipe & Supply and Nicklas Supply. NCWA also honored outgoing board members Al Guidish (Preferred Sales), John Strong (Economy Plumbing Supply) and Russ Vitner (Etna Supply). New approved board members are Rich Leming (Leming Supply), Dave D’Arcy (Westwater Supply Corp.) and Brian Burke (Burke Agency). Scott Middleton (Robertson Heating Supply) also takes over NCWA’s young executives group from Progressive Plumbing Supply’s Jim Agnello. The 2016 NCWA heads to Detroit and the Westin Hotel Downtown June 7-8.