The Elephant in the Room
The way Lynn M. Rogge sees it, operating on price alone is the worst blunder a distributor can make. And with 50 years in the game, it's a safe bet that he knows a thing or two.
"If you get an order by price, there's a good chance you're going to lose it by price somewhere along the line," said Rogge, vice president distributor sales of Austell, Georgia-based PRINTSouth. "RFQs (requests for quotes) are the worst thing that could ever happen to a salesperson."
Doling out attractive prices surely will spark an interest. But, distributors looking to penetrate the jumbo roll sector must make a deeper commitment: finding a like-minded supplier partner. Start by establishing points of differentiation among the various providers.
Several factors have served PRINTSouth well. The company has a jumbo roll presence in four different areas: Tempe, Ariz.; Omaha, Neb.; Dallas; and Richmond, Va. All plants are climate-controlled ISO 9001:2000 certified facilities, and use inks that immediately dry. Furthermore, both sides of the web are vacuumed before and after printing and processing to remove any evidence of paper dust, which can damage laser printer components or cause allergic reactions in some people. Finally, all rolls are carefully inspected to avoid any flaws (e.g., breaks), and high-speed web cameras provide a real-time view of what is being printed to assure the best possible image quality.
Being recognized for quality also speaks to Datatel Resources Corporation's commitment to craft. Located in Monaca, Pa., the supplier continually invests in equipment and has documented procedures in place. Similar to its competition, Datatel Resources has installed video web monitoring systems. Zoom capabilities allow operators to watch for extraneous ink, which arguably is the number-one complaint from end-users or processing houses. Datatel Resources President Allen Simon believes this shouldn't happen if the job is being done right.
"We prevent that from occurring as best as anyone can, because if there is an extraneous ink on a roll, that may be cause for an immediate rejection by a customer," Simon noted. "If a customer rejects a roll, that can be the equivalent of rejecting 80,000 documents or more—you don't want to go down that road."
Datatel Resources even developed an eight-page document that addresses its quality standards; distributors can use the pamphlet as an extra selling tool.
"When [distributors] get to the point where a customer is considering them, they want to make sure that customer notes their dedication to doing a quality job," said Simon. "This document really gets into the details of quality, [identifies] common quality issues and shows how Datatel addresses those issues so the customer feels comfortable that we are really on top of this."
While sophisticated machinery is essential, suppliers can deliver value to distributor partners and their clients in other ways. A reliable partner will go the distance.
"We firmly believe that there's no one out there who will support our distributors as much in the sales process as we will," Simon remarked. And he isn't campaigning on a platform of empty promises.
In fact, when Simon and his team accompany a distributor on a sales appointment, they immediately hand out business cards, which contain their cell phone numbers. "We'll look right at the customer and say, 'Call us any time. We don't care if it's 3:00 a.m.,'" he commented. "If a customer wants to get ahold of a decision-maker at a [large major direct] plant at 3:00 a.m. on a Sunday, we challenge them to be able to do that."
Simon pointed out additional services his company offers. "We will do endless test runs. We will sponsor plant evaluations, where we'll fly in people to review our capabilities and our staff, processes and equipment. We will work with a distributor financially as far as being able to service the order from a billing perspective," he said.
Rogge confirmed that PRINTSouth is available for sales calls, test runs and plant visits as well. He also mentioned PRINTSouth's ability to store product. "Many distributors work out of their homes or out of a small shared office, so they don't have warehouses," Rogge noted. "The good manufacturers have the ability to store their product, and then release it. In other words, [distributors] tell me they want so many rolls to go to a certain location."
Just Do It
Finding the perfect partner is key, but all value is lost if distributors don't walk through the door with an aggressive (i.e., confident) attitude. And, the jumbo roll market can easily intimidate the weak at heart. First, the orders are large and the selling process differs from other areas of print.
"If you have a distributor whose total business might be $500,000 per year and all of a sudden they come across one of these things that could be $500,000 in one order, they might be frightened—because if there's a mistake made, they're probably out of business," Rogge said.
Then, there's the issue of major directs. However, Simon isn't so sure that "large" necessarily translates to "good and secure" anymore. Quite simply, the pool of available sources is shrinking. According to Simon, the timing for distributors to be taken seriously as an alternative supplier to the traditional supply chain has never been better. It all comes down to being reactive to unique needs.
"When you're quoting on these large opportunities and you're asked to put a price on a grid, good distributors will realize if they get the business, there are opportunities outside this pricing grid or RFQ. And distributors are much better than major directs at handling those exceptions," Simon affirmed.
He added, "A major direct business just has Plant A, Plant B or Plant C. A distributor has a whole independent channel of sales suppliers available to them. That's a huge advantage."
Rogge shared these sentiments. "Most distributors are local in their communities. No big manufacturer has a presence in a town, say, the size of Winston-Salem, N.C. The distributors are there to call on that person, and what keeps business is business relationships—not price," he explained.
The wheels of business will continue to turn, but one thing should always remain static: focusing on the client. This will keep distributors relevant. If they can identify and address the end-user's need—whether it's quality, pricing or efficiency—they will have a customer for life.