Tune in for practical strategies that manufacturers can use to support their distributors.
Episode 304: Manufacturers of heavy-duty parts and their distributors must work closely together to get the parts the trucking industry needs to keep trucks and trailers rolling. In this episode, we’ll discuss the 5 ways every manufacturer should support their distributors to maximize sales, customer satisfaction, and increased operational efficiency.
Our featured guest is SAMPA USA, a leading manufacturer of quality heavy-duty parts crucial for maintaining commercial vehicle performance, efficiency, and fleet reliability. Join us as Jamie Irvine and Scott Boltz break down the 5 steps and feature an interview conducted with Felipe Bumagny and Bob Johnson of SAMPA USA who provide a great case study on what it takes to support your distributors as a supplier.
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Transcript of Episode
You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people.
Welcome to episode 304. In this episode, we are going to review a tried and true system for getting your manufacturing reps to come work in the field with you if you are a distributor sales rep. We’re also going to talk about the five things every manufacturer needs to do in order to be successful selling their heavy-duty parts in North America through distribution. And finally, we’re going to review a experience that I had early on in my sales career that really highlights the need to be adaptable.
Alright, let’s get started. So salespeople, if you work for a distributor and you’re a sales account manager, don’t underestimate the power of working with your manufacturing reps in the field and talking to the fleets and the repair shops directly. This kind of collaborative work between you and your suppliers is essential for success. A lot of salespeople, I don’t know why, really resisted this.
When I was selling parts, a lot of my counterparts, they hated doing it and they tried to get out of it as much as possible. Maybe it was because I started my career as a manufacturer, but I knew how important it was for manufacturers to work with their distributors in the field. And so I developed a system in order to accomplish that, to make the whole process easy for everybody and for us to get the absolute most out of it.
What was the result? Every time I did this, my sales went up in that category. So I recommend that you do the same. To help me walk through the system, I’m inviting my Podcast Director, Diana Cudmore to the show.
Hey Jamie, how’s it going?
Very good. Diana, welcome back to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. Let’s talk about this system.
So you’ve taken this complex thing and made it into a super simple four step process to book manufacturer reps and get success. So tell me, the first step is going to be getting a time with them, right?
Absolutely. This is not as easy as it sounds, right? Shouldn’t you just be able to email each other, phone each other up and book a time? But manufacturer reps, they travel all over large regions. They have a very dynamic schedule. You as a sales account manager, you have a lot of customers to take care of, and even though maybe your route that you’re selling on is pretty systematic and kind of the same week over week, you still have a lot of work to do. And so coordinating your schedules can be a real challenge.
I found that the easiest way to do this was to use an online calendar booking system. This is oftentimes available through your CRM. Right now in our company we use HubSpot and we use their calendar booking and it just syncs right to my Outlook calendar. So everything is super easy.
When I was a sales account manager, we didn’t have that. So I actually paid for, and it just expensed it to the company. It was very cheap, a few dollars a month. The benefit of it is that you block off times when you’re available and when you’re not. And I would block off an entire week at a time of when I was available.
And then what I did is I built a list of all my suppliers and I would send them an email and I would say, Hey, look, it’s coming up to next quarter. I’m starting to plan next quarter, and I would like to work with you in the field. Click this link to see my availability and book a time that works for you.
This eliminated all the back and forth, the phone calls, the emails. They could just look at my availability, look at their calendar and select the time that was best for them. And it worked great and they loved it.
Perfect. So after a rep has booked, this is the second step after they’ve booked, they’ve got a lot of logistics to deal with. So Jamie, what did you do to make it easier on them?
So there’s a bunch of things that I thought through when I was a manufacturing rep and I flew into an area, maybe I was unfamiliar with the area, so what do I need to know? So here’s the information that I communicated and I just made a template and then I just sent it to them.
So it was a copy and paste into an email, but I gave them our store location with the full address and any instructions on how to get to the store if it’s not an easy place to find, parking instructions because they’re going to be leaving their rented vehicle at the store while they jump in my truck and come with me. And we don’t want that vehicle in the way, so where should they park.
The best hotels in the area and the hotels to stay away from, the best restaurants in town so that they can get a decent meal.
And sometimes if you live in a small community like me, there was all of these mom and pops and these kind of restaurants that weren’t chains and they made really great food. And that’s something that if you’re not from the area, you wouldn’t even know they were there.
And trust me, manufacturer reps who were on the road, they get pretty sick of going to places like Boston Pizza, so they love that. And then finally, I included an itinerary for the week. Who are we going to go see? What’s the situation with that person? Is it a fleet? Is it a repair shop?
How many units, what kinds of equipment do they work on? What’s the buying history on their product category? And also, if we were going to do training, we always did a lunch and learn when a rep came out for the week. So we always, right in the middle of the week on Wednesday, we would tell all of our customers to come down to the store, we’d give them pizza, and this rep would spend 45 minutes training them on their products.
So what was the details around the training that we were going to do? And this just was all sent ahead of time. I didn’t have to think about it. They didn’t have to think about it. We could just show up on Monday morning and everybody knew exactly what to expect and what to do.
Perfect. So step three is actually do the work during that week that the rep has blocked off. Now tell me what was the response to the system?
Well, first of all, the reps loved it. They raved about it all the time. And they also noticed it created an environment where we could be highly productive and we could get more done. It also, what we did is in real time, I had the habit of using my CRM to keep track of what I was doing on every call. So after every call, we would do a debrief in the truck.
I would document it very quickly in my CRM, and then at the end of the week, I provided them with this call report. So then they didn’t even have to key it in, they could just copy and paste it into their call report. I’m telling you, the reps loved it and we were highly productive and we were always successful at selling more products.
So that’s great. Now you’ve done all this work. The rep has put in a full week and as step four, what are you doing next to make sure that this was successful?
So roughly two to three weeks later, I would give them an update on what had happened since they left, what sales were made, what questions were there, were there any issues with any of the products that we sold and we’re sending to them. And I just gave them a very quick, so I could take that call report from that week and I could just add a little note column and just say, hey, remember this guy, we talked this, this.
And I would also remind them if there were commitments that were made by them and for some reason that hadn’t been fulfilled, I would give them an update and then they could go talk to their operations people and make sure things didn’t fall through the cracks or that didn’t get forgotten.
This just worked. It worked. And it’s a little bit of preparation like it’s the five Ps, proper planning prevents poor performance, that little bit of preparation. A little bit of automation with some digital tools, and you can have a phenomenal experience with your manufacturing reps. Thank you, Diana for going over that with me. I really appreciate it.
Thanks so much, Jamie.
If you’re a salesperson that works for a distributor and you want to try this system, by all means I want you to try it. I encourage you to try it. If you’re not sure about how to do it or if you run into any problems, just reach out to us.
We’ll be happy to help you set it up, and then we want to hear how it goes. So please let us know. Now let’s talk about the manufacturing side of the equation because there are certain things they need to do in order to make you as the distributor successful. And that’s what our next segment is all about.
Last fall at AAPEX ’23, I had the chance to go to the SAMPA booth and interview their President for North America, Felipe Bumagny, and also Bob Johnson, their new Senior VP for the central region. During that conversation, we really got to talk about what it takes to support distribution in the heavy-duty parts industry, and I wanted to have an extended conversation about that.
So joining me today is Scott Boltz. He is the Director of Consulting Services at our consulting company, the Heavy Duty Consulting Corporation. Now, Scott has a long history of working with manufacturers and suppliers and helping them to grow their business through distribution.
There are a lot of things that people do in this business that sometimes lead to what I call the sales prevention department, meaning they do things that get in the way of them growing, but there’s some best practices that every supplier should really be thinking about in order to succeed.
So if you are a, let’s say an aftermarket, maybe you’re tier two, tier three manufacturer, and you’re listening to this right now and you’re thinking, what do I have to do to succeed in the North American market? This is the episode for you. So let’s welcome Scott Boltz to the program. Scott, welcome back to The Heavy Duty Parts Report.
Hey, thank you, Jamie. Great to be here.
Scott, you and I have had some interesting conversations over the years on the show. We’ve done some lives together, we’ve done some podcast episodes. You’ve now joined our company. Can you just tell people very briefly what your background is, why you are so qualified when it comes to helping suppliers get their distribution game done right..
Well, I kind of worked my way up through the logical chain of things. I started out as a fleet technician when I was in college and then went in as a sales representative and I covered a portion of a state territory and then went on from there after I graduated to being a regional sales manager, selling a power electronics line to the regional southeast of the United States, and then from there to national and then from there to North America.
So over those years that you’ve done this and then you’ve also worked with other companies where you’ve helped them. Now you’re consulting for us and we do a lot of that work. We help companies to pioneer new lines in the North American market and to succeed in distribution. So let’s go through five things that every supplier needs to get right in order to succeed in selling their heavy-duty parts through distribution in North America.
When I was selling for distributors, one of the big things for me was I had to trust the product because there was nothing worse than me putting my reputation on the line with my customer, then selling them a product and it fails and then all of a sudden I have to deal with the fallout of that. So talk to me a little bit about how truly important it is to provide a product that distributors can trust.
Well, I think the most critical thing that you could say, the most important thing about quality being, it’s a barrier to entry. There’s very few products out there that I’m aware of in our industry that can survive if they have a quality event that repeats itself over a long period of time.
The more entrenched larger companies, they experiment with their supply chain and they test new things and ways to save money, and sometimes they get burned in doing that, but they also have a lean six Sigma system in place where they can remedy those problems and get the product back on track.
For smaller companies coming in, it’s just as important too because you’re establishing new relationships and establishing your brand identity tied to that quality system. So again, I look at it as a barrier to entry more than it is an ongoing event. You have to have the quality in place in order to sustain in this market.
Let’s listen in to a clip from my interview with the folks at SAMPA.
SAMPA is very well known for being an airbag manufacturer, and I think we’re the third largest airbag supplier in the world. We’re in the process of trying to grow that and expand that product line here in North America.
We’ve added several new products to our product portfolio, and we’re starting to see that take off. Here in the US we’ve got torque rods, v arms, tie rod ends, full suspension kits. We’re going to be launching a new fifth wheel next year. It’s a SAMPA design fifth wheel.
Really? That’s exciting. So a completely unique design to SAMPA.
Complete unique design. I don’t have too many details on it except the primary challenge here is going to be, the primary challenge for the fifth wheel is to make sure that that grease gets spread evenly and we’re redesigning the channels, the grease channels to accomplish that.
Yes. Fantastic. And you just listed off a number of suspension components As you move into that world, there’s a lot of engineering that has to go into that. I mean, obviously it’s the part of the foundation of the truck or the trailer, so there’s safety considerations.
Talk a little bit about how SAMPA invests in the engineering side of the business and about how you’re a manufacturer that controls all of the aspects of manufacturing. How does that factor into bringing these great products to market?
Yeah, sure. We have a manufacturing campus in Samson, Turkey. Part of that campus, we’ve got an R&D research and development team that consists of over 200 engineers and they’re dedicated to reverse engineering in some cases and or adding, adding our own flavor to whatever the component is to enhance the features and the benefits of that component of that product.
That makes a lot of sense. So for example, with the fifth wheel, that’s how you came to this, hey, look, there’s an issue in the industry. Let’s address it. Let’s try to enhance what’s already in the market and provide your customers with something that they can go to market with.
That’s exactly right.
When you’re talking to your distributors that are selling to the trucking industry, when I was selling for distributors, product differentiation was always tough. There wasn’t always a lot where I would be different than my competitor. How does Sampa really change the game for distributors in that respect?
Well, I mean, we focus on quality. Quality is of the utmost importance with SAMPA, but at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to bring an aftermarket, a quality aftermarket alternative to this market.
This market is extremely competitive, and when you focus on quality, sometimes you can get a little too deep into that, but we’re focused on the quality, but then also being able to bring that quality product to the North American market at a very competitive aftermarket price.
Well, that’s just it. We all want the best of both worlds. We want it as inexpensive as possible, as high as quality as possible so it lasts as long as possible. Okay, so let’s move on to our second thing that every supplier needs to really get right, and that is to communicate the value proposition. Some people call it a unique sales proposition, USP. Scott, in your experience, where do people get this wrong and what should they do?
Yeah, exactly. Well, I think it is our natural first reaction to come at it with what we consider be barriers to entry. We have good quality, we have great customer service, that whole thing. But if that’s the barrier to entry, then you really need to come at it from a different angle.
And so I think a more mature marketing system, you come at it with five to seven different topics that not only your customers can relate with, but also your team. So it becomes a system of promises and covenants that you keep to yourself as well as to your customer.
When I hear barriers to entry into the business, it reminds me of the pitch that most salespeople are using both at the supplier level and at the distribution level. I actually wrote up the script and had a professional actor record it so that I could show people. And every time I do Scott, the reaction that I get is big smiles and heads going, yep, that’s exactly right.
That’s how most salespeople are pitching, and they’re really just kind of telling people, hey, we have the barriers, the minimum to get into this business is what we do. Listen in to the pitch that we recorded, it’s quite interesting.
Hi, I’m John Smith and I work for ABC parts company. We’ve been in business for 75 years and our parts people have over 300 years combined parts experience. We sell a wide range of high quality parts at affordable prices. The next time you think about buying the parts we sell, think about ABC parts company.
So you can see Scott from that, right? That pitch is, hey, we’ve been in business a long time, we’ve got good quality products, pricing, blah, blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, yeah, but if you don’t do any of those things, you’re not going to be able to be successful in this business.
So now what I’d like you to do for me, Scott, is why don’t you run through the seven things that you help our clients do, our supplier clients get right in order to position themselves to win in this business. And then after that, we’ll listen into a clip of what SAMPA had to say. So go ahead, Scott. Don’t you run through those seven things?
Sure. In no specific order, first and foremost is a service promise. This is what I’m going to do for you outside of provide you a product. So that falls into that. Secondly and different is the commercial covenant. And so my business relationship with you is going to fall within these control limits and the promises that we’re going to make within that, of course, there’s a quality guarantee of some sort. We’re also communicating within that value proposition, a portfolio plan.
Here’s what we have now, but here’s where we’re going as we evolve our business with the market. And then that ties into technology and innovation. And so our commitments to what we’re doing currently in that space, the common mantra that it’s make it easy to do business with us. So policy simplicity is another one. And then just as important as pricing is availability. So we have a commitment to our availability to you as a customer.
Thanks, Scott. I really appreciate you running through those seven critical things that need to be in your value proposition. SAMPA has been a partner of the show for a long time. They’ve been a sponsor of ours, they’ve been on the show many times. I really like what they’re doing in the business, and I think that they’ve done a very good job of positioning themselves with a strong value proposition, listening to what they had to say at AAPEX ’23 when I was there at their booth.
This balancing act that you’ve been able to successfully achieve. Tell me a story of one of your customers who’s a distributor, who’s been quite successful selling your products and really taking advantage of that price and quality partnership.
Sure. We’ve got two, I don’t want to get into specifics on who the customers are, but we’ve got two significant customers in the central and in the western regions that we’re primarily ordering or primarily purchasing airbags from SAMPA because that’s what we’re known for and whatnot. We’ve been able to increase the breadth of their purchases through multiple product lines by showing them the features, the benefits, and the advantages of our torque rods and our v-arms and our fifth wheels, et cetera. So we’ve seen quite a bit of growth with those two customers. I mean, almost doubling the business in one year.
And that is excellent for you to sell more product, but it’s really good for the distributor because then the distributor actually is able to offer a more comprehensive offering to their customers and take care of their customers, which is so essential, right? The trucking industry is the backbone of society. We got to keep trucks rolling and trailers rolling, and having access to all of these products really empowers them to do that.
And what we do is by increasing that breadth of product line, we’re also kind of creating a one-stop shop for a lot of suspension parts as well as steering components. And there’s initiatives to grow our product portfolio outside of those two product categories.
Exciting things to come.
Lot of exciting things. Great to see you. Thanks Jamie. Always a pleasure. Thanks. Thank you very much.
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So when I was at AAPEX ’23 and I was talking to the folks at SAMPA, we did talk about their sales strategy for North America and how they’ve had to adapt that strategy over time because of course we’ve had some pretty dynamic times listening to what they had to say.
From your perspective, how is serving the North American market different than let’s say the European or Asian market? Since you’re such a global company, you kind of see that entire picture. So how does North American different?
Well, it’s more in the way that we go to market here. It’s more of the way that we go to market, which defers from the way that we go to market in Europe or even South America or Asia for that matter. Their sales are a lot more pulverized here in North America. We focus on large distributors.
We have a very disciplined way of going to market. We’d like to allow our distributors to grow with us and to be very as profitable as possible with us instead of trying to service different levels of distribution at the same time, which we don’t think that that’s conducive to growth and long-term relationships.
So Scott, when we’re working with companies that are looking to sell heavy duty parts through distribution in the North American market, we often hear them say things like, well, we want to sell through distribution. But that is a very broad description of who your customer is. So walk us through why it’s important to develop an ideal customer profile and then how that can change regionally depending on where you’re selling.
Indeed. Well, in the North American aftermarket, it’s really dominated by four kind of major verticals, and we know what those verticals are. The OES supplier channel, with the nameplate truck dealers, you have national WDs companies that span coast to coast and touch every state and every province.
And then you have members, independent members of buying groups as well as specialty shops. And we look at ’em in kind of those four categories. And depending on where you are in both Canada and the United States, coast to coast really depends on the majority of the volume of that distribution. And so on the East Coast, you’re going to get a larger denser population using a lot more of the highway infrastructure.
And as you move west past the Midwest, it becomes very heavy in agriculture. So a lot of your distribution base is servicing not just the trucking industry, but also other industries as well. And then you have the Rocky Mountains, and then beyond that into the West coast, it’s got its own kind of contained economy within itself.
So what we end up seeing is we end up seeing that you need to have a sales strategy that’s going to help you to win with a very specific customer type. You have to know who it is that you’re selling to, and you have to kind of adapt your approach based on who it is you’re selling to. But you also have to take those regional considerations and you have to think about the differences between regions.
And I know when I was selling parts, we had a headquarters that was in Quebec, which is French speaking and in Eastern Canada. And we were all the way out in Western Canada, but not just Western Canada. We were in British Columbia in the Vancouver area. Those markets could not be more different if you tried. They are just so distinct and you have to treat things differently. And so a one size fits all approach doesn’t really work.
Okay, let’s move on to the fourth item on my list here. I think it’s so important to have a big red easy button for your customers. So it has to be easy for distributors. It has to be easy for their customers, the end user of your products. What specific items need to go into building out a good customer buying experience?
Well, customer service is so critical and we invest so much time and money and onboarding new distribution that it can easily be disrupted or even ruined by a poor customer experience afterwards. So you set at the onset, every company has their own sales prevention department. If we consider the own companies we work for, we can kind of list out those things. One of the things that we advise within our consulting corporation is to, you can knock out the easy stuff pretty quickly.
So policies that you have in place that are good for your internal team, but maybe not good for your customer, you can eliminate things like that. You can also look at what your competitors aren’t doing well by asking your distributors because they’ll be happy to tell you. And so you can take things like that and just with the mindset of eliminating friction at every possible turn. And what I think you’ll find over the net effect over time is that everything becomes much easier.
The customers become happier. And one of the best things to get from a customer is a compliment. They’re rare, right? It’s much more common to get complaints. But when your customer service team is being held up because that experience is so good, then you’ve achieved that level of greatness.
SAMPA ensures that their distributors are getting what I would call a progressively better buying experience over time. And we talked about that while I was at their booth at AAPEX ’23. Let’s listen in.
Absolutely. So we have now developed a couple of protocols and systems within resources within our organization that allow us to very quickly react to truck down situations or unit down situations.
We are very efficient in overnighting products anywhere in North America, and customers are making use of that because they understand, many when you’re talking about the C’s and D’s in, nobody wants to keep a lot of inventory, but we do because we manufacture the parts we sell. So we have a complete range of all of the product categories that we manufacture. We have a complete range from A to E’s and Fs, right?
So the E and Fs sometimes distributors or shop, they need to get those parts overnight or even the same day. The other thing that is interesting is we are seeing an uptick in will call. And we believe that once Fontana is fully operational, as we’re already seeing in Georgia in Bufort, the will call option for these bigger markets that we will increase even further.
Alright, we are coming to the end of our five things that suppliers need to do to succeed when selling through distribution. Number five, and this is one I purposely put to the end, I think it’s the most important one, and that is that it’s all about the end user. Yes, you are a manufacturer, yes, your immediate customer is your distributors, but at the end of the day, it’s the people who buy your product, install it on their equipment.
So it’s the owner operator, it’s the fleet, it’s the service center that’s buying from your distributors and installing those parts. It has to be all about them. So talk to me a little bit about how a company can have this focus on the end user and how that contributes to better relationships with your distributors.
Indeed. I think all manufacturing companies, marketing departments, their ultimate goal when you really boil it down to its essence is to create a brand champion at the end user level because that’s where the word of mouth marketing comes in through, and it’s where the brand loyalty exists.
So sometimes you’ll have a distributor that may change a supplier of a product and have difficulty changing their end user because they’re so entrenched. And so one of the things that I found most valuable at all levels of my career has been to do field work and to be there as a manufacturer in the garage. And you can’t wear your nice Oxford shoes when you’re in there.
You have to be really in the truck and on the truck and seeing the application of your products as they experience it at the service level. And so whether that’s a fleet garage or a service center, the best information is voice of customer, and the only way to get it is to go see.
Yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly. As a manufacturer, when I started my career, I worked in the field with my distributors. Then when I moved to the distribution level, I made it a priority to work with my suppliers. And it always benefited the end user customer, which of course has a good economic impact on your sales results.
So SAMPA is really working hard to listen to their distributors and to establish this wide footprint across North America so that the product, they’re a company that stocks a lot of product. They control their own manufacturing, their inventory levels are great, but they had a problem where they had one warehouse and they just weren’t able to get the products to their distributors fast enough.
So they’re addressing that issue by expanding their footprint, listen in to what they have accomplished thus far and their plans for the near future. And in order to support these distributors, last year you were telling us about how you were going to expand the footprint here in North America. So give us an update on how that’s turned out.
Well, so we set up, now we’re up to four warehouses in North America.
Tell us where they are.
So one is Frisco, north of Dallas, Texas. The other one is south of Chicago in Illinois, north of Atlanta, Bufort in Georgia. And the fourth one for this year is going to be operational end of December, beginning of January in Fontana, California.
So you’re covering the east coast, the west coast, the south. You’ve got it covered.
And we’re not done. No, we’re not done. We have two more warehouses that we’re planning for next year. That’s fantastic. One is going to be somewhere in the northeast, a smaller warehouse to be kind of a quick reaction warehouse to that market. New England, that area, north Atlantic, and then another one probably in West Canada somewhere.
And when you’re dealing with distributors, inventory is very important. Absolutely. This is something that you’ve emphasized before. So what does having these strategic warehouses do for your distributors?
Well, two things, allows us to maintain more product in place at all times. So I have more space where to inventory product, and that’s exactly what we do. We utilize each one of these facilities fully. And the second thing that allow us to get to the customer a lot quicker, right?
Two warehouses. They are very strategically located, Chicago and Dallas. But when we’re talking about the coasts, either the right or the left coast, we need to be a little bit quicker. So these additional warehouses will allow us to get to anywhere in North America within two days.
Thank you Scott, so much for joining us today. This list of five things suppliers need to do to succeed with distribution. It’s a short list, but there is a lot there, and every company has its own challenges. So how do we help companies like that when everybody’s a little bit different?
Well, I think our team brings a lot of experience to the table, and what we really offer is a tailormade solution to any given problem. And it can be something as simple in one kind of channel, or it could be something broad-based and tackling everything from marketing through the commercialization of that system.
Absolutely. So if people are interested, reach out to us and we will be happy to meet with you and discuss your specific situation. Scott, thank you for leveraging your 25 plus years of experience in parts manufacturing and distribution. Really appreciate having you on the show.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thanks Jamie.
And also, of course, we want to have a big thank you to Sampa for coming onto the show and joining us at AAPEX ’23 and talking to us about all of the things that they are doing right now. If you’re interested in learning more about their company, head over to sampa.com and you can learn about the products that they manufacture and you can access distributors that they sell their parts through.
As always too, we want to recommend that you go to our sponsor, finditparts.com to buy your heavy-duty parts. So all of the products that we talk about on the show are available on finditparts.com.
And you should go over there today. All right, so in our next segment, it’s time for That’s Not Heavy Duty to help me go through this information. I have to invite my podcast director, Diana Cudmore, back to the show. Diana, welcome back.
Thank you, Jamie. Now, we all know that this industry has been a little bit slow to change, but tell me about a time that someone was so resistant to change that they were just completely rigid.
So let’s go back in the way back time machine, and it is in the very early two thousands. I am in my early twenties. I’m in my first sales role. I’ve been working for a remanufacturer for a few years. I kind of understood, I had built the product myself. I had managed the people who were building that product, and so I knew it very, very well.
But we were having a problem with one distributor who was claiming an unusually high number of warranties. And so I went over to Vancouver Island and I drove up to our distributor’s location and we went into the field together.
So I was the manufacturing rep. I’m going out with the sales account manager, and we go visit this customer, and as we walk through the bay door of the shop, I see a pile. I’m talking a pile, of our valves on the floor, and that was their warranty location.
And they were just throwing them in this pile. And I mean, this pile was probably two feet deep. And I mean, I knew there was no possible way that much of our product was failing with only one customer because our warranty rates were very low with all of our other customers.
So something was unique about this situation. I was going there with an open mind to try to solve the problem. And this mechanic who, he was the lead mechanic, he’d been there for three decades plus he really had an attitude and he kind of sauntered out and he controlled a large amount of spending with this distributor.
So the distributor was nervous, he didn’t want to lose the business, and this is what this guy was threatening. And so he hits me right out of the gate with, I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I know what I’m doing, and your product is garbage.
And I was feeling a little nervous. I’m a young guy and I’m just looking at this pile of valves and I see a Williams 616 A valve. It is the most simple valve known to man. It is basically a bottom housing, a top housing, one O-ring and a diaphragm. And the air goes in the top and the diaphragm flexes, and then it purges the air out the bottom. It’s just a quick release valve is all. It’s so easy to manufacture, they never fail.
And I saw one at the top of the pile. And so I looked at him and I said, I think you’ve been doing this 10 years too long. And he just lost his mind. And my distributor just about fainted. And the guy was like, you… he says ,’you young…’. He’s just like all over me, and he’s swearing at me and yelling at me, and I just put my hands up.
I said, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. I said, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to pick a random valve out of this pile, and we’re going to go over to that air bench and we’re going to test it. And if it fails, I’m taking the entire pile back with me right now. I’m giving you a full credit. And we will replace all of the product with not remanufactured product, but brand new product. But if it works, you have to admit that maybe there’s something you guys are doing in the shop that’s incorrect.
Maybe I’m right. Maybe you’ve just been doing this 10 years too long and you’re just not paying attention to this. And he stopped and he was a very assertive guy. So I was matching his level of assertiveness. So there was almost like this little bit of like you SOB, but at the same time you’re on buddy. I know I’m right now, I knew there was no way in heck I was picking a valve that was complex, that might actually be a warranty, but he didn’t know that.
So I go and I pick that 616 A valve up. We go over to the test bench, I put in the fittings, I air it up, and I’m like, and he leaks anything that works or doesn’t work here the way it’s supposed to. And the look on his face and good to him, he’s like, yeah, okay, maybe we got a problem. And so in the end that actually that deal worked out, he calmed down and there was a bit of respect, and we worked through all of those potential warranties.
I did a whole bunch of testing that day, and we did find a couple that there was something wrong with them, but actually most of ’em were contaminated by them, but most of them were fine.
And so that forced this guy because now he’s a man of his word. He’s made a wager with me and he lost. And so it’s just a good example. It’s not heavy-duty to be rigid and to be inflexible and to operate on old information the way equipment used to work. You’ve got to adapt.
Now, remember, this was back in the early two thousands. This is almost 20 years ago. Now it is so much more important that we are adaptable, that we keep up with the new technology, that we update, the way that we do things. So that rigidness, that resistance to change doesn’t really have a detrimental impact on our business. That’s the heavy-duty way.
Agreed. And I wasn’t expecting the story to end like that. I was expecting that it ended in a fist fight.
There was a high risk of that probability, but fortunately, I narrowly avoided. By the way, little cliff note on that, we got back in the truck and the distributor punched me in the arm and he goes, ‘never do that to me again’. And then he goes, ‘you got balls, man’. And he goes, ‘I’m so glad I brought you up here’.
That’s a great story.
Yeah. So anyway, that is the conclusion of this week’s episode. Thanks again, Diana, for all of your help. I really appreciate it. So in conclusion, when this episode airs, we’re going to be unpacking our bags from HDAW. So I want you to look for those upcoming interviews. I know that this is going to be a record breaking year at HDAW and am positive that the interviews we’re going to do, you’re going to find a lot of value in them.
So look for those. If you haven’t already and you don’t want to miss that content, go over to heavydutypartsreport.com. Sign up to our weekly email so you never miss out. It’s one email a week. Just so you don’t miss the content. And if you are listening on a podcast player of your choice, hit that follow button for free. Or if you’d like to watch the videos on YouTube, make sure you subscribe to our channel. Thank you so much for your ongoing support of the show.
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