- Know Your (Green) Stuff
- By Jeffrey Pease — posted 07/27/2009
The challenging economy continues to hold center stage in the world of business, and yet the trend and demand for “green” products is not going away; quite the contrary, it’s on the rise. This demand is fueled by increased consumer awareness combined with unprecedented levels of local, state, and federal green legislation.
From a distributor-sales perspective, many of the prospects and customers we call on (regardless of market segment) are confused about the bundle of products that constitute a comprehensive green cleaning program. And unfortunately, many jansan sales professionals and companies are in the same position—they cannot, with clarity, point to the exact products and systems that make up such a program. When you add in the multiple brands carried by many distributors, the confusion can get even worse.
Here are some questions that distributors need to ask
• Do you know all the components of your companies green offering?
• Is there a preferred bundle?
• Has your company determined that product bundle, or is it left up to you?
• If the product bundle is left to your discretion, are you prepared to address a complete green cleaning program?
A Cautionary Tale
I was speaking with a friend of mine, a building service contractor (BSC). His company had recently made a commitment to differentiate itself by adopting green cleaning practices. Recently, it bid on a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building and successfully landed the contract. Because this project was on a fast track, the BSC asked three distributors to put forward their recommendations for implementing a complete green cleaning program that would maximize the LEED points he could deliver to the building owner. The BSC made plans to visit all three distributors to better understand their capabilities and receive product recommendations and hands-on product demonstrations.
The BSC was mostly concerned with identifying a distributor that could assist him in consolidating green products and procedures. He was looking for added value versus lowest price; however, what he observed at each meeting were organizations and salespeople who were not clear or decisive in the green products and programs they offered. His observations were as follows:
• Each distributor was confused as to how many total LEED points green cleaning could deliver. Two of the three were unaware of the LEED v3 points change that occurred this past April.
• No one was able to specifically tell him the correlation between product systems and LEED points delivered.
• Two of the three distributors had manufacturers present green cleaning as it related to their specific products. This was far from a “recommendation”; it was really just a simple review of green products offered by manufacturers conducting PowerPoint presentations.
• In most cases, the distributors presented multiple vendors in each category, leaving the BSC questioning which system was the preferred one and why.
• Microfiber systems became very confusing—numerous choices in buckets, styles of mop heads, color coding, and cleaning processes. No one gave a specific recommendation for a complete, comprehensive, proven system.
• Everyone presented at least two dilution-control systems with green chemicals, but only one distributor narrowed its recommendation to a single brand and three specific certified chemicals.
• None of the distributors had its complete bundles available for a hands-on demonstration. Some categories of products were only showcased with a brochure, leaving the BSC to wonder if it was stocked and readily available.
• In all three cases, additional follow-up was needed to provide specific product recommendations, and because the BSC was unhappy with the initial presentations, he opened the opportunity to two additional distributors.
Knowledge Is Profit
As a sales professional, it’s important for you and your company to know the exact bundle of products and services that make up a preferred, comprehensive green cleaning program. Your customers and prospects are looking for specific answers. In many cases, if not most, customers and prospects do not want to become experts on green cleaning. Instead, they’re looking for an expert they can trust.
There are times when customers know exactly what they want. They have done the research or they have used the products in the past—they know them by brand and SKU. Often, when selling these customers, what matters most is just price because there is no additional value required.
But a high percentage of customers are moving into unchartered waters when it comes to green products and procedures —they want and need help finding the best solutions. They are looking for professional assistance and are making decisions based on the added value you and your company can deliver. If you are confused and don’t have clear, succinct answers and comprehensive solutions, they will move on and get their answers elsewhere.
Here are just a few benefits of knowing your preferred green bundle of products and cleaning systems:
From a distribution-company perspective:
• The entire sales force will be focused on a preferred bundle—greater focus, easier training, and improved marketing
• With improved focus on a specific bundle of products comes greater likelihood of an improved stocking position, greater fill rate, and higher turns
• The sales force gains confidence in what it should be selling.
From a sales-representative perspective:
• You gain an understanding of the big picture—the elements of a green cleaning program versus selling individual products
• You will be a more effective seller and less confused because there are fewer products and systems to learn
• Your customers and prospects will gain confidence in you because you will have crisp answers to their questions and a comprehensive approach to green cleaning.
Go through a quick exercise to determine if you have a complete understanding of the products and cleaning processes that make up a green cleaning program. If you were asked to outfit a LEED-certified building and cleaning staff with the proper tools and products, what would your recommended list of products consist of? Remember, the customer is looking for a complete program.
Know your product and procedures. Know how those products and procedures impact green. Know your bundle. As your knowledge and confidence grows—so, too, will your sales.
Jeffrey Pease can be reached at email@example.com.