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The Role of a Specialty Advertising Distributor

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Many times the salesperson will call the distributor. Many times the distributors are very small, with only a few people, so they all know the same people. Our industry is so small that most of the distributors know the other distributors. They seem to talk about how well you are doing with your calendars. That part of it is actually word of mouth. We advertise monthly in the national trade journals, which all the distributors read, but not all the salespeople. Our industry is very old-fashioned. Our company is known by a number; we're number 5884. The distributors don't want the salespeople to know who we are. They want them to know us as a product line, not as a company. Our industry is run by a lot of small companies. Many salespeople still think of us as number 5884. They have no idea of where we are, absolutely no idea. This was done by the distributors, so that their salespeople would not learn about too many factories and try to quit selling and try distributing.

Q - How much time do you spend on the job?

A - An average week is about sixty hours. Last night I didn't leave here until 8:00, and I probably worked more than two hours when I got home. I started yesterday with an 8:15 appointment, so the days can be long. Today my first appointment was at 8:00. I started from home and rent directly there. I had three appointments before lunch, so I was out le entire morning. This afternoon I needed to be inside to finish some paper work and try to tie up some loose ends. I needed to get the orders processed and some things shipped out; so pretty much of my time is spent half in and half out. Now, while I am in the office, I will have maybe fifteen phone calls from customers asking me to research something or give them a price on something, so it doesn't necessarily requiring out in the field.

The average day starts out about 7:00. My office is in my home, o I just have to walk upstairs. Because I'm in California, I can make all riy long-distance calls before 8:00 A.M. to check on orders available, colors, and so forth. Then from 8:00 to 9:00 A.M. I take a little break and go for a jog, something like that. I make a couple of calls during the day, probably answer about a dozen phone calls, and make about ten to twenty more phone calls in working on those other calls that came in, and that's about it. My business is unusual in that I don't do any cold calling. I belong to four chambers of commerce, a service club, and a couple of professional clubs, and we send out a magazine that seems to lo a really super job.

Q - What do you particularly dislike about the job?

A - I can't think of anything. Well, I guess there is probably one thing that seems to have cropped up a lot more this year than any other rear-price cutting. People call us and ask what our price is on a certain tern. You know as soon as they ask that they have another price. A lot of our customers have been asking us about prices, so they seem to be .hopping around for these things. That is something I don't like, because f you get a customer in by lowering the price by a few cents an item, somebody else is going to get him by lowering it another few cents. And then pretty soon you are not selling service and quality, you are selling who will drive themselves out of business the quickest with the lowest prices. I swear, there must be guys out there who would kill their mothers for some of these orders!

I don't like all the paper work on my end of it. I make so many quotes in the course of a day that if I don't write them down and if I don't keep good files, three weeks later when a customer comes back and says, "All right. We are ready to order," then I may be in real big trouble. I need to be sure that I have the dates, the numbers, and who told me what. I had a problem today: Someone quoted me two months ago on an order that we are doing for a bank opening. We are doing candy coins, and now they have come back and given me a totally different production time. They have also given me a totally different price for the dies, which happens to be twice as high as what they had originally quoted me. Now I have to figure out if it is important enough for me to stay with that manufacturer and worry with it, or start quoting the job all over again. I know that there is someone else somewhere who can do as good a job, so I have to make up my mind and handle it. Sometimes the "handling it" does get involved, and I wish I could pass it off and get somebody else to do it.

I don't like the lack of professionalism at times. I wish it would happen quicker. My biggest dislike is when I see someone involved sales in the industry whom I don't consider very professional. When you sell people something with a distribution plan, there is nothing worth than going back to them in six months to a year and finding that th< still have 1,000 of the product left, because they didn't know what to ( with them. That is a shame, and to me the professionalism in this industry is changing that.

A friend of mine in specialty advertising was out one evening at a dinner party at the prestigious home of some very successful people. We noticed at the cocktail hour before the dinner was to begin that h was surrounded by a lot of professional people-doctors, lawyers, and dentists. Everybody was a professional, and they all had the credential and the alphabet behind their name. At a very appropriate lull in this conversation, a somewhat snotty doctor with whom he had been speaking turned to my friend and said, "So, tell me, what do you do?" Well the fellow said, "I am a professional salesman." Somewhat indignantly the doctor looked at this friend of mine and said, "Professional sales man! Come now! What is the difference between a professional salesman and a salesman?" My friend answered, "About $60,000 a year." I will never forget that story. To me, it is not the monetary aspect, but it is the implications that go with that type of attitude.
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