You have to have a very broad shoulder for people to cry on, both customers and salespeople. You have to be able to say no, and that is very difficult.
First, it's extremely important that you listen very carefully, and that's a skill that continually has to be practiced. Listening is only one part of the communication process. You must also be able to express yourself clearly and then confirm that you are being understood. Communication, both verbal and written, is extremely important.
Q - What advice do you have for potential physical distribution people?
A- I suggest that students start at the bottom. Having come into this from operations, I have a little bit of knowledge of that field, and it has been very helpful. I contend that starting right at the bottom is important, and really the lower the better. This means working in the warehouse to see how the product is handled, moved, shipped, and so forth. It means working with freight companies and getting into the areas of order entry, customer service, and dealings with customers and salespeople. I think that starting from the ground up is the greatest thing, and if I could go back now and start right from the bottom, I would. Start right at the lowest point you can and work your way up.
This is not a job for everyone, you definitely have to enjoy sales and be able to motivate and manage your time without a lot of instant recognition. Selling services is an intangible sales sometimes requiring months of preparation in order to get that final commitment. People who are easily discouraged don't belong in this type of business, because immediate results are not easily obtained.
Q - How do you spend an average day?
A - Two or three days a week I work in the field making sales calls on large accounts in conjunction with the assigned sales representative. In the office I would be primarily involved with sales strategy sessions and administration. Weekends are sometimes spent reading the mail to catch up on administration and to prepare for the following week.
A One of the reasons why I'm in this business is that there is no average day. I am involved in so many types of things and with so many types of businesses that we very seldom have the "mundane." More than 60 percent of the job is administrative; that means reviewing the statistics, comparing performance standards with actual accomplishments, reaching conclusions, and making recommendations. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of my time is spent on personnel matters such as training, performance reviews, and allocation of hours. The remaining 30 percent is spent in sales and working with customer service. I also frequently interact with our service group to ensure that we are selling a service that we are capable of providing our customers.
Q - What groups do you work closely with?
A - My counterpart in physical distribution is a senior traffic coor dinator-outbound, who provides all the directions to the warehouse. We work very closely together. On all the decisions affecting movement of critical products and new product distribution, we work hand in hand. In many companies these functions are handled by one department.
I work with marketing managers, because, of course, we are broken down by product, product control manager, inventory control manager, and quality control manager. In addition, I spend a great deal of time working with all the sales managers, the national sales director, the regional sales managers, and district sales managers. Also, I see all the heads of the international departments, because we essentially draw products from the same base.
By schedule, my service managers and I are together at least one to two hours each week to review our sales and service activity and to be sure that we are not moving in separate directions.
Q - Do you sense much stress?
A - The problem is that it varies at different times of the year. I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, an 8; and that's relatively high. The way I deal with it comes from ten years' experience in operations to know this job.
Q - What do you enjoy about your job?
A - One of the delights about this business is that you're involved with many different types of people and businesses. It is rewarding to experience the various types of organizations, methods of production, marketing schemes, and the variety of people you must work with. We could be out talking to a dock worker one day and then the next day be making a presentation to the chairman of the board. It is a continual learning experience and a rewarding one as it relates to the interpersonal relationships with people, positions, attitudes, and philosophies. That part of it makes it interesting.
Q - How could your job be improved?
A - In our company it would be bringing together the two areas that I talked about-distribution and customer service-and putting them under one person. If we could combine the two departments into one central function, it would be better.
Q - What trends do you see in the field?
A - What I would like to have here, and I see it in a lot of other companies, is the intermix of customer service and the distribution and operations area. I see those two blending more and more because the freight considerations in making shipments and buying products have become so important. Freight at one time was not a factor in business, but now it is.