On occasion the different sales organizations will bump into one another in the field when pursuing new business. But so far as Singer is concerned, that's to be expected. And, as one might expect, the company has a simple, pragmatic approach to handling these situations.
"Any time you have a larger sales organization, you will have conflicts. Our basic philosophy is that we will put forward the salesperson that has the best chance to secure the order and delight the customer," Singer says. "And making that decision is the role of the manager. We tell our team to pick up the phone and talk to one another when conflicts arise. And 8 or 9 times out of 10, they figure it out themselves. There is no mystery as to how we are going to figure it out when they come to me or someone in management. In some cases we will have a team effort to help close the sale. As customers change, you need to change your sales process to respond to that reality. And in a lot of those times, team selling is the proper response."
As a result, Singer Equipment Co. is able to better leverage the skills of each employee. "People's weaknesses don't ever change. So we try to supplement their weaknesses by building teams around them," Singer says. "We have to try to propel the great salespeople we have to a whole different level because you can't just go hire another great salesperson. It's just not that easy. So everything we can do to get a salesperson in a position where they can close more orders and support them with people around them creates more value. Yes, there are problems that come from this, but the benefits outweigh them."
The company used this focused, team-oriented approach as a springboard to growing its business. In addition to resonating with customers and factories alike, several longtime distributor sales reps also took notice when it was time for them to make a career change. For example, the decision by a broadline distributor and other regional equipment and supplies dealers to exit the contract space presented new growth opportunities for Singer Equipment Co. as some of these companies' people looked for new opportunities to continue their careers.
"We were able to pick up some good quality people with good reputations," says John Vozzo, a 29-year company veteran who serves as the dealer's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "They wanted to go to a quality location that understood the business, and that was us. Bringing on some very good salespeople is almost like acquiring a new company. So when you bring on a contract salesperson that's doing $3 million to $8 million, that's a good chunk. We went from a local dealer to a regional dealer to a national dealer, at least on the contract side."
The company has done a good job of converting its local origins into a key attribute of the value proposition that drives today's success. "We were lucky to be based in a small town because we were used to giving service and working shoulder-to-shoulder with our customers," says Henry Singer, the dealer's chairman. "When we got into the big markets, that small-town experience made a difference for us because it allowed us to bond with our customers. The thing that makes me most proud is the endless flow of comments about how we follow through on our commitment to service. I am proud of the fact that we have high standards for ourselves and our customers."
Indeed, although the company continues to grow, it will not compromise the way it services customers. "It is important to make sure we can service what we sell," Vozzo says. The majority of what we sell is serviced by our own fleet of trucks that come out of our distribution center."
As the company has evolved, so too has its customer base. "Our mix of customers has changed. Some of it was done by attrition. We built our business on independents, and only the strong independents survive. But we seek out the growing chains, like every other dealer, because you can grow with them," Vozzo says. "We are so diverse and service such a broad base of customers that, when the economy struggled in recent years, one side of the business helped the other out and allowed us to keep growing. It's a good balance."