Mike Plasman, a veteran dealer sales representative with Stafford-Smith Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., said it is his attention to detail that has helped him achieve professional excellence — and his best year ever in 2005.
“I'm very detail-oriented,” Plasman admitted. “When it comes to staying on top of things and answering questions as quickly as possible, I'm real good.”
Indeed, once he gets started on a project, Plasman explained, “I make sure that it's going to come in on time and in budget. Once I get the order, I go through every piece of equipment. I make sure the client has the right electrical and plumbing connections, and that things are going to sit correctly. I try and eliminate as many problems as I can when the equipment shows up at the job site.”
Plasman got his start in the industry 21 years ago when he was hired by a Grand Rapids refrigeration company to help it expand its bakery/deli business. Much of his time there was spent servicing convenience-store clients. He joined Stafford-Smith slightly more than six years ago.
During the course of his career, Plasman has soaked up a wealth of experience from a variety of sources, including more experienced sales and manufacturers' reps as well as Stafford-Smith's own Dave Stafford Sr., Dave Stafford Jr. and regional Sales Manager Mike Van de Bogert.
The business today is “much more competitive than what it has been in the past,” Plasman reflected. “With internet sales allowing people to shop all over the country, there is no limit to the geographical areas anymore. So, we see a lot of people shopping everywhere. Since everybody can sell equipment [based solely] on price, it all comes down to service.”
Plasman specializes in outside sales, handling a variety of projects from concept drawing through Auto-CAD work, layout and mechanicals all the way through ordering of equipment and installation follow-through. “I don't do CAD,” he said, “but I oversee my projects and work with the customers as far as layout and design.” He normally has as many as six to a dozen projects going at one time, mostly in the Midwest. He racks up about 25,000 to 30,000 road miles per year.
After personally accounting for slightly more than $1.5 million in sales last year, Plasman said he expects to hit $2 million this year, namely because his target audience is expanding.
Over the course of last year, Plasman became more heavily involved in grocery stores, selling items like cases, refrigeration and other equipment. “That's opened a new avenue to me,” he said. “We're seeing a lot of home meal replacement, plus deli areas are expanding. Operators are being a little bit more foodservice-oriented in the grocery and convenience stores.” The result is that 2006 is off to the best start of any year in his career.
Plasman said he considers himself fortunate that he can draw business from all three industries. “Back in 2001, my emphasis at Stafford was primarily convenience stores because that had been my background. When the market took a hit, I was able to switch over and get more into foodservice.”
But whether it's restaurants, c-stores or grocery outlets, Plasman concluded, knowledge remains power. “You've got to continue to learn as you go and find new ways of doing business, and new opportunities.” He is doing just that right now, working on a fast-food project in Georgia that he found through a relationship with a commercial leasing agent in California. He is also networking with retail project developers handling strip malls and other properties, as well as general contractors and architects.