Most Jan/San distributors have at least 3,000 items to sell. New sales people and even seasoned professionals sometimes lose focus on what to sell. Paper and Plastics are a pricing game. Chemicals and Dilution stations are on every street corner. So what do I sell?

The core products your company sells is a good place to start. Narrowing down your focus will help you stay focused on the task at hand. By doing this you eliminate the shot gun approach to selling. The other products like bowl swabs and mop handles usually sell themselves. Remember your trying to prove your value to the customer.

Narrow it down further by looking for products, equipment, or programs that create interest with the customer and almost never fail. The value and importance of selling that item or program goes up exponentially if it “solves a problem”. Be exceptional at presenting the best core products and programs. Know these products inside and out. Be able to demonstrate them.

There is nothing more embarrassing than going out to a customer and trying to sell everything the company sells or not knowing how your product fits the customer’s needs. I have watched it happen and the results are disastrous. Have you ever seen the movie Tommy Boy with actor Chris Farley? There is a scene when Chris is in front of a customer and he burns the customer’s model car? That scene reminds me of how you feel when you are not prepared or try to oversell the customer. You can bet the next time you call that customer it’s going to be tougher to get an appointment.

The goal is not to be consider a “Great Salesperson” but rather a “Trusted Consultant”. Learn your customers business, and present the winning go to ideas to help solve your customer’s problem. You will be asked to solve other problems and sales growth will happen more easily.

David Corker is a sales manager in the jan/san distribution industry. He can be reached at