Whomever crafted the adage, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” must have not worked in the jan/san industry.

Progressive building service contractors are always looking for ways to increase productivity while decreasing labor costs, even if it means involving additional people. A developing trend has BSCs working directly with manufacturer representatives.

In this relationship, the reps serve BSCs in a variety of ways, encompassing every side of their business. In one capacity, reps speak on behalf of a manufacturer. In another, they are working on behalf of BSCs. The versatile reps offer numerous services to assist all facets of a BSC’s company.

Establishing the relationship

In the majority of relationships between BSCs and manufacturer reps, the distributor initiates the relationship between the two parties.

Typically, a distributor is looking to close a sales account with a BSC, says Neil Bernstein, janitorial division account manager for the Access Group Southern California, Azusa, Calif. As a value-added service the distributor make reps available to BSCs for consultation and other services.

Manufacturer reps will accompany the distributor on the initial sales visit, representing the manufacturer whose products the distributor is trying to sell. The rep typically presents new products to the customer. This lends a more authoritative voice speaking on product offerings since the rep is working directly for the manufacturer.

Having the rep at the disposal of BSCs offers contractors a dependable source to confide in when inquiring or commenting on products. However, the presence of a manufacturer rep does not alter the selling process between distributor and BSC.

The distributor remains as the one selling to the BSC, says Peter Henson, CPMR, I.C.E., president, The Henson Sales Group Ltd., Wayne, Penn.

“We are an adjunct to help with the sales and distribution effort,” he says.

The accessibility and exposure of the manufacturer reps to double as a go-between for distributors and BSCs is contingent on a strong pre-existing relationship between the distributor and the rep.

It is hard to go into a meeting with a BSC or any customer and not have a strong relationship with the distributor, says Bernstein.

Maintaining a strong relationship between all parties depends on keeping the distributor privy to all communication between the manufacturer rep and the BSC.

While the details of the conversations between BSC and rep relayed to the distributor vary depending on the rep, Bernstein informs the distributor of every instance that he communicates with the BSC.

“If I e-mail the BSC directly, the distributor is copied on the e-mail,” he says. “When I speak to the rep on the phone, I follow up the call with an e-mail and I make sure to copy the distributor on that as well,” he says.

Having all parties involved and informed customarily spells success for all three sides. In order for all individuals to cultivate a profitable relationship, a cohesive effort is needed by all.

“When you look at it, it is a team effort,” says Dick Friedman, president of the RTF Group, Lake Bluff, Ill. “The relationship has to be mutually beneficial to all from the beginning when it is installed and implemented. It has to be a win-win situation for everyone.”

The perks of the relationship

With all parties working in unison, manufacturer reps can serve in a number of capacities to assist BSCs. Their help can stretch from front- to back-end operations.

For example, manufacturer reps will work with a BSC’s marketing department to compile sales presentations for their prospective customers.

“Contractors will take me as an outside expert on one of their sales calls,” says Bernstein, who will run cleaning for health presentations for BSCs.

Reps who are often certified themselves, will also work with BSC’s directly to implement cleaning programs and help them attain third-party certification that promote green cleaning and cleaning for health.

“The best tool when working with a BSC is having certification,” says Henson, who is an ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.), through the Cleaning Industry Management Standard Program (CIMS). “It helps the building service contractors improve their business and most are eager to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The more traditional assistance from manufacturer reps comes in helping out on back-end services. This includes training a BSC’s custodial staff on how to correctly use products.

“From the manufacturer rep perspective, based on the depth of our product offerings, our real value to a BSC is having a significant amount of information about not only our products, but other products in the market place as well,” says Friedman. “We believe we can serve as a resource that benefits everyone.”

The rep also brings the BSC closer to a manufacturer than they would typically be if they were working only with the distributor.

“The BSC gets information from us on how to do something when it comes to using products,” says Henson. They go to us if they want a product tweaked or changed. It enhances the ultimate service they get.”

The evolving relationship

As the trend of outsourcing cleaning services expands, manufacturer reps have been getting more requests from the manufacturer to develop closer relationships with each BSC, says Henson.

Bernstein envisions the number of dealings with BSCs growing over time.

“I see the relationship being a larger portion of our time,” he says. “Service companies are driving the growth of the industry on account of the economy and for environmental reasons.”

The relationship between manufacturer reps and BSCs has shifted from the backroom to the conference room with a steadily increasing importance on cleaning for health and green cleaning. What was once a relationship predicated on product training has blossomed into a relationship that handles front-end and back-end operations of most BSCs. As the demands for BSCs increase, it would be advantageous for contractors to utilize the services of reps as someone to help all facets of their business.

Reps Reap Benefits, Too

The assistance on the front- and back-end of business operations for building service contractors is not the only benefits taken from working with manufacturer representatives.

Since BSCs are using a multitude of products throughout the day, they are the ideal source for giving product evaluations to the manufacturer rep. BSCs will speak frankly about products they are using because it impacts their operational costs and in turn the productivity of their company.

“They (BSCs) are the ultimate proving ground for the viability of the product,” says Dick Friedman, president of the RTF Group, Lake Bluff, Ill. “They represent a significant amount of volume for both the distributor and manufacturer rep when it comes to product evaluations and most certainly, product implementation.”

This product input given to a manufacturer rep does not fall upon deaf ears. The reps value the information from a BSC so much that manufacturer rep Neil Bernstein has been working with a BSC and a manufacturer on product development. The feedback that gets back to the manufacturer is valued.

“They like getting both positive and negative feedback,” says Bernstein, account manager of the janitorial division, the Access Group Southern California, Azusa, Calif. “It shows the manufacturer we are speaking with the BSC and have developed an open dialogue with them.”