Rich Steinberg ProTeam

This past December, Rich Steinberg, VP of Sales at ProTeam, announced his retirement. After nearly two decades of leading a best-in-class sales team, he now savors his morning coffee and newspaper alongside his wife, Carroll Lyn, in Denver. 

And while he no longer wakes to an alarm clock, attends company meetings, or feels the hurried pace of corporate life, Steinberg remains unflappable — exuding the same calmness, joy and generosity he brought into each phase of his professional career. 

The Road to ProTeam

Graduating in 1982, Steinberg entered the workforce on the tail end of a recession — when everyone was interviewing, but no one was hiring. After interviews with Coke, Pepsi, Xerox, IBM and more, he eventually landed a job with Procter and Gamble (P&G). 
His time at this Fortune 500 company included extensive sales training, which instilled an appreciation of the importance of a strong end-user focus. Steinberg was inherently good at the relational aspect of retaining established clients, and his time at P&G was spent honing the skills necessary to lead within a direct sales organization.

It wasn’t until Clorox recruited him in 1990 that he started collaborating with independent sales agencies. For 13 years, he worked at Clorox, gradually taking on responsibilities and learning through experiences. Then, in February 2003, he made a career leap by joining ProTeam — a smaller organization with origins rooted in owner Larry Shideler’s garage.

“I had worked my way up at Clorox, but my next step required a big move. I wasn’t excited about leaving Denver,” says Steinberg. “I knew of ProTeam because they had a great product. I wound up having lunch with Matt and Mark Reimers, and they offered me a sales manager position.” 

Steinberg turned the offer down but said he would help with the search for someone. The lunch conversation shifted to the need for ProTeam to develop a sales force.

“I left that lunch thinking, ‘I would like to help ProTeam find the right person for this sales manager position,’” recalled Steinberg. “I was surprised when the very next day, Matt Reimers called to offer me a VP of Sales position.

“Needless to say, I said yes.”

Reshaping Sales at ProTeam

Steinberg spent 19 years leading sales development at ProTeam though he began his time at the organization by building a sales force and reshaping the sales planning process.

“When I started with ProTeam, their products were selling themselves,” stated Steinberg. “That’s what good products do, but there were definite opportunities for growth. We needed to work harder to meet the needs of our distributors and to understand the issues facing the end user so we could provide better solutions.”

Building a Sales Force

With years of sales and leadership experience under his belt, Steinberg understood that the quality of sales depended on his team. “We had some great internal talent,” he stated. “However, the growth we were about to experience meant we need more people.”

And not just anybody would do.

“I found and hired the right people for our sales team based on one unbreakable rule,” said Steinberg.  “And it’s a simple one — you always treat the customer as an irreplaceable part of the sales process.”

Sales Planning

For Steinberg, cultivating healthy relationships with each distributor was crucial.

“We started with identifying the markets our distributors were serving as well as the ones they wanted to expand,’ said Steinberg.

Armed with this information, Steinberg and the team developed training and resources to meet the needs of the organization’s customers. And with every product launch, they anticipated the education requirements of the distributors, providing them with the necessary tools and resources. 

“When you plan sales strategy around your distributors and key end-users and take their needs and desires into account, everything changes,” states Steinberg. “You no longer have a standard customer relationship. This kind of collaboration leads to creating partners. Maybe it’s better to say we started creating brand advocates.”

Steinberg and his team also identified the end users they could engage without the assistance of a distributor. Using outside sales reps to pursue these clients, sales increased, and the brand’s reputation continued to climb. ProTeam backpack vacuums soon became the go-to for many industrial cleaning companies.

And yet, this new approach to sales planning was just the beginning.

Driving Loyalty Through Rewards Programs

Steinberg sought ways to increase loyalty — to give people even more reasons to work with ProTeam. He said, “Like any relationship, the more mutually beneficial connection points you have, the stronger the relationship. Every decision we made was based on a win/win approach.”

This mentality led to the conception of the organization’s ProPartner Programs and the ProTeam Rewards Program.

ProPartner Programs rewarded distributors for their loyalty with rebates, training and growth programs. Any distributor who qualified was also eligible for the ProTeam Rewards Program. The latter offered incentives for ProTeam sales made by distributor salespersons.

These programs weren’t just for distributors; Steinberg and his team also built offers for sales agency reps. “We were, and continue to be, all about the long-term relationship,” says Steinberg. “We treat our distributor salespeople and sales agencies like employees by incentivizing quality sales.

“Our approach to every sales decision was, ‘we grow when our distributors and sales agencies grow,’ and it continues to be that way.”

Cultivating the Largest ProTeam Account

Steinberg left an indelible mark on ProTeam, which includes cultivating a relationship with one of the nation’s largest government agencies.  

“The agency was in desperate need of a new approach to cleaning,” states Steinberg. “For years, they had used a system meant for battleships, and many methods were either outdated or obsolete.”

Ultimately, this organization developed a new cleaning system based on Team Cleaning. During the implementation, Steinberg worked with manufacturers and consultants to provide ongoing training and education. 

This team also highlighted the efficiencies of high-performance cleaning with backpack vacuums used in tandem with other essential products. Today more than 12,000 of these government agency facilities use ProTeam and its cleaning system, with more added yearly. 

A Legacy of Leadership

Rich Steinberg spent his time at ProTeam setting an example of how every business leader should function. He made decisions that benefited the company only when those decisions positively impacted distributors, sales agencies and customers. Building and maintaining long-term relationships were always crucial components of his strategy. 

“Lasting success depends on long-term partnerships,” says Steinberg. And this mentality runs deep as many of the company’s relationships span decades. And those same relationships lead to new ones because of ProTeam’s reputation — which is largely owed to Rich Steinberg, retired vice president of sales.