Distributors play an important role in educating customers and prospects about the benefits of a strong color-coding program. However, experts warn them to bypass the sales spiel and instead take time to build a rapport and identify areas prone to cross-contamination.

"Sales reps need to be intelligence gatherers, not just order takers," says Poole. "Sit down with customers, ask questions and then ferret out the answers."

Fellows advises distributors to use suggestive marketing techniques.

"If a customer usually orders a case of mop heads, for example, ask them if they want the blue thread, the red thread or no thread," he says. "If they start asking questions, you can introduce a color-coded chart."

Indeed, visual aids are not only an educational tool for custodians, but a useful sales tool to attract customers' attention and help them understand color coding at a glance. Craddock recommends distributors provide a laminated color-coding chart in several languages that customers can attach to a janitor's closet.

"We're moving to an online ordering system around the globe so that there's minimal contact with people," he says. "So training falls on distributors to make sure customers are using the color-coding system properly."

When developing training materials, distributors need to consider the custodial staff's demographic.

"Part-time custodians work a full-time job during the day, so they can't attend a webinar at 9:30 in the morning." says Craddock. "Also, many of them don't speak the language, so the challenge is finding ways to push out information to the end user."

In doing so, Craddock cautions distributors against overselling.

"Right now, our industry is at the forefront," he says. "We have to be honest, forthright and transparent."

Indeed, the pandemic has elevated the janitor's role and highlighted the importance of cleaning to prevent the spread of infection — a mission distributors can support by promoting a color-coding program that reduces cross-contamination.

Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance

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Simple Steps To Reduce Cross-Contamination