The sun has set on the days of “glug-glug” chemical mixing — a time when a person who was manually mixing a chemical believed that the more product he or she used, the better the cleaning job it did. Most people are now aware that this mixing method is inefficient, inaccurate, unsafe, and causes end-use chemical costs to soar. It’s no wonder that dispensing and proportioning systems are becoming increasingly popular choices.

Taking advantage of the increasingly sophisticated dispensing and proportioning technologies makes sense for the jan/san industry, but it also requires salespeople to educate their customers about exactly why they make sense. To successfully sell these systems, distributor sales reps must first learn the benefits of the technology so they can clearly communicate those benefits to customers. That’s the consensus of marketing gurus affiliated with several dispenser-manufacturing companies across the United States.

“Educating your customers about the benefits and features of these systems is vital,” says Jonathan Deutsch, vice president of marketing for Dema Engineering Co., St. Louis. “Customers need to know about the equipment, the safety aspects, and how its correct use achieves better results,” he explains.

Tom McNair agrees. He’s vice president of sales for Daley Intl., and JVS Solutions, Chicago. “Distributors must learn in great detail about the dispensing equipment they sell — all the ins and outs,” he says. “To successfully sell, they’ve got to anticipate and answer all the questions a customer can raise and persuasively explain the benefits of the system,” he explains.

“The fact that a customer can pretty much lock in costs is an important benefit. These devices premeasure ready-to-use products, which makes them economical because the products are dispensed at the correct dilution,” McNair adds.

Worker safety is also an important benefit, says Pete Maglocci, vice president of business development for Hydro Systems Co., Newtown, Ohio. Maglocci says using dispensers makes concentrated chemicals easier and safer to use. “Automatically mixing concentrates with water prevents workers’ back strain because they don’t have to lift heavy containers as frequently. And their exposure to these chemicals is reduced.”

“Properly diluted chemicals can also help reduce slip-and-fall accidents,” Deutsch says. “Improper dilutions, especially in food-service areas and office buildings, can often contribute to slips and falls by coating floors with a slippery residue. And using the correct amount of sanitizer is critical to public health in supermarkets where there’s raw meat. You can’t rely on an employee to properly mix in the sanitizer, which usually requires a quarter of an ounce per gallon of water, or less. It would be almost impossible for someone to accurately mix that. And that can make the difference between correctly sanitizing a facility and potentially spreading disease.”

Mike Rau, vice president of Multiclean, a division of Minuteman Intl., Shoreview, Minn., also believes that the accurate, automatic dilution of chemicals prevents inaccurate dosing and ensures the best performance: “It will save the customer money in the long run,” he says. And dispensers and proportioners produce less waste, making them environmentally preferable, he adds.

Rau also says dispensers and proportioners can prevent injury since users don’t come into direct contact with concentrated chemicals. “Obviously, that’s quite an important benefit.”

The Systematic Sell
To enhance sales, distributors should take a lesson from companies that sell systems, not products, emphasizes Bill De Christofano, general manager, Seko Dosing Systems Corp., Tullytown, Pa. “For example, you can sell a gallon of glass cleaner or a gallon of all-purpose cleaner, but if you’re not selling them as part of a dispenser system, all you can go on is the price of the product. People will look at it as a commodity item, and if your price is higher than the competition, you can lose the sale to them.”

Hydro System’s Maglocci also advocates a system-selling approach. “Distributors need to achieve this mindset: Don’t sell chemicals in a pail or dispenser. Instead, sell a chemical management system, which is what is necessary and proper to deliver all the benefits that a customer wants,” he says.

Reliability is a benefit that distributors should emphasize in their sales presentations, as well. That thought is shared by executives from both Viking Injector and and Beta Technology.

Jeff Whittaker, executive vice president of Viking Injector, Nesquehoning, Pa., says emphasizing reliability as a benefit isn’t a common “bell and whistle” as far as sales pitches go, but end users “need to know that if a dispenser goes down on a Saturday night, the distributor will speed to the account to resolve the problem.”

Doug Bragdon, marketing manager for Beta Technology Inc., Santa Cruz, Calif., says reliability is continually highlighted in his company’s “Always Clean” sales messages for their dispensers. “That selling point is especially effective on a prospective customer who has had problems with [another company’s] dispenser.

“Selling a reliable dispenser obviously reduces distributors’ internal costs because they don’t have to service it. That’s a long-term cost savings,” Bragdon says. “When you consider overhead, it costs you about $100 each time you send someone out to fix some equipment.”

Whittaker advises distributors to do their homework when selling to customers. “The more information they can gather about the account, the more successful they’ll be in selling. That information includes who currently has the account and how many different products are being purchased. Research is helpful when you approach a potential customer,” he adds.

Multiclean’s Rau suggests distributors can effectively help achieve long-term savings for their customers by encouraging them to get better control of their chemical usage. “Teach them what their cost savings are going to be,” he suggests. “Sell them on the fact that chemicals are accurately diluted and because of that, they will provide good results.”

According to Maglocci, dispensers favorably impact long-term costs because they reduce workers’ comp claims — employees are not required to handle concentrated chemicals.

Seko’s De Christofano encourages distributors to help their customers’ track chemical usage to demonstrate long-term savings. “You need a history of what’s been spent before the introduction of a dispensing or proportioning-control device, and then you should track costs over a six-month or a 12-month period,” he explains. “You can show, for example, that waste has been eliminated by stopping the glug method, and even though the customer is spending more per case, he or she is spending less to use the product.”

Daley’s McNair believes distributors can guarantee a supermarket customer a savings of 15 percent or more on the annual cost of bulk chemicals if they use dispensing systems. “Walk in to that customer’s [facility]and learn how many gallons of product they use. Then calculate exactly what they’ll use with an automatic premeasuring system. You can show a savings, especially compared to the glug method. We can point to a good track record of doing just that.”

The Up And Coming
Looking at current industry trends and innovations, Rau sees environmentally preferable products becoming more popular. Green chemicals work well in conjunction with dispensing systems.

“Hydrogen peroxide, as a green product, allows you to vary the dilution rates and change its effectiveness. For example, a higher dilution rate — what we call light-duty — works very well on glass, but you can make the dilution a little stronger and make it a general-purpose cleaner. And as a heavy-duty solution, hydrogen peroxide can be a degreaser or a carpet spotter.”

Many systems are now becoming modular, according to De Christofano. “They’re very easily installed and it’s easy to add a component. That’s important if you sell two chemicals and want to add a third. You can do so without removing the original dispenser.

“A number of companies are incorporating a ‘closed loop’ system,” he says. “This involves a docking mechanism where the chemical is hooked up to the dispenser to prevent a competitive chemical from being added.”

McNair believes that the dispenser field is a growing industry. “More and more people are going toward premeasured devices,” he says. “As I’ve said, they are very prevalent in major supermarket chains. Supermarkets have come to realize that the easier you make it to clean perishable food departments, the more successful they’re going to be.”

Dema Engineering’s Deutsch cites several recent innovations. “We’re now seeing regulatory approved proportioners that work well under hard water conditions. That greatly reduces the amount of service required on the device. Closed-loop dispensing, which is relatively new, provides another safety aspect,” he says. “It prevents the [custodian] from coming into contact with the chemical concentrate when they change the gallon bottle. Understandably, more and more companies are using it with their dispensers.”

According to Viking’s Whittaker, peristaltic pumps, powder and solid dispensers have remained much the same over the past 10 years or so. “But we’re now seeing smaller, more compact designs,” he observes. “Some dishwashing units are going to LCD displays and push-button programming. And lightweight solid detergents and solid rinse aids are being used more and more in hotel dishwashing and laundry applications instead of the heavier weight liquid products and applicators that had been primarily used in the past. Look at the cost savings from a freight standpoint.”

Jordan Fox is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.