Distributor sales reps have a tendency to sell on price. To make ice melt a more profitable product category, manufacturers suggest taking just 10 minutes to learn about the client’s needs and to educate them about ice melt.
“Too often, we see sales reps selling ice melt based on temperature or cost vs. product attributes,” says Lauren Fallon, manager of marketing and product strategy, Compass Minerals Salt Division, Overland Park, Kansas. “In fact, one salt product does not fit all. For instance, an ice melt that is appropriate for large areas may not be suitable for entryways or walkways near landscaping. If not sold properly, it could result in an unhappy and confused customer.”
After listening to the opinions of the client, distributors are better prepared to ask them what characteristics they’re looking for in an ice melt and which of those characteristics are most important. Distributors want to ask about things like:
- Range of temperature performance
- Speed of melt
- Safety (risk to metal, concrete, pets, landscaping, environment)
- Cleanliness (residue/tracking)
- Shelf life
Distributors should also ask customers where they use ice melt (is it a parking lot, sidewalk, entrance, etc.), and if it will be used on any specialty surfaces beyond concrete or asphalt.
By asking the right questions, distributors can help customers to see the importance of ice melt. They can shift the focus from purchase price to total cost of ownership.
“If a Class A office building can eliminate having someone stand by the front door to mop footprints, that’s worth a lot of money — even if the product costs 20 percent more,” says Clemmer.
When it comes to selling, distributors don’t have to go it alone. To assess the safety of a product, check for third-party labels like Green Seal and Safer Choice.
Also, ask product manufacturers to provide testing results or other validation for any claims. Lean on them for help with education, too. Most offer a wealth of tools to help distributors (and their customers) learn, including buyer guides, product samples and product webinars and demonstrations.
Snow and ice may not become a problem for a few more months, but that doesn’t mean distributors should put off thinking about ice melt. In fact, ordering early can net distributors the greatest incentives and help them price their product for better margins.
“Planning is really critical with ice melt,” says Jensen. “It’s hard to think about winter when it’s 90 degrees outside, but you have to change your thinking. You know it’s going to snow in a few months and you have to plan for it. End users are also starting to understand they have to plan for it.”
Even if buyers aren’t ready to purchase early, distributors can’t afford to fall behind on purchasing. Waiting to purchase too late in the fall or, worse, winter can leave them shorthanded if an unexpected early storm arrives or if the storm season is worse than predicted.
“When long winters roll around, like the Midwest saw last season, the last thing customers want is to be out of stock,” says Fallon. “We train sales reps to teach customers the importance of being one storm ahead with their supplies. We encourage our sales reps to have customers buy early and buy often.”
Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.
Developing A Diversified Salt Portfolio
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