Although manufacturers have the technical expertise necessary to provide robotic cleaning solutions, distributors play an equally vital role in helping them identify sales opportunities and qualify leads. 

Some manufacturers use distribution partners to sell their machines; others sell directly to the end user, or rely on a combination of distributors and internal salespeople. Regardless of which sales channel they use, however, manufacturers agree that distributors often have the upper hand when pursuing sales leads. 

“Customers — whether they’re building service contractors, retailers or hospitals — have close relationships with their chosen distributors,” says Joe Mann, vice president/general manager Intellibot, Diversey, 
Charlotte, North Carolina. “Those distributors are the holders of trust, consultancy and confidence with their customers. As such, they’re an important part of the supply chain for the end user when it comes to selecting the solution they need for their facility.”

Customers are also more likely to purchase an expensive robotic machine from distributors with whom they have a long-standing relationship, comfortable in the knowledge that they will receive ongoing support after the sale. 

“Selling a robot is based on a trust relationship,” says Faizan Sheikh, president of Avidbots, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. “The customer trusts you to provide the support they need after they make the purchase. It’s very different from the support a customer needs when buying toilet paper or soap; they don’t need the same kind of support from you after making those purchases. But after buying a robot they will have questions, and it’s important that you are knowledgeable and can help them use the robot successfully.”

Additionally, manufacturers find that the distributor’s rapport with the customer proves advantageous when conducting site evaluations. 

“When you sell an autonomous cleaning product you’re not just selling them a machine; you’re selling them a cleaning process,” says Dale Krausnick, vice president of marketing, NSS Enterprises, Toledo, Ohio. “You have to consider how people are going to interact with the robotics and whether or not cleaning staff will take on different roles. So the distributor might be involved in helping end users shift from a manual to an autonomous cleaning process.” 

Manufacturers and distributors often work in tandem once a potential customer has been identified. According to Mann, Diversey will schedule a presentation with the client to educate them about the robot’s features and benefits and discuss the expected ROI, at which time the distributor is usually present. 

Next, the manufacturer conducts a walk-through of the facility, consults with the customer on how best to integrate the robot into their cleaning program, and finally demos the equipment — all with the distributor’s input.

Similarly, Tennant’s reps will partner with distributors throughout the process — from qualifying leads to deploying machines. 

“Tennant is on-site with the customer and the distributor for one to three nights,” says Smith. “The goal is to train them and make sure they’re set up for success in terms of creating and running routes and integrating the solution into their operations.”


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