Vital Products: Brooms, Brushes And Mops
Advances in technology have left distributors with a multitude of products to sell. Touch-free, automatic shut-off, or cordless, a distributor’s catalog runs deep into the page count with manufacturers providing constant innovations to a large number of products.
But for every battery-operated, store-and-go, wet/dry cleaning system that facilities pack into the supply closet, products like brooms, brushes and mops are still cleaning necessities in a majority of facilities. However, these products have been around for so long that purchasing them has become second nature for end users.
All facilities need brooms and brushes to properly keep their facility clean. Based on this need, there is less emphasis placed on the features of products and a smaller amount of effort going into a sale compared to other cleaning products.
End users are not going to spend a lot of time researching brooms and brushes even if they are in the market for them, says Jim Berry, sales and marketing manager of H.T. Berry Co. Inc., Canton, Mass. The necessity of having the items forces the end user to call up the distributor.
It is the same necessity that drives some end users to disregard the distributor and find a different solution to procuring brooms and brushes. Everywhere from big-box stores to the neighborhood hardware store offer end users the immediacy of having their product upon their purchase.
To keep end users from purchasing the products in big-box stores, distributors like Jim Chittom Sr., CEO of Athens Janitor Supply Co., Athens, Ga., try to communicate certain features that are exclusive of distributors to make the products more appealing.
It is important to stress convenience, consolidated housekeeping purchases, volume bracket cost savings, prompt delivery, the efficiency of the product matched to use, and a guarantee of satisfaction to the customer, says Chittom. Let the customer know what products you offer.
“The greatest sales technique I have found is to be available and make the call,” says Chittom. “Listen with genuine interest to the customer’s need.”
It means a salesman asking the right questions to match the product and features, says Chittom. What requirements do they have and do they have any specific needs?
While communication may be the key selling tool for Chittom, Chris Pratt, sales manager of E.A. Morse & Co. Inc., Hudson, N.Y., relies on his sales representatives to evaluate all of their customer’s products while on a sales call.
“We train our reps to ask the right questions to sell the items,” says Pratt. “These are
different products because they last longer. They do not wear out like mops do and the customer does not go through them as quickly as garbage bags.”
Pratt encourages his reps to look at the condition of a customer’s supplies, especially brooms and brushes when they are on a sales call. If the products appear worn and frayed, the reps are encouraged to bring up the brooms and brushes their company offers.
“Brooms and brushes are good margin products,” says Pratt. “The reps need to be attentive on these items. These are under the radar products where a lot of the time customers do not know we sell them.”
When end users visit their distributors, brooms and brushes are typically purchased when customers are looking at chemicals or other cleaning equipment to buy, as something of an after thought, says Joseph Wira, CEO of J&S Supply, Cincinnati. Having brooms and brushes right in front of the customer allows for them to make an easier impulse purchase.
“Let the customer be aware that we have them in stock,” says Berry. “They need to know about the full range of those items and we are a viable option to sell them the products.”
When customers are in his store looking at brooms and brushes, Wira says it is important to find out as much information from the customer as possible.
“You have to find out what they are using it for and then look for the best quality at the price they are going to pay,” says Wira. “When you get a customer locked into a product they like, they are not going to change their minds.”
Grouped as products of necessity and purchasing ease with an emphasis on customer service, brooms and brushes have also been thrown in as part of cleaning equipment packages that distributors will custom-fit for the end user.
“Those things are included in the basket of items the customer is looking for,” says Berry. “They have become add-ons more than anything else.”
While brooms and brushes have been branded as vital products that are customarily treated as impulse purchases, improvements in mop features have generated more interest among end users.
Microfiber mop heads are one feature to mops that have piqued interest in end users. Cotton mops may be cheaper, but distributors can combat the price difference by proving the durability and productivity of microfiber.
“With microfiber it gives you the ability to go in and present something different,” says Pratt. “It works better and picks up more dust. It is something we can show them during a presentation.”
The durability and effectiveness of microfiber mop heads is just one product tweak in regards to mops. An emphasis on green cleaning is noticeable in mop handles made of bamboo and others made entirely out of recycled content.
Bamboo has a shorter growth cycle opposed to trees and mops made out of recycled content and is helping to drive business for companies located in states heavily involved with green cleaning practices.
“It has been our marketing strategy to show the mops we have and what they are made out of,” says Pratt. “Whether it is recycled content or bamboo mop handles, it generates some interest by being a green product.”
New product features to the mops might mean increased efficiency and greener cleaning practices, but a worker’s comfort using a product plays a large role in whether an end user purchases the product. Thanks to ergonomic mops, distributors can emphasize decreased fatigue, reduced risk of worker injury, improved comfort levels and increased productivity from the workers using the products.
Ergonomic mops are significantly lighter than the traditional mop. Some ergonomic mops have aluminum handles that weigh less than wood and can be made with extensions. Other ergonomic features include longer and wider handles with rubber over-molding that are contoured to the palms and fingers.
The design of the mop itself has also been altered to create a product with a higher level of productivity. Opposed to traditional mop handles, ergonomic handles have bends in the pole that result in an even distribution of pressure when applied to the floor and a higher level of worker comfort. The design of the handles practically eliminate the need for the worker to stoop or bend while mopping.
Brooms, brushes and mops are not products customers need on a continual basis. The shelf life for the products is longer than most, but they can serve as a way to build a relationship with the customer by finding the correct product to suit their needs.
“A focus on assisting your customer to complete their work builds a trust relationship,” says Chittom. “Selling brooms, brushes and mops in my opinion can build continued relationships if you strive to exceed your customer’s expectations.”
The products can also develop a trust factor with the customer, which can mean a lot, says Wira.
“It comes down to building a trust factor,” he adds. “Ask the right questions to find what they need so that you are not over-selling them. To foster the relationship, you have to build trust which leads to loyalty and continuity.”
The developed trust leads to a relationship where products eventually become secondary.
“These products are more of a convenience purchase for the customer,” says Berry. “It is all about the relationship between the rep and the customer and some products get in the way.”
Customers still need brooms, brushes and mops. The tweaks to the products with microfiber mop heads, bamboo handles and other features have generated some interest, but the necessity of the products is their greatest sales attribute. If distributors can align customers with the right brooms, brushes and mops at the right price, it could stretch a long way in developing a relationship with the customer. Distributors may not even have to pick up the phone to make the sale.