I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day when I came upon one of those “what if” questions an old high school buddy posted: “If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you say?”
Personally, I’m not a fan of these “what if” posts. What’s the point? Facebook is for showing others how sunsets look from your backyard, not for turning the clock back 10 years to address things you have no ability to change.
And then destiny stepped in… “Ding!” It’s an email from Mel White.
You have a unique perspective regarding your visits with Distributors because of your 10 year gap in the industry. What would you say are the biggest differences between your meetings 10 years ago and your meetings now?
I am very curious.
When destiny speaks, Harold listens. Time to look back 10 years and identify “What’s Different.”
Most of the folks I’m meeting don’t know me. Maybe they’ve heard my name, but most are unaware of me or my experience in the industry. This is a constant reminder of the old axiom, “What have you done for me lately?”
I have minimal street cred with many Classic’s Distribution Partners so I am often starting off new. It’s up to me to build those relationships and earn their trust, confidence, and business.
I Swear… You’re the Only One!
It’s 2020. Dedicated Distribution is a thing of the past. Back in the old days when I visited a city, it was to meet with our sole distributor who represented that territory.
Times have changed, and I understand why but it requires a mental adjustment for me.
Today I plan my visits to see multiple Classic Distributors that either sell our products or that might sell our products in that territory. Some are primarily custom houses. Others portable modular. And then there are agencies who tap into Classic for special projects.
The Person Who Said, “You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression” Wasn’t a Regional Sales Manager.
When I visited Distributors ten years ago, I’d share our latest headlines: “What’s new? Check out our new widget! Cool, right?” Show and telling our newest products and services was of prime importance to keep our extended sales force informed and up to date.
And while I still do that, there is greater emphasis placed on discussing all of the things Classic provides rather than simply the newest toys in our box. Faster and constant turnover of Distributor employees is one of the primary reasons. “Where’s Jim?” “Jim? Get with the program. Jim left 3 months ago. But meet Billy. Billy’s the new Jim.”
It’s like I’m starting all over with every visit. So I get LOTS of chances to make a first impression for better or for worse.
I Love the Pix my New iPhone Takes. Wait a Minute… Are You Telling Me It Can Make a Phone Call Too?
That tiny little computer I carry around in my back pocket does SO much more than make phone calls. It’s a robust and multi-faceted tool. Same with Classic. Many Distributors think of us as the company that only provides whatever it is they last purchased from us.
Ten years ago, most of our Distributors knew exactly what we offered. Today, some Distributors know us as the company that rents highly customized booths. Others think of us as an extension of their own shop floor during the busy season capable of building exhibits straight from their designers’ renderings. And yes, some of our Distributors think of Classic as the company to turn to for high quality, affordable portable/modular exhibits, charging stations, or iPad stands.
Regardless of which niche you put us in, we do more than that.
AE? AM? AP? Sure, I’ll Meet with You!
I used to meet almost exclusively with Account Executives when visiting a Distributor. Geez… how old am I?! Today decisions about which vendor to use are made by lots of folks in addition to Account Executives, like Account Managers, Purchasing Agents, Designers, and sometimes a guy named Joe with no title.
Our internal contacts at Distributors have not only increased but have also gotten a bit confusing. Sometimes the internal contact changes based on the client (which makes sense). Other times it changes because it’s a custom project or a rental or a portable modular order. All that makes my job both more challenging and interesting.
The Smithsonian Called… They Want Your Showroom
Most Distributors used to have a showroom. Ha! Today there is more space for previewing a Client’s new booth than there is for a showroom. One of the obvious reasons is that most Distributors are selling to clients from all over the country and not just from ”the neighborhood.”
As I talk to Classic Distributors, they tell me a showroom isn’t as important anymore. And with square foot pricing always on the rise, space has to be allocated appropriately. When visiting Distributors. I regularly ask, “How many of your Clients are located within an hour of where we’re standing?” The answers are quite telling — less local, more national.
It’s worth noting here that I am regularly being asked for freebies, loaners, and BIG discounts on showroom units. Showrooms still exist. And some are stunningly beautiful. They’re just becoming an endangered species. #savetheshowrooms #givetoyourlocalshowroomfoundation
Extrusions are Like Opinions. Everyone’s Got One But Few are As Good as Mine
Ten years ago, Distributors were ramping up their rental inventory with pallets of metal extrusion. Octanorm. AGAM. beMatrix. Aluvision. All had a place on select shelves. Today I still see examples of all four with beMatix leading the way.
For obvious reasons, Distributors ask their sales teams to promote the system sitting on their shelves. But more and more Distributors wish they could turn the clock back on their extrusion investments. Their reasoning is quite simple. It’s tough to compete against other exhibit houses when everyone is using the same building blocks. We’re seeing design saturation on the show floor with many booths looking the same just with different graphics. And clients are noticing.
When I share info about Gravitee, Classic’s tool-less extrusion system, Distributors take notice. Tool-less means no tiny connectors to lose and best of all – much faster set up! When you combine the money saved on I&D with the refreshing look of unique designs, many Distributors are wishing they could turn the clock back 10 years.
Some Things Never Change
The last one has nothing to do with trade shows or exhibitions. But seriously, “Why is cilantro still a thing?” I would have hoped that this disgusting herb would have gone the way of dedicated distribution. But alas, it still thrives. Blecch.
Harold Mintz is a Regional Sales Manager at Classic Exhibits. You can contact Harold at email@example.com.