Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

 

Dec 5, 2018

Frank HurtteBy Frank Hurtte

In setting growth plans for the coming year, one should ask, “What percentage of my customers might go away?” Some will go out of business and they stop buying. Others might be folded into a larger organization. If that organization has a relationship with a competitor, your business could be switched to another supplier. Further, some aggressive competitor could make inroads into your account through hard work and/or better relationships, by way of a valuable new service or through jaw dropping price levels. This is hard to face, but it happens. The question is, how much would any of these affect your business?

To the best of my knowledge, the only industry to truly study this phenomenon is the HVAC/R industry. Three years ago, HARDI (Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International) hired Mike Marks and Steve Deist of Indian River Consulting Group to conduct a study that resulted in meaningful numbers. These results, which shocked the industry, were published in a book entitled Myths & Misperceptions: How markets are really made in HVACR. I recommend the book to everyone in the HVACR business and believe the points made apply to distributors in many other lines of trade. Here are a few highlights from their work:

The average small HVACR contractor switches suppliers at a rate of 4% per year with well over half of the attrition (2.5%) tied to distributor dissatisfaction. Larger and more professional contractors switch at a rate of 11% per year, with 7.8% of that tied to distributor dissatisfaction.

Another group, which lumps commercial, institutional and industrial accounts together, switches business at a rate of 29% per year. I believe this higher attrition rate may well be tied to the point that HVACR distributors tend to be geared to better serve contractors than other types of customers. Further, if the institutional portion of the mix is higher, we might assume some of those institutions are government-run organizations that base purchasing practices on price (low bid orders).

For our discussion, there are two points to consider:

1. Even the best of customers leave the fold at a rate of 4% a year with the average nearing double that number.

2. If you are planning to grow your business by 10% next year, plan on 15% growth. Losing some of your existing customers is probably in the cards.

Retention is the opposite of attrition

Nobody starts off with a plan to lose customers, but things happen. The inside sales team gets stretched a little thin and service wanes. The warehouse gets careless and the customer finds themselves facing a box with the wrong parts. Even salespeople, charged with keeping customers, forget to cover all the bases with their customers. Your top suppliers experience delivery issues and you take the brunt of the blame. The list goes on and on.

Done properly, end of year planning allows for contemplation, reflection and plans for correction. Planning allows for an objective view of the current situation and how retention might be improved going into the next year.

Have you reviewed the (hopefully short) list of customers who have stopped buying from you? 

What happened?  

• Has anybody from management done an exit interview?

• How might the situation have been different?  

What preventive measure could avoid the problem in the future?

• Are there trends? Could it be that dealing with "Danny" is toxic to customer health?

• Are there policies or procedures impacting business?  

How long did it take for you to realize something was wrong?

• Who in your organization monitors customers for significant drops in business?

Not every ex-customer can have facial warts and a bad attitude

• Did you listen to the customer’s comments without tossing out excuses?

Are there existing customers on the cusp of leaving?

• Are there early warning systems that might point to issues?

• How might management assist the team in determining ongoing customer satisfaction?

Two important thoughts for your end of year plan

First, customers are more likely to switch distributors because the incumbent distributor did something wrong than because they were sold on the new distributor. This runs contrary to the common sales think.

Second, distributor sales teams aren’t great about staying in contact with the other guy’s customer. After a short flurry of activity, which produces little or no results, they engage with existing customers and let the potential customers fall out of their mind. Most of us understand this is a mistake, but it is the reality of the situation.

Progressive distributors have established a plan for continuing outreach to their competitors’ customers. Is this in your end-of-year plan?

Frank Hurtte is the Founding Partner of River Heights Consulting. The Distributor Channel is a service of River Heights Consulting. Find out more.

 

OlsonBy Katrina Olson

A recent CEW article by David Gordon caught my eye. The headline was, Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Inhibiting Growth?

As a marketing consultant, writer, and trainer, I recognized the challenges and barriers that David was writing about. We agree on many issues (and their causes) facing electrical distributors and marketers. But I also hear from marketing people all the time that the C-Suite is hindering their efforts which, in turn, hinders the company’s growth.  

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2018 Electrical North American MeetingOn October 29-31, 2018, the AD Electrical North American Meeting drew over 1,000 attendees. This event attracted 151 first time attendees and representatives from over 362 companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Attendees benefited from a variety of agenda topics, including: Network Meetings, Emerging Leaders Session, and Country-specific Business Meetings. New to this year’s agenda was a SPA Optimization Workshop led by industry veteran Mo Barsema. In addition, members and suppliers also attended a panel discussion on managing and measuring your digital success.

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 EFC Announces 2018 Marketing Awards Winners

2018 Marketing Awards WinnersElectro-Federation Canada (EFC)’s Marketing Awards program recognizes member organizations that demonstrate marketing excellence and innovation within the Canadian electrical manufacturing and distribution industry. Winners of this year’s awards were recognized at EFC’s 8th Annual Future Forum, held earlier this month. (Shown in photo: EFC President and CEO Carole McGlogan with representatives from Bartle & Gibson, winners of the Integrated Marketing Award — distributor under $50 million.)Electro-Federation Canada (EFC)’s Marketing Awards program recognizes member organizations that demonstrate marketing excellence...

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Peers & Profiles

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 Young Leaders: Taylor Gerrie

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Recently we launched an initiative with Electro-Federation Canada's Young Professionals Network to include profiles of up-and-coming leaders. We provided the list of questions below to Taylor Gerrie, Automation Account Specialist at Gerrie Electric Wholesale Ltd. in Burlington, Ontario. Here are Taylor’s responses.

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Susan Uthayakumar, President of Schneider Electric Canada: Driving Success

Susan UthayakumarBy Owen Hurst

First and foremost, sitting down with Susan Uthayakumar feels more like sitting down and conversing with a friend than conducting an interview with the Canadian president of one of the world’s largest electrical manufacturers. Of course, she exudes the confidence and knowledge her position demands, but equally identifiable are an open and engaging nature.

In a recent sit-down, we learned a little about Susan’s history and what drives her to succeed.

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Looking Back

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Looking BackThe best memory I keep from CEDA is the way that they accepted me when I came into the business. The welcome they gave to me, all of them men. (In those days there were not many women in business.) This welcome I will always remember. CEDA has played a very important role in my success.

One year our conference was in Hamilton, Ontario. Mr. Caouillette, our speaker, got lost and instead of going to Hamilton went to Toronto. I think that that was the longest cocktail hour that CEDA ever had… waiting for him to arrive. Certainly that night the head table and everyone were in good spirits.

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Looking BackLooking BackIn the 1930s to 1940s, CEDA’s Western Canada membership was very stable with old line independent companies like Horsman, Ashdowns, Brettell, Marshall Wells, Electrical Supplies Ltd., etc.

Small electrical distributors just were not acceptable for membership as they did not carry the main-line manufacturers’ goods, publish a wiring device catalogue, or employ four to five salesmen as CEDA requested.

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