Contractor walks up to the counter and asks for a part. Counterperson brings out the part and rings it up. Contractor walks out with the part and heads to the jobsite. Will the contractor:

A. have the right part and be satisfied with the counterperson’s service?

B. have the right part and be dissatisfied with the counterperson’s service?

C. have the wrong part and blame himself?

D. have the wrong part and blame the counterperson?

The correct answer depends on a mountain of variables, one of which is counterperson training. Most distributors would agree that part and product information is a necessity for their counter employees; but distributors are also finding that contractors need consultants who can not only sell parts, but who can also provide a bevy of relevant information. One of the programs distributors are using to educate their counter people and branch managers is the Factory Authorized Parts (FAP) certification program from Totaline®.

Totaline offers a counterperson certificate as well as the training to help participants pass the tests.
Totaline offers a counterperson certificate as well as the training to help participants pass the tests.

“What’s a contractor want when they enter a distributor’s store? They want availability of the part, they want expertise to help them select the part, and they want fast transaction time,” explained James Flynn, Totaline training and marketing manager. “Talking about how last night’s game went is all fine and dandy, but a lot of times these guys are on the run between jobs and they want to be in and out.”

Launched in April of last year, the FAP certification program has four steps to achieving different levels of certification. The first step is the entrance exam. The second step is counterperson basics. The third is counterperson advanced, and the fourth is counterperson elite (see sidebar for step details). Successful completion of steps one through three affords the counterperson initial FAP certification status.

“The Factory Authorized Parts certification program is much like NATE®,” said Flynn. “It tests our counter salespeople and our branch managers on their understanding of these parts. We want to be able to help our customers — the dealers and contractors — with all of their needs, and this program helps test employees’ levels of knowledge.”

Training Sessions Available

The testing is one facet of the Totaline FAP certification program. A second is counterperson-specific training provided by Totaline University. Although not a mandatory pre-requisite to testing for different certification levels, these different training sessions cover a variety of topics.

“We teach them fundamentals of a/c, motors, electricity, etc.,” said Flynn. “We talk about some of our product at Totaline that they will be selling. We even have a class on how to act and how to sell at the counter.”

Some of the classes are offered at specific times throughout the year. The one mentioned above is offered twice a year and usually runs approximately 25 people per class.

“We also have a Masters 1 class, which is specifically for branch managers, and a Masters 2 class, which is the advanced class for branch managers,” said Flynn.

He went on to point out that Totaline also offers four regional training sessions across the country.

The 2013 classes were located in Indianapolis; Long Beach, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; and Syracuse, N.Y.

“We try to demographically take care of all different parts of the country so that attendees don’t have to worry about traveling from the West to the East Coast to go to a class,” he said. “We come to you.”

The four regional training sessions usually begin on a Friday evening with a trade show followed by eight hours of training on Saturday. All counter people and branch managers have the opportunity to attend any or all of the regional events in a given year.

The regional programs along with the Totaline University classes totals approximately 100 hours of distributor counterperson and branch manager training offered to those in the Totaline network.

Certification Benefits

According to Flynn, distributors have been asking for this type of certification and training. Currently there are approximately 1,500 participants in the Totaline FAP certification program.

Counterperson training not only benefits a distributor’s employees, but it also helps the employee better serve the contractor customer.
Counterperson training not only benefits a distributor’s employees, but it also helps the employee better serve the contractor customer.

“Our customers who are the distributors asked for this,” he said. “But ultimately their customers, the contractors, are the ones that are getting the benefits.”

Flynn explained that he is getting a lot of positive feedback from managers using the program who expressed they are happy that their employees are participating and that it is helping sales.

“We haven’t seen hard numbers yet, but in the feedback distributors are saying it is helping their people be more comfortable at their counters,” he noted. “And when they are more comfortable at the counter, they are likely to sell more.”

Totaline is preparing to honor a new set of participants for top scores in 2013. It honored 2012’s top students in January this year with a $500 gift card courtesy of Totaline. The winners were Joel Cordova of Carrier West; James Laukshtein of Carrier Enterprises Florida; Trisha Turner of Carrier Enterprises Mid-Atlantic; Kyle Kreuter of Temperature Systems Inc.; Bruce Schmidt of CP Distributors; Charles Cristwell of Sigler; and Joseph Almeida of Distributor Corp. of New England. Each achieved the highest overall grades for the year.

Flynn emphasized that while the certification program is centered on Factory Authorized Parts, the content that is learned and tested carries over into all aspects of the counterperson’s job.

“All the same principles that are learned through the Factory Authorized Parts certification program apply to all products at the Totaline Sales Center,” he said. “It helps our counter people provide dealers and contractors with the very best experience possible.

Celebrating 25 Years

The FAP certification program has been in existence for 1 ½ years now, but the company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“Why have we been in business for 25 years? Because we do everything we can to help our distributors, dealers, and contractors,” Flynn said. “That’s what drives our business and helps us continually make improvements that enhance our customers’ experience.”

He explained in an anniversary article in the “Beyond Repair” e-newsletter that Totaline, like its distributor and contractor customers, is fully invested in providing top service and education for those who use the company’s products. In 2013, the company is planning to focus on a resurgence of Totaline and what the brand means to its customers.

“Totaline epitomizes value in the quality products, turnkey programs, and continuous support it offers,” explained Flynn. “Everything about Totaline is about people … people buy parts from people.”

For more information visit

SIDEBAR: Four Steps to Factory Authorized Parts Certification

Step 1. Entrance Exam

Counterperson, 0-1 years on the job.

Ideal starting point for a new counterperson. Order taker, most basic level of FAP sales experience. General knowledge of the FAP message and product(s) involved. He or she has a working knowledge of sales tools, i.e., EPIC and C10. Relies heavily on others for direction, guidance, and answers. Must pass this exam to move to Step 2 Counterperson – Basics. This exam is the starting point for all.

Step 2. Counterperson – Basics

Counterperson, 1-3 years on the job.

Order processor, fully understands the value of FAP and how to deliver the message to a customer. Comfortably uses, “What are you working on today?” When given unit model and serial number or part number, can utilize FAP sales tools such as EPIC and C10 to complete timely and accurate transactions. Proficient with Factory Authorized Products and programs. Learning how to overcome objections at the counter. Knows customer base. Must successfully complete all Basics modules to move to Step 3 Counterperson – Advanced.

Step 3. Counterperson – Advanced

Counterperson, 3+ years on-the-job.

Salesperson, knows all the basics. Knows and utilizes the three types of selling: suggestive, comparative and solution based. Fully understands the workings of, “What are you working on today?” Has superior product knowledge. Knows how best to apply products in the field and how to communicate the features and benefits of FAP. Accomplished at overcoming objections at the counter. Understands key metrics. Others seek his/her advice. Must successfully complete all advanced modules to move to Step 4 Counterperson – Elite. Upon successful completion of steps 1-3, Counterperson F.A.P. Certification is achieved.

Step 4. Counterperson – Elite

For branch managers and senior people.

Experience at counter/store 3+ years. Sales leader who has completed steps 1-3 of this program. Fully understands the message, the greeting, and the value of FAP. Has superior product knowledge. Knows how best to apply products in the field and how to communicate the features and benefits of FAP to both his customers and employees. Understands the business, knows his market, knows store goals and has the management skills to know how to get the needed results with people he/she manages. Must complete all Counterperson – Elite modules to receive certification. Upon successful completion of steps 1-4, FAP Certification – Elite Level is achieved.

— Source: Totaline Factory Authorized Parts

Publication date: 9/23/2013 

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