Despite the outstanding efforts of customer service, outside salespeople, counter sales, operations, warehouse, finance, management, and owners, we, as distributors, may not be maximizing our common objectives.

Why is this? It seem as though everyone is working as productively and passionately as they can.

While the drayman of those famous beer-pulling delivery wagons ensured that the six horses are all moving in the same direction, many racehorse trainers insist strategically placed ‘blinkers’ keep horses focused on what is in front. This encourages them to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions. Without the blinkers, the horses’ energy could go to waste.


I have worked with some of the very largest corporations, and, like many of you who interface with suppliers or customers of such size, I sometimes wonder how they get through the day.

Here is a piece of advice I heard many years ago: write out your top three goals of your department on a small card. Then, add the company's top three objectives. Hopefully all six goals are aligned. If not, make some corrections. Ask each of your team members at the start of the day, or as you wrap things up with one of your one-minute manager thank yous: “What do you understand to be the three top goals that need to be focused on?” You may discover you need to apply blinkers to ensure that line of sight.


Let us start with a story that is quite typical throughout the vast majority of HVACR distributors. A senior director of sales I was working with rode with a local representative to visit that rep’s biggest potential accounts — the ones you’d never want to lose to the competition. When visiting a large client, she passed by a room full of hard hats that had just been received. “Why did you not buy those from us?” she asked. The client replied, “I did not know you sold them.” The director glared at the salesperson. Need I say more?

Why is it that outside salespeople fail to take the blinkers off and look for additional, new opportunities? It’s my belief that it is a combination of laziness and empathy. Product or application knowledge are clearly limiting factors, as demonstrated in the case of the room full of hard hats. 

Fear is also a contributing factor. I remember long ago a major utility company rejecting the innovative idea of offering credit cards to their customers. The concern at the top being that defection or questionable performance of the credit card could impact existing business. I encourage taking the blinders off, taking a risk, and piquing your curiosity for new opportunities. Sell not only what you sell but consider what else that client may be currently buying as well as what they may purchase in the future. After leaving the call, you’re welcome to put the blinkers back on.

Publication date: 01/21/19