From left: Robbie Hill (seated at computer), owner of Hill’s Service Co. Inc.; David Griffin, C.C. Dickson Co. director of sales; Tom Cizmar, Armstrong Air Conditioning business development manager; and Buddy Hill, Hill’s Service service manager, meet to discuss upcoming Air Ease product introductions.
C.C. Dickson Co., a major wholesale-distributor of HVACR equipment in the Southeast, has been in business for more than 70 years - since 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and businesses were built on customer service, strong values, and reliable products.

Competition is a lot tougher now. Today, businesses like C.C. Dickson realize they're competing with others that offer very similar products, services, and pricing. In order to differentiate themselves from the competition, they are taking part in Armstrong Air Conditioning's new GPS (Growth, Profit, Success) program.

According to Armstrong, GPS helps distributors develop customized offerings for their dealers. The goals are to strengthen the loyalty of existing customers, win new customers, and achieve profitable growth. It's part of a trend toward direct customer feedback in the business-to-business communication world.

"Distributor sales representatives are very good at building relationships with their customers and know how to provide excellent service," said Tom Cizmar, business development manager for Armstrong. Cizmar leads the GPS distributor sales workshops. "GPS gives them the tools to differentiate themselves and their companies.

"By understanding customers' and prospects' business issues, distributors can offer solutions to help them achieve their goals. That's a real advantage." The results, he said, are long-term, profitable business partnerships.

Focusing On Contractors

C.C. Dickson had recognized its own need for contractor business partnerships. Part of the key was getting the company's sales reps to buy into the program. "GPS has shown us how to train our sales representatives to identify profitable accounts through strategic customer analysis," said Jack DeMao, president and chief executive officer of C.C. Dickson. "They are becoming a trusted strategic advisor for our customers instead of just a vendor.

"Our sales representatives now have a greater understanding of what their job truly entails."

The wholesaler's sheer size sometimes may get in the way of keeping its focus on customers. "With 108 branches, there are 108 problems coming in everyday," explained David Griffin, director of sales for C.C. Dickson. "You tend to get sidetracked." The GPS program "keeps you on track and gives you a sense of accountability," he said. "Our sales representatives have responded positively, and that's creating an environment of growth."

Program Details

Wholesalers that participate in the GPS program are given a series of customized workshops for their own sales teams' managers and representatives, Armstrong explained. "They are taught to deal effectively with customers in a way that distinguishes them from the competition," according to the manufacturer.

Sales teams are taught how to measure account performance and conduct a sales plan analysis to identify new opportunities. Territory Business Plans are developed to help them achieve their sales quotas and identify the best prospects for growth.

The distributor's sales managers and reps then interview current and prospective contractor customers, to discover their problems and objectives, therefore recognizing their business potential. These interviews indicate where there are opportunities for growth.

"We might think we have a high-volume customer, but then we start analyzing and realize we're only receiving bits and pieces of their business," said Jessie Long, area sales manager for C.C. Dickson. "Now our time is being used wisely with the appropriate customers. This translates into major profit growth, not just for C.C. Dickson but for the customer as well."

Extra Attention

"Our customer conversations have gone from just quoting a price the old way, to discussing daily obstacles and issues," said DeMao. "It's a very different approach from the standard HVACR selling method and both our sales representatives and customers have truly embraced it.

"C.C. Dickson Co. is becoming a trusted, reliable partner instead of just a distributor that visits periodically."

Armstrong said it has several companies participating in the GPS program, and the success is beginning to show.

"C.C. Dickson has been involved in the GPS program for just a little over a year, and sales are up 15 percent," said Griffin. "Profits have grown over $400,000 in two of our branches alone."

"We reviewed many sales programs before selecting GPS," said DeMao. "Others require a lot of translation for our business, but the GPS program already fits into the HVACR sales industry. This is real meat-and-potatoes sales training. It's just what C.C. Dickson Co. needed, and it shows."

Publication date: 10/31/2005