To save a few jobs after selling a second location, one Central Ohio businessman created what has become a model support system, allowing sales reps to reach more potential customers while still servicing existing clients.
The jobs Jim Dixon Sr. saved at Val-Pak of Central Ohio are now called sales coordinator positions, and the people who fill them help the sales reps at his nearly $6 million business increase sales, as well as customer satisfaction.
They do this by servicing existing customers which account for 80 percent of Val-Paks business while sales reps focus on building on the remaining 20 percent.
We expect them to bill at 10 percent more each mailing vs. the [same months] mailing a year earlier, explains Dixon, who owns the Columbus-based franchise that mails consumer coupons monthly to more than 500,000 homes in Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Marion and Union counties.
Dixon used to own a Val-Pak franchise in Dayton, which he sold in 1994, leaving him with extra support staff in Columbus. This extra staff understood the business, Dixon says, so he didnt want to get rid of them. They were detailed people who could help a sales rep approve client coupon artwork, coordinate billing and collections, and answer client questions more quickly than a sales rep who is typically out of the office.
Sales reps are good at getting sales, Dixon says. But a highly detailed person is much better for the customer in the long term.
Its also proving to be better for Dixons company. The sales coordinator is part of a business plan that has allowed Val-Pak of Central Ohio to double its sales in six years.
When we made the change, we were at about $2.5 million in sales, Dixon says.
Last year, the company reached $5 million in revenues. This year, Dixon is expecting to boost that total by another million.
Dixon has also increased the frequency of Val-Paks mailings since 1994, going from eight to 12 times a year without increasing his staff. Only now is he beginning to hire more sales reps and sales coordinators.
Dixon says his Val-Pak franchise sales are double that of any sister franchise now.
I have to attribute a lot of that to our sales coordinators, he says. We have such good sales reps, but they can do so much more because of the sales coordinators. Our sales reps are twice as productive.
Heres how he does it.
Affording a coordinator
Dixon determined that once a rep was producing $35,000 a month in sales, that person would be assigned a sales coordinator. Generally, one coordinator assists two sales reps. It takes 3 percent of the reps total monthly sales to cover the coordinators salary. If a rep with a sales coordinator cannot increase sales beyond $35,000 a month, then the rep loses the coordinator.
The objective is for both sales reps to sell in the neighborhood of $50,000 a month each, he explains. When the sales coordinator handles more than $70,000 a month, the coordinator benefits with a 3 percent commission on the additional sales. Coordinators can make up to $40,000 a year on this plan, he adds.
Initially, Dixons reps were hesitant about using sales coordinators.
They were extremely nervous about allowing anyone else to talk to their customers, he says. They were afraid about losing customers. If the sales coordinator says the wrong thing, they might lose the sale. Sales people, in general, are paranoid and have difficulty accepting any change.
It was difficult to turn them over initially, but now they know it makes the relationship stronger.
Jennifer Mills has been a sales rep with Val-Pak since January 1996. After 18 months, she qualified to work with a coordinator.
I still do a lot of the [ad] layouts and getting proofs approved and collection calls, Mills says. But my sales coordinator helps to organize everything and finds more efficient ways of getting things accomplished.
It has made a big difference in my business just from stress management alone, she adds, noting she has 117 active accounts that mail almost on a monthly basis. Mills also is working outside the office four days a week.
My billing has always continued to increase significantly from year to year and I attribute a large proportion of that to the help I get with a sales coordinator, she says. Its pretty essential to managing a large account base effectively.
That doesnt mean sales reps leave all customer care to the sales coordinators. Dixon says his franchise hosts golf and ski outings where sales reps and customers see each other and sales reps still stop by their clients businesses when theyre in the area and its convenient.
It will vary, Dixon says, but at least every six months we want the rep in there saying, Hello, and making sure the customer is happy.
Dixons business model using the sales coordinator position is so successful that it is replicated at other Val-Pak franchises, which number more than 300 in North America.
Obviously, as a company, it gives [us] a more solid relationship with the account, he says. If the sales rep leaves, we have another person still on the account and in a relationship. For the rep, the dividends are greater and more immediate.
How to reach: Val-Pak of Central Ohio, valpak.com or 486-7168, ext. 135
Andria Segedy (firstname.lastname@example.org)is a free-lance writer for SBN.