The other day, Dan Kremchek, a McKesson rep covering Cincinnati, Dayton and other points in Ohio, was looking at about 500 reminders of the naked sales calls he made when he started in distribution sales 22 years ago. A graduate of Ohio State University, he had taken his first job with Wendt Bristol, an independent distributor in Cincinnati.
“They put me in the warehouse for a week, customer service for a week, and then they said, ‘Hit the pavement,’” recalls Kremchek, runner-up for the Repertoire/HIDA Excellence in Sales Award for a distributor rep. “I went through the Academy of Medicine phone book, wrote the names on cards arranged by zip code, and started cold calling.” On the cards, he wrote pertinent information about each account, such as the name of the person at the front desk, perhaps a physical description. That way, when he returned in two weeks, he’d be able to refer to that information before walking in the door.
“I can’t remember who taught me this, but when you make that first call – they call it the naked sales call – you go in with nothing but your business card. Those note cards paid off. Everything started falling into place.”
Two simple things
Kremchek learned a simple lesson during those first years: Making connections with people is all-important in this business. And while he says he could name 10 or 20 things that are key to retaining customers, he believes it boils down to just two: Show up and follow up.
“That’s it. You’d be amazed at how many times you get customers because the competition didn’t show up or follow up. ‘I called that guy the other day and he didn’t call back,’ or ‘I haven’t seen our rep for six months.’
“We don’t make anything; we’re pure service,” he says, speaking about distributor reps. “If you show up and follow up, that’s all the customers ask. They’ll have problems, so you take care of them. They can buy a box from anybody; but it’s what happens after the sale that separates you from other reps.”
Kremchek treats manufacturer reps the same way. “Loyalty and trust are big in this business,” he says. “Working with manufacturer reps – and by working, I mean physically making calls with them in your accounts – is absolutely key. Over time, it builds trust and loyalty. Because if I’m not working with Denny Monnin at Midmark, then who is?”
Adds Midmark District Sales Manager Denny Monnin, “I first met Dan when he came right out of college and started at Wendt Bristol. I could tell he was going to be good, because he asked questions and wanted to learn all he could absorb.
“Dan knows how to work with manufacturers, and realizes it is a partnership relationship that helps you both grow your business. His customers love him, he has a special way of picking up an office during his sales calls, and he remember things about his customers, like their children’s names and vacations they went on.
“One of the things that has made him so successful is his follow-up,” continues Monnin. “He will follow up with me to see if I followed up, which sometimes is annoying, but is what makes him so darn good.”
In the November Excellence in Sales article on Dan Kremchek, Repertoire ran the wrong cutline information and not the full image provided. The full photo included Kremchek (far right) with Reds owner Bob Castellini celebrating the 2010 Cincinnati Reds clinching the NL Central Division. Repertoire regrets the error.