StarLine Distributors 'Spring into Action'

Edition: May 2002 - Vol 10 Number 05
Article#: 1240
Author: Repertoire

StarLine has come a long way in the past 15 years. ''It seems like yesterday that we were holding our first conference in Miami Lakes back in 1987, with 83 participants doing a combined $100 million in sales,'' said Ron Fleitz, StarLine's managing director. ''And here we are in 2002, with 114 members responsible for $1.8 billion in sales and a record number of attendees at our conference.''

StarLine held its 16th annual sales and marketing conference at the upscale Marriott Rivercenter here on March 20-23.

Calling the conference a ''call to arms'' for the independent distributor, Fleitz urged the attendees to ''stop, look and listen to what's making other companies successful. This conference is the time to step back and assess your company's progress, listen to new ideas, analyze your competition and seek out new products and vendors. When you leave here, you should be ready to shake things up in your respective territories and make some good things happen.''

Fleitz underscored the opportunities for local distributors, citing current trends in the market, such as physicians leaving large hospital-owned practices and striking out on their own. ''You have the power of being local,'' he said. ''You know the area, you can respond to your customers' needs quickly, and you're a member of their community. But you also have the backing of NDC, a national company. NDC can provide you with the edge you need to win in your respective markets, through the NDC warehouse, a fully staffed advertising department, VIPER, NDC University, AIM, Medconduit and constant promotions.''

A number of top speakers presented at the conference, including Skip Tucker of the Karrass Negotiations Group (''Effective Negotiations: A Working Seminar''), Jim Meisenheimer (''How to Get Surefire Selling Results''), and Welch Allyn's Brian Sullivan and Dr. Ben (''What a StarLine Distributor Must do to Outsell the Competition''). Dr. Charles Roadman, president of the American Healthcare Association, delivered the keynote presentation.

Sales Success Today
One of the interactive events was the physician market panel presentation and discussion. Set up around Fleitz's premise of learning from one another, the discussion was led by Haili Pokipala (R. Weinstein), Brandi Cunningham (United Medical), Doug Schonfeld (Long Beach Surgical) and Jeff Sweet (Delaware Valley).

Pokipala, an 13-year veteran of selling into the physician market in Hawaii and the Pacific, told the audience that working a remote territory, with little regular contact with the manufacturers he represents, creates a different dynamic than that on the mainland. His formula for success is strictly old-school, though, and applicable to any market or market segment.

''You have to know your business,'' said Pokipala. ''Know your competition, be an expert on key things such as CLIA and OSHA regulations, CPT and ICD-9 codes, know your accounts by specialty, constantly probe for what they need, know who makes decisions, practice your presentation before making it, and always ask for the order!'' He also pointed out that memorizing lease factors is very helpful, so a quote can be given at any time.

Schonfeld and Cunningham agreed. ''I use all of the tools at my disposal to make sure I better understand my business and my customers,'' said Schonfeld. ''Using the information I get from StarLine, going online to find CPT codes and getting product training in [Education OnLine, a Web-based training center], are just some of the easy ways I find I can stay ahead and keep my sales growing.'' Schonfeld's dedication was evident. Not only does he sell on a daily basis, he owns the company as well!

All of the panel members agreed that relationship building was an essential component of success. Cunningham, who has been selling for United for less than two years, credits her relationship with a key customer as being the reason she landed the biggest order in the history of the company. ''I know my customers on a personal level. They trust me and in this case, they trusted me to take care of them on a significant amount of business,'' said Cunningham.

Pokipala, being in a remote location, does all of his own inservices when an account purchases something new. He learns the product from the manufacturer when they're visiting, and then practices until he can do it just as effectively. This effort, ''earns me the respect of the client.'' Sweet, who is also very effective in equipment selling, takes the same approach. ''Of course I sell the company and our capabilities,'' said Sweet. ''But I also sell my expertise and knowledge, which really adds value.''