StarLine Conference Working Together To Get the Job Done
Edition: May 2003 - Vol 11 Number 05
StarLine’s 17th annual sales and marketing conference, held at the Marriott Sawgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., drew a record crowd of close to 500 people, including members, manufacturers and guests. While the setting was certainly a draw – especially on the heels of the Professional Golf Association’s TPC Golf Tournament – it was the meeting’s content and exhibit hall, all designed around the theme of Working Together to Get the Job Done, that really had attendees engaged and excited.
Ron Fleitz, StarLine’s managing director, urged attendees in his opening session to grab hold of the tools available at the conference, and focus on how to take business to the next level through the development of true partnerships – with vendors, StarLine and one another. The conference was unique according to Fleitz because it was actually designed by StarLine members. And they recognized that old-school ways are no longer good enough to spur growth or successfully compete in a challenging and competitive marketplace.
“We can beat our competition, control our destiny and make our companies stronger if we support each other, support our group and build strong partnerships with our vendors. That means working together, and just like the theme of this conference, it means we have to build upon where we are today,” said Fleitz. “Over the next few days you have an opportunity to sharpen your skills, devise ways to improve margins, develop stronger communication and identify the partners you want to build relationships with. And with some of the national competitors starting to wake up and improve their abilities, these are some of the best ways you can protect and grow your business.”
Fleitz asked each member in attendance to “sell up” to the manufacturers with whom they currently do business. “Do the manufacturers you do business with understand your business? Do they know what markets you serve [as well as] your focus? Do they know when you have sales meetings? Who your key team members are? Do they know who to talk to? Do they know how to grow their business with you? Or do they even know you exist? Well, selling up means making sure all of these questions are answered with a resounding yes,” said Fleitz.
And in Fleitz’s book, that means not cherry picking items from a manufacturer’s offering. “When you only sell a few select items a manufacturer offers and become a fulfillment organization for those products, you add minimal value. They are not going to waste a lot of their time on you. But when you step up and learn about more of their offering, what’s driving their business and what’s important to them that can also help your organization, that’s the beginning of a true partnership. And partners deliver for each other. It means your key vendors will be spending less time with your competitors and it means you’ll be the one getting the sales leads and new business they turn over,” said Fleitz.
“One of the reasons we exist as an organization today is because StarLine works very hard to be your partner – through the numerous programs we offer and by working with the vendors many of you conduct business with,” added Fleitz. “There are over 200 vendors that we contract with on your behalf. We have our NDC warehouse, which StarLine distributors grew 25 percent last year, rapidly growing sales as an organization; our MedConduit e-commerce platform; our VIPER program; and a great advertising department. Our goal is to ensure that you are using these tools and using them effectively.”
Fulfillment House or Sales Organization?
According to Scott Wakser, president of Diamed Inc., a rapidly growing Ohio-based distributor and StarLine member who presented after Fleitz, there are two types of organizations in the industry – fulfillment organizations and sales organizations. “Fulfillment organizations, by definition, exist to obey, carry out, satisfy and bring to an end,” said Wakser. “Sales organizations are much different. They exist to cause an action, to bring about and to attract buyers. In today’s market, if you want to survive and increase margins, you simply have to be a sales organization.”
Wakser, whose company is focused on selling into the physician market, believes sales organizations create opportunities by understanding their customers’ needs. “Doctors went to school to become doctors, not businessmen,” commented Wakser. “They need help on the business side, and if you get close enough to them to understand, and then meet their needs, you become their business partner. And at that point, as you deliver value, price becomes less significant and they become committed to doing business with you.”
Wakser feels that distributors have a unique opportunity to help their physician customers, thanks to the dynamics at play in the business of medicine. “Doctors have to see more patients just to stay even with where they were a couple of years ago,” noted Wakser. “That means we need to help save them time, but perhaps more important, [we need to] help them maximize revenue per patient. That means we need to be the experts on all of the issues that affect them – CLIA, HIPPA and so on – as well as the equipment that is the right fit for their practices. So take the opportunity this week to learn about the things in your specific markets that will bring value to your customers, and set yourself apart from your competition.”