2013 Dealer of the Year: Singer Equipment Company

"Salespeople have a lot of capacity, so the question is can you put the support and infrastructure around them?" says L. Mark Woolcock, vice president of contract sales. "We will support that salesperson so they feel like they can sell up to their capacity. So we will push that salesperson to reach their capacity."

Each Singer Equipment Co. sales team concentrates on a particular customer type: chains, contract work, design build, street sales and so on. "We are a group of segmented distribution businesses that each focus on a key customer segment and try to provide solutions for that customer segment. The key elements at the center of those solutions are foodservice equipment and supplies," Singer says. "We look at each of these businesses on a profit-and-loss model to see how successful we are."

"We can chart our growth based on what's going on in the industry, where money is flowing, etc.," Woolcock says. "We know who our customers are and are very honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses. We play to our strengths and don't spend a lot of time chasing those
opportunities that are not right for us."

By design, each sales team is a little different in its approach, marketing materials and the way it builds solutions for its customers. Each team's commitment to being responsive, knowledgeable and, yes, friendly, is the tie that binds them. "Our cash-and-carry trade is empowered to have different products than we might have in the warehouse for our street customers. So if we have to bring in different product to serve that customer, we do it," Singer says.

The net result is a series of hyperfocused sales organizations well versed in their clients' unique needs. "I am a great believer that a sales team focused on a specific customer segment will be more deeply networked into the community, will have more knowledge of the customer's challenges and needs, will speak the language of that customer and in the end be more successful when selling against the generalist, which is what I hope my competitors are," Singer says. "For example, healthcare has a very specific language and set of concerns. If you don't know that language, you will have trouble selling into that segment."

One example of how this approach works well is the Philadelphia-based national accounts team led by Brian Morehead, vice president.

Morehead's national accounts team focuses on the emerging- chain market, which they define as those multi-unit operators with anywhere from 10 to 300 locations. "Those companies tend to be pretty lean and don't have procurement departments or other areas like that inside," Morehead says. "So they need a partner who can procure products for them better than they could. And they often don't have a construction department, so we step in to help make sure the contractors are doing what they said they would do and that the equipment can be installed properly. Those chains appreciate our ability to provide these services because it helps them grow quickly."

To support those clients, Morehead's team has purchasing professionals, account managers that handle day-to-day dealings with the customers, project managers and installers. "The whole team has to work together to make it successful. No one person makes it successful. It's the team with the best players that win," Morehead says.

“It is important to make sure we can service what we sell. The majority of what we sell is serviced by our own fleet of trucks that come out of our distribution center.” —John Vozzo, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Singer Equipment Co.Having such a team in place frees up Morehead to do what he does best: sell. "My responsibility is to drive business and drive it through the processes we established internally," he says. "And this model allows us to drive a high volume of business. When I first came to Singer the contract teams were working regionally. Since that point we have opened locations in 47 different states, and we have been able to expand the profile of Singer Equipment Co. nationally."

The foundation of the national accounts team's success? Service. "Considering that most dealers' buying structures are the same, what separates us is our service and attention to detail," Morehead says. "Our customers tell us that and that's why our national accounts have had growth of 30 percent to 40 percent in recent years. If we were not doing a good job, they would move on to another supplier."

And this structure not only benefits Singer Equipment Co., it also adds value to all of the company's relationships and positions everyone involved for long-term growth. "We are absolutely not a transactional business. We are a relationship business, and that goes up the line to the factories and down the line to the customer," Woolcock says. "We are not looking for a quick-hitting transaction and then move on. We are much better at building relationships. When we go after a job and tell a factory that we want to take them in on a job with us, they believe it based on the end results they have seen over the years. And the customers have a lot of confidence that we are going to do the right thing in the end. Factories, reps and our customers love the fact that Singer Equipment Co. is very steady and true. They can plan their business strategy based on how we run our company."

And when things don't go exactly as planned? "We are going to use it to build a relationship. We are not going to use the opportunity to beat someone over the head to get a change order," Woolcock adds. "And that's what people want more than anything: someone that has got their back. That's definitely the way Fred has built the business while leading the company."