Tucker Rocky Changes Sales/Marketing Approach

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Sales & Marketing Team Reorganized

A recent brief announcement out of Tucker Rocky Distributing about changes in the marketing department piqued my interest. The note said that long-time marketing and advertising guy Stephan Ulbrich was no longer with the big national Fort Worth-based distributor. Several other reassignments were also mentioned. The moves followed the

Steve Johnson

departure of another long-time TR marketing executive, Tim Pritchard, vice president of sales and marketing, who left the company in October after eight years with the distributor.

What was up with the changes, I wondered? So I called Steve Johnson, TR’s president and COO. It turns out that the personnel changes reflect a significant shift in the way TR is working with its customers, both on the supplier side and on the dealer side.

The departed ex-employees aren’t talking, of course, but here’s the story, as Steve discussed it with me.

“It was clear to me that we needed new leadership in the sales and marketing area,” Johnson told me. ” Tim had been here many years and we had a philosophical difference on how to run the company, so I made a change.”

Johnson brought in Joe Galvin, previously a regional sales manager in the Midwest, as vice president of national sales to replace Pritchard and to manage the outside sales force. Galvin had successfully worked the tough states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, all located within driving distance of TR’s tough competitor, Parts Unlimited, based in Janesville, Wis.

“We had always struggled in that area,” says Johnson, “and Joe did a heckuva job for us. He built a solid sales team, and he drove sales to a whole other level for us.” Johnson said he studied Galvin’s performance and the way he made decisions and trained his people. He liked what he saw.

“I decided that’s what we needed throughout the company,” Johnson told me. “It’s not a radical left turn,” he said, “but it’s a philosophical difference in the kind—and amount— of training that we give our reps. We’ve added quite a few reps over the last couple of years and we gave them plenty of product training. But Joe and I concur that we need to do a better job of training for problem solving and just general selling skills.”

While Johnson applauds Galvin’s selling skills, he wants more from his reps than that. “It used to be,” says Johnson, “that it was a compliment to say a guy could sell ice to Eskimos, but not today. One day, that Eskimo is going to wake up and realize he doesn’t need the ice you’ve been selling him all these years; that’s when you lose a customer. That’s not how we operate; we’re looking to be a partner.”

Reps also need to know more about finance than most of them do today, believes Johnson, so they can have more intellectual discussions with store owners to help them solve problems and take advantage of business opportunities. “And we need the reps to be able to train dealer sales staff in the stores so those people can move more product through the store and provide better service to their customers,” says Johnson.

In a related move, Johnson promoted Debbie Bell to vice president of customer service and inside sales. Bell, who has been with TR for 19 years, began her career in customer service in the Tucker Rocky Kansas City operation. “Debbie knows customer service,” says Johnson. “She knows how this company works; she’s been instrumental in bringing the customer service processes to where they are today.”

While marketing services and brand managers had reported to Pritchard, that’s been changed. Sean Phillips has been made director of brand management and the Answer, MSR and ProTaper groups in the company’s Corona, Calif., office will now report to him. “This gives us a lot more focus on our brands, and I really want Joe to focus on national sales and sales rep development,” says Johnson.

“The days of marketing to your customers by bringing them a box of donuts are gone,” says Johnson. “The days of a customer buying just because he likes a rep are gone. You have to have relationships, sure, but it has to go beyond being best friends. It has to be based on helping the dealer make money; you have to talk marketing terms and investment. That’s a different sales approach in this industry, but it’s what dealers need, and we have to provide it.”

Ulbrich’s departure is the result, in part, of Johnson’s desire to move more into digital marketing communications and away, to a certain extent, from TR’s dependence on print-based advertising. “The consumer and the dealer are better educated because of the Internet,” points out Johnson. “And we have to keep up with that. We have to provide more digital content for them.”

“I don’t have all the answers,” Johnson told me, “but I have a vision. We’re making good progress, and that’s fundamentally why we made the changes that we did.” JD

Contact me with stories and news tips at 952/893-6876. Or joe@powersportsupdate.com.

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