Tales From a Road Warrior: Independent Rep Larry Winderbaum
Our latest “Road Warriors” feature is here! Today, Larry Winderbaum, an experienced sales rep, head honcho at New York Reps, and veteran road warrior, shares his thoughts on how he got into sales, the first time he saw a fax machine, and how order management technology has changed the way he does business.
Tales from a Road Warrior: Independent Rep Larry Winderbaum
HS: How did you get into sales? LW: My friend got me into the business. She told me that she needed someone to help in the office and type invoices. From there, I ended up running the office and then running the warehouse. At that point, I realized that salespeople were the ones making the most money! To make a long story short, I ended up doing very well in sales, becoming a regional sales manager, an international sales manager, and eventually the head of my own firm. HS: What do you sell and who do you sell to? LW: We’re an independent sales firm representing several manufacturers, so we sell a wide range of products that include books, gifts, stationery, products for the home, and products for tourists. We sell to book stores, souvenir shops, and other retailers, including Barnes & Noble, MoMA, the Statue of Liberty, and Century 21. HS: What territory/region do you cover? LW: I cover New Jersey and New York, including the Boroughs, Long Island, and upstate New York. HS: How did you start thinking about technology? What made you start using order management software? LW: Well, in the past, I had a lot of people working for me writing orders by hand. I was also manually writing a lot of orders, and I actually paid someone whose entire job was order entry. We used to mail orders by post, and I remember the first time I saw a fax machine. I said, wow, this is amazing. Basically, we’d write orders in the field, and give them to the order entry guy in the office. He’d type up the order, print it out, and then fax it out to the manufacturer. I was paying this employee to do all that busy work, and every time an order was re-written, there was always the chance that mistakes would be made. There had to be a better way to process those orders. I eventually evaluated a few solutions, but Handshake just seemed like the right program; it did everything that we wanted it to do. It was a good program at a good price, and the offices were here in NYC, so I was actually able to visit their office and talk about the product. HS: How do you use sales order management software at your field sales appointments? LW: With a lot of my customers, I’m in charge of the ordering. [Laughs] I almost think of myself as a benevolent dictator. Life is about someone trying to get you to do what they want, and you trying to get them to do what you want. Handshake makes it easier to get my customers to do what I want them to do, and do it faster. I want to have real estate in a store--I want to have that space, build trust with retailers, and then allow them to forget about it. They’ll trust me to keep that rack filled and order the right products for their shelves. So actually, 90% of the time when I’m using the app, I’m not actually in a store. I’ll do a quick store visit, make sure the product displays look good, and then later write up a suggested order to send to the buyer. But one of my other reps always uses order management software while in the stores, right in front of buyers. She focuses on souvenir shops, writing her orders and emailing them out right from the store. The retailers love working with her. HS: How has order management technology impacted your business? LW: It has really changed my life and my business. The customers are getting their orders faster and we’ve eliminated over 95% of order entry errors. In terms of lag time, we’ve sped up the process by 20 times. In retail, it’s all about turning the merchandise. If a sales manager writes an order on a Thursday and gets home late, he may decide to process the order on Friday. But then the weekend rolls around, and that always causes delays. That order will maybe ship out Monday. With order management technology, the order goes out on Thursday. It’s instantaneous. My company also uses the printed orders--which include images--as packing slips. Our customers love that we have visuals rather than just the text description of the products. HS: People can buy from others, but why do they buy from YOU? LW: I’ve been in the business for years, and my customers know me and trust me. In a way, I’m taking control of the customer’s business--in a good way. They can trust you to send suggested filling orders and keep their store stocked. When they buy from me, they know that the order will be correct and shipped on time. Thanks for sharing your story with us Larry! Stay on the lookout for more Road Warriors features to hear more about other reps' experiences out on the road.