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Preseason snow sales strong for Marshall

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Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor
October 23, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Following summertime sales meeting, Marshall Distributing bets on seasonal weather patterns

Nestled within the old world European charm of the Bavarian Inn, Michigan-based Marshall Distributing gathered more than 40 of its vendors and its 50-plus-member sales team for the company’s annual summer sales meeting that company officials said was its highest rated meeting in recent memory.

Aside from the popular topics of the weather’s impact on business, popular new products in the catalog and expectations for the coming season, the national distributor used its annual meeting as a chance to give its vendors and in-house salespeople a structured opportunity for some mutually beneficial face time.

Marshall Distributing assembled its partners in a new format that paired two like-minded salespeople to meet with each of the 43 vendors in attendance over the three-day event held every year in mid July.

The point of the event, according to CEO Roger Marshall is “to educate our salesmen and give the salesmen and vendors some time together, and the vendors therefore can teach the salesmen, [who] can take that on the job with them the next day when they’re calling on their dealers.”

“We set up a schedule with the sales force, with the vendor, that says in groups of two you will be with this vendor from this time to this time, and that allows the vendors, if they offer multiple product lines, to know that this is a snow guy … a northern salesmen with a northern salesmen so that the vendor can customize their presentation to get the most out of that time,” said Joe Mooney, president and chief operating officer of Marshall Distributing.

Another change, added to this year’s program based on last year’s feedback, was scheduled break times for vendor attendees, allowing them periodic times to focus on running their businesses remotely.

Andrew Hepburn from Ontario-based Outside Distributing tends his booth at the Marshall Distributing show in Frankenmuth, Mich.

Andrew Hepburn from Ontario-based Outside Distributing tends his booth at the Marshall Distributing show in Frankenmuth, Mich.

“A lot of these vendors are sending the president or the owner, and their time is valuable,” Mooney said. “If we try to jam everything in where they just keep giving the same speech in an eight-hour day, they’d give it 16 times, and wouldn’t have any time to run their company — we were putting them at a disadvantage.”

Looking ahead

Aside from laying out the coming year’s strategy, Marshall’s team also discussed new additions to the catalog and an updated sales strategy. After a tough season that included a winter that started late and lasted long enough to impact the cycle side of the business, the company is hoping for more seasonal, snowy conditions ahead.

The company’s UTV accessory sales have increased approximately 10 percent within the last year, exceeding in-house forecasts.

“We’re greedy,” Marshall said. “We want more, but these days that’s a pretty good figure.”

After adding Vee Rubber to its catalog, tire sales have increased across the board in all of the company’s wheeled categories. Other newer additions that sales personnel got to see included Wide Open Company’s side-by-side cabs, Lear Chemical’s Corrosion Block and Nelson-Rigg’s newest dry bags.

Adam Wood from Starting Line Products presents Marshall’s Greg Simms with the top salesman award.

Adam Wood from Starting Line Products presents Marshall’s Greg Simms with the top salesman award.

Reacting to the softness of the early summer season, Marshall ramped up its sales and incentivized its dealer base to clear out seasonal inventory.

Looking ahead to the coming year, Mooney said he was encouraged that several snowmobile OEMs reported increased preseason sales. While last winter was difficult in most parts of the country, Mooney added that most dealers were able to clear enough of their parts and accessories inventory, which bodes well for the coming months as dealers stock up for snowmobile season.

“Our preseason orders are, at this point, slightly stronger than last year, and we believe they will be stronger over the next two months,” he said.

 

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