PEMBROKE, Mass. — For years, dry cleaners wanting to expand would open drop stores. But these days, more and more are turning to another strategy: route sales.
Why open a drop store if you can send a truck and driver who will win neighborhood business by offering to pick up and deliver?
This strategy has the advantage of less up-front capital investment. The idea of a route salesperson is especially popular these days. There is a preponderance of upper- to middle-class neighborhoods that consist of families who have money but not time.
Enter Ron Herrmann, route sales consultant for 22 years. Herrmann says he has worked with 100 dry cleaners and trained 250 route salespeople in the last six years alone.
Typically, he spends four days with a trainee. A recent aspect of his work is to train counterpeople to convert customers to route sales.
To understand route sales, I asked Herrmann about his approach.
Q: Who makes a good route salesperson?
Herrmann: Anyone with drive and determination and with an enthusiastic personality. Many times, the counter staff are perfect candidates. They know the business. They can deal with people. They’re tired of getting 20-cent raises every year.
Outsiders can also succeed. I encounter a lot of people who’ve had four or five salaried jobs and they have growing families and they want more.
The best candidates are between ages 24 to 35. It’s hard to teach a 55-year-old who’s had a lot of sales jobs. But there are exceptions to all rules. We recently offered a route position to an 84-year-old man.
I know that a lot of people are afraid of cold-call and door-to-door sales, but I can alleviate their fears. Really, what they’re doing is telling about their service. It’s more telling than selling.
Q: What about personality?
Herrmann: Well, the individual must be enthusiastic and energetic. Smiling is important. That’s tough for me to teach. If a person doesn’t smile, he or she is probably not going to work out.
So I say to the dry cleaner, don’t hire the applicant that doesn’t smile. The key is to get the route salespeople passionate about their service. This passion is what inspires the prospect to go for it.
Q: How do you counsel trainees to handle rejection?
Herrmann: I always tell them don’t take it personally. It’s just business.
Q: In your four-day training program, do you do all the selling?
Herrmann: Absolutely not. Perhaps we have three to four hours of the applicants coming up to the door and watching me make the presentation. Then they begin to do it and I watch. A big part of my job is conveying the confidence that they can do it. And after making several dozen calls, they can.
Q: What can a route person expect to earn?
Herrmann: Several are earning $45,000 a year. Others earn in the $35,000 range. It can provide a good living. I tell them to do the math. If you win 10 customers a week, that’s 500 customers after a year.
My estimate is that the typical family account generates $850 annual volume. So, 500 accounts times $850 each is $425,000 volume. But even a less successful (pretty good) route salesperson should do $350,000 volume. That’s a lot of dry cleaning. The salesperson will become invaluable to the dry cleaner.
Q: What about cash flow in the beginning?
Herrmann: You have to spend money to make money. You’re paying salary plus commission plus new-customer bonus. So, in the beginning, you’re subsidizing them. But in time, they’ll make money for you.
Q: How much do you pay?
Herrmann: As I said, you’re paying as salary plus commission. You have to pay your route salespeople well. Don’t try to be cheap with them. If they make money for you, pay them what they deserve, and thank them for all their efforts, because without them, you probably would not have most of these customers.
Q: Is your consulting practice busy?
Herrmann: I’m on the road 42 weeks a year, training route salespeople all over the country. I’m busy. Apparently, most dry cleaners feel it’s worth my fees to train route salespeople the right way. Of course, my clientele are upper-end dry cleaners.
Q: How can you be reached?
Herrmann: You can reach me by e-mailing [email protected] or calling 623-498-0073. I also sell a sales manual online.
If you missed Part One, you can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].