Summit Sales Inc.
Summit Sales Inc. maintains close ties to its sales staff and territories.
By Jim Harris
The territories in which Summit Sales Inc.’s salespeople work are more than just places where they call on customers – they’re also where they call home. Each member of the Olathe, Kan.-based manufacturer’s representative’s outside staff lives within the company’s major markets, which include the state of Kansas as well as Missouri and southern Illinois.
One of the company’s largest markets is in Wichita, Kan., where an outside sales representative serving that city as well as the western part of the state lives. “That’s a very big market for us,” President Paul Zeller says. “We have a lot of business in western Kansas as well as in the Kansas City market, so having a person living in a major market like Wichita instead of trying to cover it out of Kansas City a few hours away is a big advantage for us. This means he can be at a customer’s place of business right away if needed. A lot of other manufacturer’s representative companies in our region couldn’t get someone out that quickly, so we feel that’s a huge advantage for us.”
In addition to giving Summit Sales a better response time to potential customer issues, having a presence in its markets helps it build closer relationships with its customer base. “We are the people they see on a daily basis, instead of every month or even every couple of months,” he adds. “We feel confident that we have the best coverage in our major markets.”
Summit Sales represents the manufacturers of several plumbing product lines to the wholesale market and secondary markets such as mechanical and plumbing contractors. The company promotes the products they represent to the secondary market, as well as wholesale customers and their showrooms. It also caters to contractors’ showrooms.
The company’s brands include Delta Faucet Co., which was the very first brand carried by Summit Sales upon its founding in 1980. Co-founder Bill Davenport, who had previously worked with a representative organization in Ohio, started the company with partner John Kaczmarczyk shortly after learning Delta was seeking a new sales representative in Kansas and western Missouri.
A second brand, Owens Corning’s fiberglass tub line, was added a few years later. “Once we got a second line, the wholesalers in our market started to believe we were a full manufacturer’s representative and not just a Delta factory salesperson,” Davenport says. “We’ve been selective in the lines we choose to represent, and that’s paid off.”
In 2007, the company expanded its territory to include all of Missouri and southern Illinois. The company represents most of its brands across all its territories, though it also represents manufacturers in select markets. One example is, Insinkerator, which it added in 2015 in its western Missouri and Kansas markets, but not eastern Missouri and southern Illinois, he adds.
The company’s current product lines include Delta Faucet, Fluidmaster, Peerless Faucets, Watco, Woodford, Milwaukee Tool, Brizo Faucets, Mr. Steam, Bootz, Maaz/Aker, Insinkerator and Fairmont Designs. Earlier this year, Summit Sales added Blue Angel Pumps across its entire territory. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to maintain relationships with many manufacturers for a long time,” Zeller says.
Growth Pays Off
Summit Sales has enjoyed very little turnover since its founding. “I think we’ve had three people in our 30-plus years in business quit or leave the company,” Davenport says.
Davenport credits the company’s staff stability in part to its compensation program. Summit Sales maintained this structure even during the Great Recession of 2008/2009. “We did not have to let anybody go; everybody kept their jobs,” he adds, noting the company’s principals adjusted their salaries. “Our people kept the main benefits we offer, and no one had their salary cut or lost any pay.”
Summit Sales’ compensation plan offers base salaries as well as a plan that rewards salespeople for growth in not just their personal territory, but in the company as a whole. “Our salesperson in Wichita will be rewarded for hitting sales targets for companies we represent in Wichita, but if our reps in Kansas City and Springfield, Mo., also hit territory goals, they will earn additional compensation for hitting the market goals set for Kansas and western Missouri” Davenport says.
The program – which was developed by Southwest Sales, a representative agency in Texas and also used by a company in Atlanta – encourages teamwork while also noting individual achievement. “This has been a very successful program for us,” he adds. “Regardless of where they are located, everyone in the company works together to grow all of our product lines we represent, and they get paid for it.”
All of Summit Sales’ inside and outside sales staff recently had the opportunity to take a leading role in the renovation of the company’s headquarters space. “We felt we needed a change in atmosphere to enhance the mood of our company,” Davenport says, noting the move followed the passing of Kaczmarczyk in 2015 and another long-term employee in 2016.
The office was fully gutted, and workstations and carpets were replaced. Employees helped pick out their new workstations and received new phones and computers. “Everything we did was to give them the feeling that they are an important part of the company,” Davenport says. “We’ve seen an unbelievable change in everyone’s attitude since.”