Rick Howe, The Knotts Company

The Knotts Company out of Berkeley Heights, NJ, might be 60 years old and immersed in the tradition-bound world of industrial distribution, but its attitude is about as forward thinking as it can get.  The whole notion of “embrace change” is embodied in thirty three year company veteran, now owner and CEO, Rick Howe.

In this episode he talks about how dramatically different selling today is vs. a few decades ago.  Value propositions, for example, have evolved from what a product can do for an application to what a service or total package can do to help a customer’s business.  Even more than that, a good sales rep should even be equipped to help customers better understand and serve their customers – and explain it all in dollars and cents terms.  Howe’s perspective on how to help sales pros make that transition is instructive.

We also discussed sales tools.  Knotts was an extremely early adopter of CRM and continues to push its boundaries.  Their reps see it as tool for their own benefit, not some management-imposed burden.  “CRM is more a sales tool than a management tool,” says Howe.  He followed that comment with this one:

“The traditional sales manager isn’t needed any more.”

How’s that for radical thinking?  Hard to argue though, with his logic of having a robust sales process, metrics and tools in place and having the sales pro self-manage.  (You don’t want to miss this section of the interview!)

In my view, the most forward thinking part of Howe’s strategy revolves around content marketing and use of social media tools like Twitter, QR codes and of course the Knotts blog.  When asked, “what next?” he didn’t miss a beat…

“Each rep has to develop an e-Rep. “

The pace of change, the sheer volume of information and knowledge and ever-intensifying competion all demand it.  “Each rep needs an electronic guy out there!”

Great stuff!