"I'm going to get the order," Pete told me plainly.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
It had been a slow month, and this order would help us. I had visions of the bar on the monthly sales chart climbing toward our goals.
"Why are you so sure?" I asked.
"Because," he answered proudly, "I know the plumber."
I wondered if I heard him correctly. He couldn't have said plumber. Pete was selling cabinets for a home office to a contractor putting a two-story addition on a house. What did the plumber have to do with an office?
Suddenly, the climbing bar in my mind stopped and started falling toward the bottom of the page.
"Did you say plumber?" I asked, failing to hide my disappointment.
"I said plumber," he answered confidently.
Pete smiled and raised his hand to halt my protests. He took out his cell phone and called the general contractor.
"Yes, I met with your client and faxed you the plans," he told him. He listened to the contractor's response and relayed the information to me. "They love the plans...want to proceed with the order..."
The bar started rising.
"But there is a problem."
Pete said the contractor might not be able to recess the storage cabinets into the wall. "I have to call the architect."
That didn't sound good. When a dealer suggests changes to plans, any bump in the road can knock that supplier right out of the wagon. Contractors don't need suppliers that make jobs more complicated.
Pete dialed the architect. As they exchanged pleasantries, I was impressed by Pete's attitude. He had already worked with the client on design and product selection. He had visited the jobsite to verify measurement. Of course, these are services we provide all of our clients. But now Pete had reviewed the plans with the contractor and, hearing about a potential problem, he was speaking with the architect.
I still had no idea what the plumber had to do with it. There wasn't a sink within 10 feet of the addition the house was getting. The bar chart in my mind was woefully low.
"Right, recess the cabinets into the south wall," he said to the architect. "No need for a header, so the framing plan is fine...good. Oh, I see–a mechanical chase in the closet. ...OK."
After hanging up, he explained that the architect was concerned about a mechanical chase in a closet behind the new office. Pete's plan needed that space to accommodate recessed cabinets, but nobody was sure what was in it.
Nobody, of course, except the plumber, who Pete was already dialing.
"Lunch at 1 o'clock?" Pete asked, hanging up after they agreed.
"Why didn't you ask about the mechanical chase?" I asked.
"I already knew the answer," he told me. "I'm going to get the sale," he repeated, smiling.
Pete had noticed the potential problems with his plan and called the contractor's plumber, whom he had known and done business with for years. They met at the job and discovered that, indeed, there was plumbing in the chase, and it would be very easy to relocate.
You could say that Pete went beyond the call of duty–meeting plumbers and speaking with architects in order to sell cabinets–but I don't think that's true. Home building and remodeling are complicated businesses that require great attention to details. Sometimes these details fall outside of the traditional scope of responsibility for the supplier, but attending to those especially makes you all the more valuable to your customer.
Because Pete knew the plumber, I could print out the sales chart I had been dreaming of.
–Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa.