A company is only as good as its people. And, a small company, such as Friant, makes each person working for us a major contributor to our success. Here, everyone has a unique background and his or her own story about coming to Friant and carving out a special role. Our people are diverse, distinct and, we think, a cut above the rest and make Friant special. Last year, we started the “Look Who’s Talkin’” column in Friant eNews to introduce you to some of the people here and, from time to time, we’ll have a guest blogger to do the same.
Bill Hebebrand, one of our first earliest sales representatives outside of Northern California to come on board, has significantly helped the company grow. Starting with little industry experience, he’s built a strong market for Friant in the Southern California area from square one. Tenacity, resourcefulness and a “never say no” attitude is a huge part of Bill’s story, which, in his own words, follows:
I came to Friant in May 2006 – almost seven years ago. Before then, I had held many positions in the automotive business — from repair technician to franchise sales manager. After working in automotive for numerous years, I was looking for a change.
Some initial research revealed that the furniture industry could be a good fit with a real economic upside and, not to long after that, I learned that Friant & Associates was looking for a Southern California sales representative. Though I was starting at square one, with no prior knowledge of the office furniture space, I quickly figured out that Friant was a successful company and “repping” it was a unique opportunity. Soon after I met with founder and CEO Paul Friant, my opportunity to develop the Southern California market began.
My plan was simple: follow Paul’s lead and his many tried and true recipes for success. Even still, the challenges were numerous. Not only did I have limited industry knowledge, the Friant brand was virtually unknown in the Southern California market. I remember Paul asking me about my sales strategy. I told him I was hauling out the Yellow Pages and that my “plan” was to literally “dial for dollars.” For 30 days straight, I called…and called… and called hundreds of businesses in the area until I found enough people who would talk to me.
At that time, the company was still in a “bootstrapping” mode with little internal staff, and I had very little sales literature to distribute. In fact, I made all my own binders and copied the price books Friant gave me. Fabric samples were sent to me in small rolls, and I cut memo samples for customers myself. This was on-the-job training, but it worked. I learned from questions the dealers asked and made many calls to Friant on a daily basis, quickly learning how to find answers to satisfy the dealers.
The first question I often heard from dealers was about viewing local installations. Unfortunately, there were none since, back then, there were no prior customers in the Southern California market. The more I called, the more it seemed like no one was willing to take a chance and risk their reputation on a new manufacturer. Over the next few months, I made several trips to Oakland to learn as much as I could about Friant’s products. I met with Paul and others at the company. I brought along dealers, so they could discover Friant for themselves, and how we could help them. I learned a lot just by observing Paul during tours and presentations, which helped me, in turn, communicate more effectively to other dealers when I returned to my territory.
Coming from a different industry, Paul took a chance on me. But he knew I was committed to the company’s success. I have always felt that focusing on one manufacturer gave me a tremendous advantage. In fact, I’ve heard many dealers complain that most manufacturer representatives carry several lines and don’t really know any of them well. I can tell you that after six years of focused sales, I know the Friant products inside out. Many dealers here buy Friant because of the long standing relationships I have created and my extensive knowledge of their product lines. I act as an extension of the company and can readily give dealers answers to their questions.
Taking the time to develop broad and deep knowledge about the products you sell gives you a distinct advantage in the marketplace. Today, Friant provides numerous, effective sales and marketing tools, such as complete binders, catalogs, sell sheets, a well-designed web site as well as regular media mentions and Facebook and Twitter updates. It also has well-established internal operations, making the rest of the process simple from ordering, to design support and customer service.
Last, but certainly not least, the opportunity to profit with Friant is significant – both for the dealers and for the reps. Friant’s efficiency in manufacturing is second to none, producing office furniture that is well below industry pricing. With a complete line of furniture – from systems to seating and casegoods, there is something for every customer.
We’re all creatures of habit, but it’s up to you to give your customer a compelling reason to change office furniture brands. With the perfect marriage of quality and price, I think you’ll find that reason in Friant.