Fastenal says the company is focused on adding “energy”
into its stores to free up the time of salespeople who will
The Hunt for Qualified Employees
And it’s not easy finding candidates who want to make a
career in distribution, which many describe as a “non-sexy”
business. Yet as we know, distribution and manufacturing
offer excellent careers.
Scott Jochum, a member of the Industrial Distribution
faculty at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, says that
all 50 graduates in the school’s distribution program were
offered positions in the industry prior to graduating. Those
students each received three to five job offers.
He praises a school program that allows students to work
at distributors on an internship basis. Many of the students
are then offered positions at those companies.
“Distributors we work with are greatly pleased with the
results,” Jochum says. “It’s a win-win. It gives the student
exposure to our industry and it helps employers determine
if those interns are a good fit.”
He points out that much of the focus in the industry
today is on supply chain activities but added there are
tremendous opportunities for students who have techni-
cal sales training in areas such as fluid power, bearings and
other products, as well as training in sales techniques.
“If we had 400 students in the program we’d have 400
students at graduation who would have jobs,” he adds.
Another top-notch university, Texas A&M, has an out-
standing industrial distribution program and on its website
points out that every student in its ID program had a job
at graduation. Many of those students were offered jobs
in sales engineering and sales management. The graduates
received an average of three job offers, and the average
starting salary was $52,000 with some receiving up to
$70,000. They were recruited in many industry sectors such
as manufacturing, distribution, and consulting.
Many of the industry’s top distributors and manufacturers annually make the journey to Texas to meet with potential recruits from the long-time ID program.
There are also a number of other schools with successful
ID programs such as at the University of Alabama, Clarkson,
and Eastern Michigan University, as well as many others.
The Sales Challenge
All these successful ID programs show the need for finding
technically proficient salespeople, a problem that has been
mentioned in the past by many employers.
As just one example, a fluid power distributor recently
said it took months to fill two sales positions because he
couldn’t find the right candidates.
“I found some people who were good salespeople, but
didn’t have the technical knowledge or people who had
the technical knowledge but not the sales expertise,” he
A story earlier this year in a Wall Street Journal blog
proves the need for salespeople who are technically profi-
Sales reps who peddle technical and scientific products
earned a median annual wage of $74,970 in 2012, more
than twice the median for all workers, according to the
Labor Department. A competitive hiring market for science
and tech workers is part of the reason, but employers also
say young workers are uninterested in sales — a field they
perceive as risky and defined by competition.
Technical sales and sales management positions play a
critical role for U.S. businesses, but they are among the
hardest to fill, according to a 2014 report from Harvard
Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project. Employers
spent an average of 41 days trying to fill technical sales
jobs, compared with an average of 33 days for all jobs for
the 12-month period ending in September 2014, according
to Burning Glass, a labor-market analysis firm that worked
with Harvard Business School on the report.
The article also mentions something we have been saying
for years: there is a strong need in our industry for salespeople who are problem solvers and not just sellers of products.
That’s something to keep in mind.
Jack Keough is contributing editor of Industrial Distribution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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