By Bridget McCrea
Managing foodservice projects from start to finish takes work, and all that work gets extra complicated when multiple sales reps, numerous equipment vendors, and geographically-dispersed customers are involved. Tracking sales from that first point of contact, into the specification and bidding process, and right out to the payment of commission checks requires time and effort.
For many manufacturers and their sales reps, it takes a combination of spreadsheets, phone calls, and sticky notes to handle the end-to-end process. Wanting to streamline this procedure, Neil C. Inverso, president at Sharon Hill, Pa.-based One Source Reps began using MAFSI’s SpecPath in 2016. An 11-40-00 foodservice tracking software program, SpecPath unites foodservice jobs, channel partners, market segments, sales pipelines, and commission credits onto a consolidated platform.
Inverso, whose company sells heavy foodservice equipment, says dealers used to send him projects via email. “Someone in our office had to review every spec,” Inverso says, “and then start to build the quotes and get the factory requests. It was a largely manual process.” For a company that makes its living off public-bid projects, those manual processes were both error-prone and time-consuming.
That changed three years ago, however, when One Source Reps began using SpecPath. “Now it’s a matter of just uploading the information on the new project along with the PDF,” Inverso says, “and within 24 hours we’re downloading the spreadsheets and shooting them over to the factories for quotation.” Inverso also uses it to track the projects that dealers are bidding on in One Source Reps’ territory. “It’s a central source of information that we can use to follow projects.”
A Secure, Web-based Platform
By consolidating foodservice sales activities onto a secure, web-based platform, SpecPath is helping manufacturers and reps turn their specs into valuable data—while also streamlining their office operations and freeing up time for team members. Inverso says it has proven invaluable in an era where dealers as well as rep groups consolidate or get acquired by outside entities.
When a project gets “purchased,” for example, Inverso wants the factory to know that his firm called on the consultant, or that it was a design-build involving one of his local dealers (and that One Source Reps worked on and deserves a specification credit for it). “SpecPath helps us follow that trail,” says Inverso. His company recently began using SpecQuote, an AutoQuotes (AQ) integration with the platform—allowing it to build out a quote based on SpecPath’s data. (The integration was in beta testing at press time and due to be released within the following month.)
Using the AutoQuotes configure, price, and quote software, Inverso’s reps can create customized quotes for their customers. This integration, Inverso says, blends together two programs that wouldn’t otherwise be able to work in tandem. “My battle cry on MAFSI’s board has been to get more software programs working together, mainly by having the vendors themselves partner up with one another,” says Inverso, who serves as treasurer on the MAFSI Board of Directors. “We’ve only been using the SpecQuote integration for a few months, and it’s already proving to be a significant time saver for us.”
Alison Cody, MAFSI’s executive director, says adding automated quoting to SpecPath made perfect sense because it allows manufacturers and reps to service their dealers faster: “All they have to do is upload the project into the platform, and any rep in that dealer’s region can view the items that he or she has on the job. They can check that list against the consultant’s accessories and view a pop-up box populated with information from the PDF, review the information, and then send the quote off to the dealer.”
Better Intel, Please
Under development since 2014, SpecPath fills a need in an industry that historically has used manual, paper-based processes to shepherd projects from concept to completion. “It was created to help the reps better quote the projects that the dealers are giving them,” Cody adds, “and to also track their credits with the manufacturer.” In addition, the platform gives the manufacturers themselves better intel into their projects and the companies that are specifying them.
Consider, for example, a new hospital that’s currently in the planning stages. The architect responsible for developing the complete building plans for the hospital begins hiring the consultants who will help plan out the various specialty aspects of the building. One will map out the kitchen plans that are then integrated into the larger, overall building plan. Once approved, those plans are sent to a general contractor that works with a network of preferred dealer-distributors.
“The plans may be sent to five to 10 different FEDA members and/or made public,” says Cody. So far, most of this process is done on paper, scanned into a computer, and shared via PDF. The task gets particularly cumbersome where 200-plus items need to go into a kitchen, and when every rep within a certain region must then go through the PDF to pick out those items that he or she represents. The negotiation process—which requires even more paper shuffling—kicks off, and the process proceeds until the final decisions are made.
SpecPath steps in early in this process, typically when the PDF is shared by the general contractor. Once a rep uploads that PDF to the platform and names the project, the platform asks a series of questions to get the process rolling (e.g., who was the consultant on the project? Who was the design dealer?). With all consultants and design dealers preloaded into its database, the platform automates the process in a way that allows faster and more accurate dealer servicing and quoting. It also tracks and splits commissions accordingly, ensuring that everyone who was involved with the project gets his or her due credit for the job.
The platform also provides high levels of transparency about projects that may have been forgotten about, but where reps are due financial rewards for their work. “It’s easy to lose sight of projects, especially when they’re outside of your geographical region,” Cody says. “Much like crowd-sharing, anytime anyone uploads a project, and if that project applies to any rep in the respective regions, they see the activity immediately.”
Everything in One Place
Beyond consolidating and streamlining the project bid process, SpecPath also features numerous reports, key performance indicators (KPIs), and data points that manufacturers and reps can use to make good decisions and improve their businesses.
“It’s about having everything from reports to project information to credit-tracking data in one place and available at the click of a button,” says Jennifer Cody, SpecPath director of software operations at MAFSI. “It literally takes every piece of information from a spec and makes it available to any rep or manufacturer that’s been specified.”
Inverso concurs, and says the platform gives his reps better visibility over its own consultants—whether or not those consultants are supporting One Source Reps’ brands—and where improvements can be made.
“SpecPath quantifies what we’re doing out there in the consultant industry; that’s a huge benefit,” says Inverso, adding that manufacturers also benefit from the platform and the high levels of visibility it provides. “Factories can look across the country and see which reps are getting specified, which territories are more active than others, and which dealers are bidding on projects. With this information in hand, they can make more data-based decisions going forward.”