PBM hits the road with Carl Cox, Training and Technical Support Team member for Dunlop, who outlines the importance of sharing product knowledge and details the back-up services on offer to merchants.
“No two days are the same,” explains Dunlop’s Carl Cox. “One day I could be advising a contractor on a major housing project, the next I could be providing one-on-one training to a Branch Manager at a builders’ warehouse. It’s definitely varied, and I don’t have a ‘typical’ day.”
While the majority of his work is in London and the South East, Carl can be asked to cover events and training across the country. “There’s a lot of driving to cover such a large area, and splitting my time can be difficult, however it does mean that I have visited a variety of different projects and built up tacit knowledge of the industry that I can share with my customers.”
The majority of Carl’s time is spent training customers on products and fixing techniques, supporting the company’s Technical Support Advisors and Area Sales Managers in delivering focused training to branch staff.
“As the Dunlop range is predominately a merchant’s brand, and the customers deal with a lot of different products within the industry, it’s really important to tailor the training to meet the needs of branch staff who have thousands of different products and SKUs to learn about.
“We are all about being a presence through staff training and trade events, and dealing with any issues they or their customers have, whether it’s technical or sales related. And as well as the small stores, we also work with the large builders’ merchants — such as Selco and MKM (see panel) — bringing them to our training facility in Stoke-on-Trent for bespoke training courses.”
Another facet of Carl’s job involves site visits and producing job specifications. He explained: “Site visits are definitely one of the most interesting parts of the role. You never know what you’re going to turn up to.
“I’ve had some shockers I can tell you that, but I’ve also had some really interesting projects with some fantastic builders and contractors where it’s been a pleasure to help them out, and support them on their tiling project.”
Carl started his career in the tiling industry in 2002 working Saturdays at his local tile store, before being promoted to Assistant Manager and then Manager over a period of 11 years. He relocated to Ipswich and managed a trade centre and showroom for four years, as well as merchandising, before joining Dunlop in June 2017.
With 17 years in the tiling industry, Carl believes that tiling knowledge in builders’ merchants has come a long way in the last few years — although there is still room for growth. He said: “You have to understand that while tiling is now pretty big in builders’ merchants, it hasn’t always been the case. Now that a lot of multi-trade personnel are using merchants as one-stop-shop, it is pivotal that staff and end-users have the knowledge to help the industry grow, which is where my role comes in.”
Importantly, Carl believes that merchants should look at streamlining their tiling ranges and stocking quality over quantity: “I do think that merchants need to make sure they are stocking quality ranges of tiles, not just value brands. Because they are now selling kitchens and bathrooms, they need to offer high quality tiles which are more consistent in size and finish and are therefore easier for tradespeople to fit.”
Part of Carl’s role includes helping merchants with merchandising — especially their tiling displays. “Tiling and grouting displays can go a long way to increasing sales,” he said. “We can help provide this service as well as tile stickers which show what colour grout has been used.”
In terms of explaining what he feels Dunlop does differently, Carl explained: “I think we’re more hands-on. We also provide a full range of products, such as uncoupling mats etc. and we provide that support network with our Area Sales Managers and Training and Technical Support Team to give us a very strong presence in the builders’ merchant sector.
“Of course there is always room to improve, so we listen to what branch staff are telling us and make sure we provide the services that they require, not just what we think they require.”
Branch staff and customers from MKM Building Supplies recently joined forces to soak up a day of training at Dunlop’s Innovation and Technology Centre (ITC) in Stoke-on-Trent. Led by Area Sales Managers Lewis Lupton and Geoff Cavell, the course included theoretical presentations and hands-on practical workshops on Dunlop tile adhesives, grouts and other ancillary products, such as its Shower Waterproofing Kit and Rapid Rescue Repair Mortar.
Dave Rowley, Training Manager at Dunlop, said: “We’d encourage all merchants to take advantage of these courses to give their staff the best opportunity to sell better, helping to increase margins and market share.
“Not only are our courses free, merchants can tailor courses to meet the needs of their staff and any installer clients they would like to bring along. Thanks to our flexible approach, we can build half day, full day or even two-day courses. Get in touch now to see how we can help you.”
For more information on Dunlop’s product range and support services for merchants, visit https://www.dunloptrade.com/distributor-zone