Several processors have pointed out a worrisome trend they see developing: the disappearing salesperson. No, it has nothing to do with magic. It's all the Internet's fault. As large suppliers to the plastics industry consolidate their offices from local to regional offices, or even to one national sales office, processors fear the loss of their sales rep as more transactions take place via computer modem.
Why should that bother them? Well, for one thing a sales rep is usually more than just a person who walks through the door now and then to sell them resin or conveyors or dryers.
One processor told me, ``a lot of sales are generated through personal relationships.'' He said he worries that he'll see less and less of one of his resin reps because the firm pulled all its regional people and put them in a national sales office.
What bothers this processor, and many others, is the lack of the personal relationship.
Many processors develop genuine friendships with their sales reps and look forward to the personal sales call. It's the processor's contact with the outside world. What's new in theindustry? What is happening in their area? Because the sales rep travels around the country, he or she is able to give the processor a view of the ``global picture'' of life in the plastics industry.
Another processor told me he misses the days when his resin or machinery rep was a short drive away, and could come to help out with processing problems at a moment's notice.
He, too, fears that the assistance he used to get will be lost somewhere along the information superhighway, a road that might not lead to his door.
Other processors complain that every time they try to call their local resin rep, that person is back at the national sales office for a meeting. They feel that it's just a matter of time before a rep in the field, rubbing elbows with the processors, will be a thing of the past.
For those at supplier firms who are reading this, you might be asking why it matters. True, it's not that processors can't purchase material or equipment from their suppliers without a sales rep sitting across the desk, pen and order pad in hand.
Purchasing material is now as easy as a phone call or an Internet transaction. After all, if people can meet, date and marry via the Internet, surely they can order material or supplies.
Companies still will get their orders. Nothing will be lost, except that friendship; that personal touch that turns ordinary business transactions into relationships.
And that will be just too bad.
Goldsberry is a Plastics News correspondent based in Phoenix.