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Darby Dental Supply: Celebrating 10 years in Memphis

Jan. 1, 2009
Editor’s Note: Following is an interview with Darby Dental president Gary Rosenberg and vice president of sales and marketing Michael Bocian.

By Kevin Henry, Editor

Editor’s Note: Following is an interview with Darby Dental president Gary Rosenberg and vice president of sales and marketing Michael Bocian. I had the opportunity to travel to Memphis and tour the Darby facilities along with Rosenberg, Bocian, and other key Darby personnel.

Proofs: In your opinion, what makes Darby different?

Rosenberg: We want our customers to understand the value proposition we offer. We offer one- to two-day delivery and have nearly 50,000 products in stock with a 97.8 percent fulfillment rate on every order. Our 2.1 percent return rate is one of the lowest in the industry. We’re an authorized vendor for all products we sell and we do not purchase or sell gray market products. We also try to have fun with interesting promotions like our Year-End Gift Spectacular where prizes such as a Kindle eBook reader and a SlingBox were offered to our customers. see more on page ??

Proofs: What effect has the recent economic downturn had on Darby, if any?

Rosenberg: We found that the economy has boosted our number of inbound calls. Our customers are looking for alternatives. Top to bottom, our entire company is exuding with confidence. Dental practitioners are listening to us and they know that we can help them save money.

This company was built to survive in tough times. Our overhead is very low, as marketing and advertising are our big expenses. It takes roughly six months for a telesales rep (TSR) to get up and running and start making a profit for us.

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Proofs: Speaking of telesales, you don’t employ a direct sales force that visits offices. Your business is done over the phone, which is different than other models in the industry. In your opinion, can you build a relationship over the phone?

Bocian: We believe building a relationship on the phone is just as strong as building one in person. The best sales reps in the industry are in an office at most three times per month. We can be on the phone two to three times per week. No one has to track us down. They know how to reach us, and we’re there when they need us. Our goal is to have 100 telesales reps in Memphis by 2010 and we plan to contact every dentist twice a week to meet their needs.

There has to be a foundation for a relationship between the TSR and the practitioner. Our job is to make the office efficient and help save the customer money. Our order entry systems are very detailed. We know what someone has ordered and how often that practice has ordered. Our low return rate is attributed to our orders going out accurately. We also have what we call a “surprise and delight” scheme. We try to offer our customers something out of the ordinary, just for doing business with us. It’s fun for our customers to talk with our TSRs because they never know when they’ll get a value-added item — the “surprise and delight.” We’re there when they need us, and we want to make things simple and pleasurable. Our Web site has become popular and easier to use too.

More vendors are embracing the TSR sales model. They share our belief that TSRs and the Internet are the future of dental distribution. That’s why we’re #1 or #2 in growth with each of our vendors, and why we’ll continue to grow.

Proofs: Tell me about the training each TSR undergoes.

Bocian: One of the things that separates us from other companies is how well our people are trained. As far as we’re concerned, training is at least half of the equation. Our new hires go through a minimum of two months of training before ever making a phone call. Each TSR has a sales quota and sales goal. We know exactly what to expect during the first 24 months. If our sales reps exceed our expectations, we’ll ramp up their goals and their earnings after that initial 24 months. We want our people to be motivated by their own successes.

Proofs: So what’s the one message you want to leave with our readers?

Rosenberg: We’re a first-flight organization with top-flight people and tools. We can service as well or better than our competitors. We want to be a necessary part of the dental office, not a necessary evil. We want to be innovative and fun. We want our customers to have the “wow” experience. There is room for our TSRs to grow. You look at our company and you’ll find that our TSRs aren’t working in a boiler room. This is a place where people want to work.

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Our TSRs can make $5,000 to $8,000 per year in spiffs alone. We want that excitement not only coming to our customers, but to our sales reps as well.

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Founded more than 60 years ago, Darby Dental Supply, LLC has grown to become the largest all-telesales distributor of dental merchandise, and the company attributes that distinction, in part, to setting up its national distribution hub in Memphis nearly 10 years ago to keep up with the growing demand for dental materials and products.

Darby’s Memphis distribution hub opened its doors and delivery bays in October 1998 and created approximately 100 new jobs. The majority of these employees are Memphis residents who still work for the company, and help ship over $300 million worth of dental supplies to dentists across the country annually.

“We originally chose Memphis to be our distribution hub for the same logistical advantages recognized by other leading companies such as FedEx,” says Darby president Gary Rosenberg. “But we soon discovered that Memphis also has an excellent talent pool of skilled workers with an extremely strong work ethic that fits well with our ‘work hard, move forward’ philosophy that recognizes and rewards employee contributions.”

According to Michael Bocian, vice president of sales and marketing, Darby is able to recruit and retain qualified, productive workers for several reasons. “We offer a starting salary higher than the local average, invest heavily in employee training, prefer to promote from within, and operate one of the few warehouse facilities in the area that is fully air conditioned. Once they join Darby, nobody wants to go back to working in a non-air conditioned Memphis warehouse in August.”

Darby soon discovered that Memphis was home to a growing number of white collar professionals as well. Rosenberg explains, “Memphis area colleges are turning out thousands of qualified graduates each year, and the growing services business sector is attracting a wide range of specialized talent. That’s why we have expanded our Memphis distribution hub to include additional office space for a telesales team, financial services, and customer service. Darby Memphis is quickly evolving from a distribution center to a regional headquarters.”

Darby wanted to share its positive Memphis experience with the rest of the company, so the company selected the city to be the site of a special welcoming event when it acquired the telesales division of a rival distributor in June of last year. Bocian explains, “Memphis has always been a great destination city thanks to its local culture, food, entertainment, and its laid-back hospitality. I don’t know of another city that makes people feel as welcome as Memphis does.” All of those factors made Memphis the obvious choice to welcome the newly-acquired employees, who were flown into Memphis for an all-expenses-paid, three-day stay. Apparently, the “Memphis Magic” worked, because 99% of the acquired employees stayed on with Darby.

Over the past 10 years, Darby has become well-integrated into the close-knit fabric of Memphis. “Our employees live and work here and are affected by what happens in this community,” says Rosenberg. ”Like anywhere else in the country, there are many people in Memphis who do not have access to oral healthcare. Children who go to school in pain due to untreated cavities, adults who can’t get a job because they have missing or discolored teeth, mothers who give birth to pre-term low-weight babies due to untreated periodontal disease.”

“We can’t treat these people,” explains Rosenberg. “But we work closely with Memphis area dental societies to provide supplies and materials to dental clinics that provide oral health services to Memphis citizens in need. It’s one of the best ways we can give back to this great and generous city after 10 years of success and growth.”