Top 26 Markets: Training Tools, Brand Ambassadors and Relationship-Builders
by Deborah Ragsdale
IAPD President

f we’ve met in person, you’ve probably guessed that, first and foremost, I am a salesperson. It’s the job I have always loved because it lets me be me. Through my sales position, I have been given the opportunity to meet friends, educate customers about performance plastics and, as I have mentioned many times, form relationships with companies, branches and salespeople. Through all my conversations, I let people know that if they have any questions, they can come to me. I love helping people and contributing to their success which, in turn, helps contribute to my employer’s success.

Even with my love of sales and relationship-building, I will admit that the word “training” has always sparked some fear in my heart. I don’t think that’s unusual among salespeople. After all, we’d all rather be out talking to customers and prospects and doing what we do best. While training other salespeople is part of how we make sure that everyone can achieve their goals (and, for us nearing the end of our careers, the ability to retire someday!), it isn’t what gets us excited about waking up in the morning and hitting the road.

Part of the reason for the seeds of doubt about my ability to train salespeople, at least in the past, is that I work for a manufacturer where my knowledge was limited to the products we produce. I can talk about UHMW all day but ask me about other materials and I’d be lost.

Knowing my limitations has given me a greater appreciation of and respect for the performance plastics distribution network. Distributors must know all about all the different performance plastics materials that are out there, how they’re being used, what the right materials are for the right conditions, whether there’s a better fit and so on. That’s a ton of information, and it’s one of the reasons that the word “training” scares me.

A headshot portrait photograph of Deborah Ragsdale smiling
Finding answers
I was asked to do a 4-hour training to onboard sales representatives for a large distributor. They specifically wanted the training to be interactive, memorable and fun. I tapped into my creative juices to find just the right tools for this training. After much analog searching, I turned to the Internet and did a search for “training — plastics.” This search led me to none other than the IAPD website. I spent a lot of time there, looking for anything that could help. While I was still trying to develop this training, I attended the IAPD Leadership Development Conference. There, I asked a lot of questions about IAPD’s educational materials. That is when I found IAPD’s “Top 26 Markets” for performance plastics one-page information sheets.
IAPD came to my rescue with this resource, which is available for free for every member. This gem of an offering can be used for onboarding new employees regardless of their role in your company, to educate customers about the power and versatility of performance plastics and even on your websites to help promote the benefits of performance plastics over other materials.

I printed each page and discovered a wealth of knowledge about each market segment listed below:

  • Aerospace
  • Agriculture
  • Alternative Energy
  • Automotive
  • Building and Construction
  • Chemical
  • Electrical
  • Environmental
  • Fluid Handling
  • Food & Beverage
  • Heavy Equipment
  • Life Sciences
  • Lumber
  • Marine
  • Material Handling
  • Medical
  • Mining
  • MRO Manufacturing
  • Oil & Gas
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Recreational
  • Security
  • Semiconductor
  • Signage
  • Transportation
  • Water/Wastewater
If you’ve seen these information sheets, you’ll know that each one includes helpful information about the market, such as common market-specific applications, materials typically used in the market and the advantages of performance plastics as compared to other materials traditionally used in the market.

These information sheets were exactly what I needed for my interactive training. I created a game that involved me describing the material Polymer Industries produced, gave them each the information page from IAPD and asked them to list the products we produce in the material listed. This training was everything I hoped it would be: A great day of fun and knowledge that could be remembered.

Benefits to distributors
I now use these pages during any sales call I make with distributors. I point them in the direction of where these Top 26 Market information sheets can be found on the IAPD website. I believe that this is the most extensive information about these markets that a distributor can find. To have this information in front of a salesperson when talking to transportation providers, all applications for an automotive provider, a purchasing agent for a large company involved in fluid handling and so on is a tool that cannot be anything but informative for all. These Top 26 Market pages cover all the bases. Some of Polymer Industries’ distributors have included these sheets in their training books. It was a great find for me and my company.
An infographic document of Sustainability Advantages of Performance Plastics and Disadvantages of Other Materials
Adding value
The Environmental Committee is now working on a very important project and one that will make these Top 26 Market information sheets even more valuable. They are adding sustainability-related data to each market, so when you talk about how performance plastics make airplanes or cars lighter and more fuel efficient, you have the data about the savings right there, at your fingertips.

Having these datapoints will be a huge advantage to any IAPD member working with customers that want to improve their carbon footprints. It will help us respond to the bad rap associated with plastics, because we can show environmental advantages of using performance plastics instead of other materials. It will also be a valuable resource when talking to Members of Congress, as we try to counter the anti-plastics sentiment in Washington, D.C.

These one-page information sheets give all of us an opportunity to tell our side of the story, the positive benefits of performance plastics. This is a story that needs to be told to everyone, from customers to politicians, manufacturers to end users. IAPD has given us a valuable tool to add to our sales tool belt. I hope you are all using them.