During Azione Unlimited’s fall conference, Azione members—both dealers and vendors—made suggestions to help manufacturer’s representatives, and ensure their long-term viability. A thorough survey of the dealers was conducted and the results are highlighted below.
At the conference, an open discussion was held, entitled “Does the Rep Model Work?” Many dealers reported frustration by the performance and practices of the model, and felt with some adjustments the rep model could help dealers be more successful and rep companies too.
Azione listed 10 responsibilities of a rep and asked members to rank them from most to least important. The results were averaged and ranked as follows (Most important to least important):
1. Follow up on orders/backorders/shipments
2. Train staff on products
3. Respond to questions within 24 hours
4. Pass on leads
5. Relay sales programs
6. Follow up on credits
7. Handle returns
8. Take orders
9. Spend time with sales team
10. Share industry trends
Other suggestions collected by the survey include:
When conducting face-to-face meetings:
· Prepare an agenda for the meeting one week prior to visit. Email it to meeting attendees for their input, additions, corrections and approval.
· Make an appointment at least two weeks in advance.
· Provide a list of attendees (include their title)
· Advise dealer at least two days in advance of any special requirements needed for the meeting (projectors, screens, power, cables, etc).
· When visiting a dealer, check in with the front office, engineering, operations and service departments to ensure all concerns are being addressed/resolved.
· Always check on RA’s when visiting each client.
When making a phone call to a dealer:
· Do not attempt to drive a car during phone conversations.
· There must be a reason for the call. Do not just “check in." Cut to the chase and disclose the reason for the call early. Dealers do not like end of the month/period dialing for dollar calls, especially the ones using closing techniques such as creating urgency and stock threats. If you need the sales, call and ask as a business partner and offer incentives to act.
· Both dealer and reps need to have numbers and issues in front of them when calling.
· Let dealers know what is new and how they can protect their interests with the products they rep.
· Dealers do not want sales calls in an attempt to pump business. They need product information, trends, info on what is working and hot out there.
· Stay focused on new products, pricing and incentives
· Be quick and to the point
· Know the products reps represent
· Send an email with questions or an agenda when requesting a call time.
When dealers were asked: “What would you suggest to a rep that would make them more efficient, thus ensuring their viability,” they responded:
· Reps should submit all price sheets, spec sheets and marketing materials electronically for internal distribution (or provide links to Drop Box account or FTP where the information can be accessed).
· Provide names and positions of any factory rep accompanying the sales rep to the meeting prior to the visit. Also state an approximate length of time for the requested meeting.
· Have detailed numbers on hand to discuss products, categories, sales trends, sales tracking, etc.
· Have a list of action items both sides want to accomplish going into the meeting.
· It is important for the reps to acknowledge how the model has changed and that it is no longer about the sell in, but rather the sell-through. It is a pull model, not a push model. Reps provide the greatest benefit when they can provide timely, accurate info for proposals and even help in the field with demos/sales.
· To initiate trainings online using “Go To Meeting” or the likes. When they do set up a personal meeting, make sure the conversation stays on task in regards to the subject matter you requested.
· Follow up after the initial meeting.
· Update on new product availability.
· Reps need to be sure they have a good grasp of your (the dealer) “profile.” Know what they sell/what they can sell. Focus the call/meeting on a very specific product or product line.
· Set a time limit to meetings
· Know their products and how they differ from the competition.
“We love reps and have deep histories with many of these great people and companies," said Richard Glikes, President and CCO of Azione. "Manufacturers have limited knowledge of individual markets and the personality dynamics that exist. In my career as the vice president of retailer Bryn Mawr Stereo, good reps made huge contributions to the success, profitability, and growth of the company. Even now they have been prudent advisors. It is interesting to note that members thought that “taking orders” was eight out of ten on the responsibilities ranking and that having an agenda prepared in advance would make these time starved executives more efficient. We are working with Ipro and local rep firms to succeed and prosper.”
Sondralee Orengia of Custom Audio noted, “I use them (reps) for their knowledge. They are the ones in the field. They have their finger on the pulse of the industry. They are a great tool.”
“Everybody here got a line that helped them get started, B&W, Sonance, McIntosh, Velodyne, you name it. Some rep who had a good head on his/her shoulders recognized potential and planted a seed,” commented Aaron Gutin of Access Networks. “The rep model in principal is good but it is broken and they need to fix it” remarks Mike Benedetto of Salamander. “We need to work together on how to fix it.”