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What We Learned from the Annual IPRO Conference - ResidentialSystems.com

What We Learned from the Annual IPRO Conference

Professional Sales Force Conference Provided Energetic Lead into CEDIA
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Vin Bruno CEDIA CEO: “IPRO members guide integrators to the best solutions for their customers; to link the right products to the right jobs is a critical element.”

More than 70 representatives, manufacturers, and industry colleagues attended the annual IPRO (The Professional Sales Force) Conference September 12 and 13 in Dallas. The two-day event provided attendees with an energetic and informative lead into CEDIA.

CEDIA CEO Vin Bruno led things off with an address to IPRO attendees confirming the importance of the CEDIA/IPRO mutually beneficial relationship.

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Ray Wright, IPRO executive director: “When you have this many smart and experienced people sitting in workshops and roundtable discussions, something wonderful happens.”



“IPRO members guide integrators to the best solutions for their customers; to link the right products to the right jobs is a critical element,” he said. “Anything that can be connected in the home will be connected. There is lots of money and lots of opportunity out there and IPRO reps connect it to the manufacturer and the integrator.”

Indeed, Frank Sterns, VP of specialty/CI at Sony explained at his company’s pre-show press conference that Sony’s growth over the last few years could be partially attributed to the rehiring of outside manufacturers representatives.

“Our outside reps have tremendous value, and we currently have 80 feet on the ground in 17 geographic locations working hard for us,” Sterns said. 

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IPRO Board of Directors (l-r): Mike Sajecki, C&E Marketing; Mike Pecar, Mike Pecar Sales; Ray Wright, IPRO; Dave Humphries, Atlantic Integrated and CEDIA Board Member; Frank Culotta, Symco; Mike Pawlowski, Atlantic Integrated; Eric Bodley, Future Ready Solutions.

During the conference, IPRO secretary Bill Zidek, principal of Tandem Marketing and Allnet Distribution (a Catalyst AV member) presented a step-by-step plan to “Create the process for higher sales and profits.” He highlighted some of the greatest values of IPRO, such as benchmarking your company against your peers, access to advice from experts and respected industry members, and the ability to coordinate activities and share what works with manufacturers.

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More than 70 representatives, manufacturers, and industry colleagues attended the annual IPRO Conference.

Understanding that 65 percent of the population consists of visual learners, through video and live training events, Zidek has also implemented enhanced training and communication, such as monthly technical webinars with key manufacturers—such as “30 minutes with ELAN”—and other content consisting of product feature updates, driver updates, feature-set deep dive, programming review, and even discovering bugs.

To get the best response rate, Zidek’s team sends a reminder email at 7:00 a.m. on the morning of the webinar and offers special incentives, such as deals and raffles. But his level of targeted communication doesn’t stop there. Enhanced education at the rep level also consists of weekly training webinars, which attract an average of 35 live participants and garner as many as 300 YouTube views after they’re posted online.

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Bill Zidek: “Understanding that 65 percent of the population consists of visual learners, through our video and live training events, we get a great response rate when we post on YouTube.”

“We have to constantly be thinking of ways to enhance business,” Zidek said. “For example, as shades and lighting continues to be such an immediate growth area, we hired an outside sales specialist. She has provided more bandwidth for our existing sales staff, and this gives the outside sales associate laser focus on a specific category or brand.”

Another engaging presenter was Liz Beerman, executive director of the Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), who spoke on the topic of building profit in relationships.

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IPRO Conference chairman Eric Bodley: “IPRO and CEDIA represent being in business in good company and nobody does good business alone...it is about good company.”

“The people in this room started in sales, moved to sales manager, and then on to starting their own firms,” she said. “So how do you keep building those relationship bridges through to succession planning? You have to close business, period. Our goal today is to learn ways to do that better.” 

Beerman went on to offer an outline to achieving this, such as learning three actionable items for building more profitable relationships, identifying the person at your rep firm who is interacting with unexpected roles at manufacturers, and listing key factors to implement actions and build bridges.

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Liz Beerman: “Over 90 percent of American manufacturers move the product line through independent outsourced field reps. Manufacturers don't have time to build relationships with dealers and distributors. Reps are cost effective and feet on the streets.”

Beerman explained, perhaps surprisingly, that more than 90 percent of American manufacturers move their product lines through independent outsourced field reps. Manufacturers, she said, don't have time to build relationships with dealers and distributors. Reps are cost effective and provide feet on the streets. When asked how manufacturers can better serve their reps, Beerman suggested the two most important steps are helping them to close business and providing better information about the competition.

As always, Beerman concluded, communication in the rep’s own organization is critical. “Does everyone know the key manufacturers currently being focused on?” she asked. “And are the reps in your company empowered to act? Miscommunication is a cancer and it will eat your business from the inside out...everyone in your company is a sales person!”

Adding to the enlightenment of attendees were Dave Workman, CEO ProSource and Richard Glikes, president of Azione Unlimited, who engaged the group on the topic of “How can buying groups and IPRO work better together?”

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Dave Workman, CEO, ProSource, and Richard Glikes, president, Azione Unlimited: “No one can take the place of what the reps do, it’s localized service and for a buying group to be successful you can't be all things to all people.”

Workman emphasized the importance of reps, even in the eyes of a buying group. “No one can take the place of what my reps do,” he said. “It’s localized service, and for a buying group to be successful you can't be all things to all people.”

Glikes said that his group facilitates the relationship between vendors and dealers, but that it has a set of criteria for how to choose dealer members. Reps, he said, help with that process. “There is plenty of market out there for all of us, and reps know the qualified dealers,” he said.

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