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Your Market Ambassadors

This year is providing us all with a blast of change, challenge, and new opportunity. This months column follows my return from the 16th IPRO (Independent Professional Representatives Organization) Conference held in Washington, D.C.

The membership of IPRO is now at an all-time high since its charter in 1989 (the same year as CEDIAs charter), which helped to provide an unprecedented level of industry cross-pollinating. For some time now the organization has emphasized that the role of the manufacturers representative is to be our markets best ambassadors. This years conference was a unique platform for dialogue between top industry manufacturer principals, heads of top industry associations, key dealer perspectives, and top sales representative principals.

On that platform key new announcements were made from CEA and CEDIA. Looking ahead to 2007, theres never been a more compelling time to talk with our peers about our mutual interests.

To credibly perform the function of market ambassador, sales representatives need to be in communication and partnership with all members of our market, including, dealers, distributors, manufacturers, members of the press, and industry associations. This mission was accomplished at this years IPRO conference. Not only was there greater manufacturer participation and support, but for the first time, joining us in attendance at the same time were Ray Hall, consultant and former executive director of ERA, Don Gilpin, executive director of CEDIA, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, and Kerry Moyer, PARAs new executive director.

Shapiro revealed that CEA and IPRO have signed a formal, mutual agreement to provide support for both organizations. For some time IPRO has enjoyed strong cooperative relationships with CEDIA and ERA. Now, CEA and IPRO (including new PARA cooperation) are stepping up their commitment to one another. Gilpin unveiled the new industry certification organization called ESPA, a collaboration between CEDIA, CEA, and NSCA to make custom installation certification more universally accepted.

Shapiro led with the keynote address, which elaborated on CEAs view of our markets future, while Gary Yacoubian, president and CEO of Myer Emco Audio Video and chairman of PARA, delivered a presentation that honed in on the dealers perspective of the market. Each of these sessions and this years manufacturer panel with Jeff Zemanek (director of residential systems providers, Lutron), Keith Haas (director of sales, Onkyo and Integra), and Ari Supran (chief sales officer, Sonance) concluded with lively and frank discussion of our mutual challenges and interests moving forward in this rapidly changing market.

Conclusions and consensus developed in many areas, even though that often meant agreeing that we need to keep working together. We all need to increase the scope of our dialogue with members of the IT, electrical, security, and building industries (including architects, designers, and builders). Representatives need to continue to build their abilities in coaching and training their dealers, especially in the installation and sales trenches where the changes in information are needed in a timely fashion. And, finally, for representatives, dealers, manufacturers, and associations, running our businesses more efficiently and faster are not just good things, but linked to our individual and industrys success.