During Azione Unlimited’s fall conference, there was a provocative open discussion with dealer members and vendor members entitled “Does the Rep Model Work?” The industry has seen consolidation among rep firms, more factory direct representatives, and numerous rep companies go out of business. The overwhelming consensus was “YES” it works and is vital to our dealer’s success in business and the industry as a whole. However, many dealers were frustrated by the performance and practices, and felt with some adjustments the rep model could really help dealers be more successful and rep companies too.
Helping Manufacturers Representatives
Azione members (again, both dealers and vendors are members) decided to make suggestions to help manufacturers representatives and thereby ensure their long term viability. A copious survey of the dealers was conducted and the results are highlighted below.
We listed 10 responsibilities of a rep and asked our members to rank them from most to least important.
The results were averaged and ranked as follows (Most important to least important):
Follow up on orders/backorders/shipments
Train staff on products
Respond to questions within 24 hours
Pass on leads
Relay sales programs
Follow up on credits
Spend time with sales team
Share industry trends
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.
We asked our dealers “What would you suggest to a rep that would make them more efficient thus ensuring their viability”.
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 on line 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.
Richard Glikes, President and CCO of Azione Unlimited commented
“We love reps and have deep histories with many of these great people and companies. 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.”
Azione Unlimited Dealer and Vendor members commented also
Sondralee Orengia of Custom Audio notes, “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.”
About Azione Unlimited
Azione Unlimited is the educational/buying group for both custom retailers and integrators. The vision is to bring a limited number of the country’s finest custom retailers and integrators together to share ideas, grow their bottom lines, and become a market unto itself.
Azione Unlimited is a group of like-minded consumer electronic dealers, custom retailers, integrators and vendors who, together, achieve greater levels of prosperity, technical acumen and sophistication in running their businesses.