Adding value to any process takes time, effort and the realization that we cannot ignore any of these steps if we want to succeed.
I have been the chair of the HARDI organization since its merger with NHRAW and ARWI. The question that keeps getting asked each year is how can we measure the value that reps bring to the HARDI members? And more importantly, how do we get that word out about what we do? These are important questions that we need to address. The focus of the manufacturer's rep for HARDI can be summed up in one word and that is outsourcing.
The word outsourcing is defined as: To send out (work, for example) to an outside provider or manufacturer in order to cut costs.
Outsourcing is strategy rather than a last option. It is an approach to a market by a manufacturer that wants instant credibility and a targeted sales approach. For years, companies have been outsourcing different aspects of their businesses to focus on what they do best, and that is the manufacturer. This outsourcing phenomenon has been relevant to most businesses for years. Manufacturers outsource their auditing, accounting, payroll, human resources and so on. The purpose of this outsourcing is not to add cost or a middleman, but to bring into the organization an expert in their respective field in order to deliver unmatched service. As reps, we are the epitome of outsourcing. We fill this function in our respective territories that no one can match. Our services develop markets, increase sales and add stability in a market for all parties.
So what are reps?
We are a group of independent companies that specialize in market expertise and salesmanship. Our strengths rely on the relationships we have developed over years and our knowledge of the market(s) we serve. This is why we are so attractive to manufacturers.
What we offer to distributors and manufacturers:
Predictable sales costs that go up and down with sales trends (i.e., slow down in new construction).
Lower sales costs: We are committed to the territory versus a direct salesperson that lasts a few years and goes on.
Immediate access to the market: Our relationships are already developed.
Consulting services: Most of the reps have 15 to 20 years' experience in the territory. We look at the forest versus the trees.
Elimination of training and turnover cost.
Highly experienced sales force.
Our forecasting ability is second to none.
We are more critical to the HARDI wholesaler because we offer a line card of products that we market to them.
Multi-industry experience. Open doors previously closed to you.
Vested partner whose success has a direct link to distributors' and manufacturers' success.
These are just a few things that reps bring to HARDI members.
The question that I must ask is: Are you using your HARDI rep to their full potential? That is a question that needs asking from two perspectives: one of the manufacturer and the other the distributor.
If you are a manufacturer, are you giving your reps the tools needed to be successful in the territory? Are you providing sales reports that help the reps to manage the territory properly? Are you letting the reps run and manage their own territory? Are you demanding from the rep reports that do not add value to territory or to their time? These seem like simple ideas but they are concerns that are brought up constantly by our group of reps.
If you are a distributor, are you planning the work and working the plan? Have you invited the rep to be part of the planning process? We are an extra set of feet that can pay dividends at no extra cost to your sales. Have you provided a training area that allows reps to perform our function of educating your people and dealers?
There are also questions for the reps: Have we delivered value to all the parties? Have we told your manufacturers and HARDI distributors what we have done for them? It is our job to communicate with all parties what we are doing and how we are doing it.
The critical word here is communication. Whenever I hear of issues with reps, distributors or manufacturers it comes down to communication or lack thereof. Communication is key to all relationships. My suggestion to all parties is that if you are not happy with the way the relationship is working in any area, open the lines of communication. We all like to think that we deliver on what we promise and do what we say, but often it is that lack of understanding that gets us into an awkward position. As a rep, manufacturer or distributor, if you're not getting out of the relationship what you expect then I suggest you open that door of communication and manage the expectation.
What is the greatest fear that reps have? The greatest fear all reps have is that of being controlled. We are independent businesses that run our territories and work our plan. We know that we are an integral part of the process and that we make things happen. This process is like that of a three-legged stool. If one part is out of sync, then the whole process falls and fails. We are all critical to the process and need each other to succeed. When one wins, we all win, and isn't that what it is all about? You see, this is not about who wins and who loses; it is more about how we all become more successful. Many people use the term partnership loosely in today's environment, and we often see a partnership based on “what is in it for me.” I challenge that assumption and tell you that the HARDI reps are there to support the members. We know that the world is changing and that the products we use today are not necessarily what we will use tomorrow, but we do know that our services to both the manufacturer and the distributor will always be of value.
Value is not just something that draws attention at the moment you offer or exhibit it. Consider it an element of the relationship that a customer remembers long after you close the sale or provide the service.
We plan on bringing value to the industry today and into the future.
You can count on that.
Mike Dungan, CPMR, is the president of Eden Prairie, MN-based Sales Engineers Inc. Contact him at 952/944-0773 or [email protected].