NEMRA kicked off the first day of its annual conference in Dallas with an all-star cast at the afternoon educational sessions. Jim Bannon and his tech team updated the audience on the NEMRA Network CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, and A-D's Bill Weisberg, and IMARK's Bob Smith offered some thoughts on how NEMRA reps and manufacturers could work best with their members.
Capping off the afternoon was a panel discussion moderated by Tom O'Connor on the recently published NEMRA/Farmington Consulting Group Rep of the Future study. On the panel were John Hoffman of Legrand, Jim Johnson of Calpipe, Troy Jennings of John Moore & Associates, Kelly Boyd of ElectroRep, electrical contractor Randy Hirotsu of Rosendin Electric and CED's Joe Huffman.
Weisberg urged reps to get involved with the AD Field Marketing Summits that its members do in local markets and said reps can help AD by working promoting the buying/marketing group incentive programs for distributors' inside salespeople and counter salespeople. He also told the audience about the multi-million investment AD is making in e-commerce so it's members can compete more effectively against digital giants like Grainger and Amazon.
In his presentation, IMARK's Bob Smith offered a unique perspective on the role of the rep. In his years with Legrand, he worked with independent reps to market the company's products and at IMARK he has strived to get his members to see reps as a full partner in the marketing equation. He said successful reps of the future will have to move from a commodity focus to a business model that offers more specialized services.
The Rep of the Future panel covered a lot of ground in just 45 minutes and provided some excellent insight into what a group of industry leaders thought about the role of the rep in the future.
Randy Hirotsu of Rosendin said reps should focus on bringing his employees product solutions that could make them more productive out in the field. He gave the example of a cable tray manufacturer that offered products with the lugs already welded on the tray, which saves electricians a ton of time. "I need manufacturers' reps to bring me solutions. Electrical distributors are not good at that," he said.
Troy Jennings of John Moore and Associates discussed how his company is rethinking the services it offers to remain relevant in the future and Legrand's John Hoffman generated some discussion with his suggestion that a profitability analysis program similar to NAED's PAR report might be valuable for reps.
CED's Joe Huffmann offered another endorsement for reps when he said, "The number one reason in many brands that we pick the brand is the manufacturers' rep."
"You have to listen. You have to follow up. And you have to make sales calls. Get to know our businesses better and in doing that we get to know your business better," he said.