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Speaking Out: The Rep’s Role

Aug. 1, 2013
The best independent manufacturers’ reps provide electrical distributors with insight into new product opportunities and local market information that’s tough to find anywhere else.
Ken Hooper, NEMRA

Market conditions today are challenging in the entire electrical wholesaling industry, but particularly for electrical distributors selling mature product lines.  Margins are tight. Competition is fierce. New distribution channel entrants are emerging. Online purchasing  by electrical contractors, facility managers and other end users is growing. And sales gains from these mature product lines are very hard to generate.

Newer product lines present electrical distributors with a nice opportunity to increase sales but come with their own challenges.  Their limited distribution means less competition and higher margins. But access to these electrical product lines can seem limited and the learning curve can be daunting. Fortunately, help exists for distributors.  The  job of the independent manufacturers’ representative is to help grow an electrical distributor’s sales.  They can do this effectively because they offer two irreplaceable qualities: access to new product lines and unparalleled expertise in their local markets. 

Access to new product lines. There has never been a greater variety of electrical products and systems on the market. While products developed by well-known electrical manufacturers are marketed and sold by their established teams, emerging manufacturers looking to launch a new product line and generate customer demand typically rely on a manufacturers’ rep. These reps are the distributor’s best and easiest opportunity to access new innovative lines.

In the case of our organization, the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), nearly every rep devotes a piece of their line portfolio to pioneering the next big line that can meet customer needs or solve a problem.  In fact, 80% of the manufacturers in the  electrical wholesaling industry use NEMRA reps to market their products.

Marketplace expertise. New lines give distributors an important business edge. However, this edge comes at a significant price — the time that could be spent developing and selling to customers. Learning, understanding and assessing the quality of every new product offering from each manufacturer is a significant undertaking.  Reps, at their core, are educators who know how to communicate this information effectively and create deeper, broader relationships between distributors and their customers.

Whether it’s energy efficiency, power quality, safety or LED lighting, the rep’s job is to understand what matters most to the distributor and their customers. A good rep will cut through the clutter and quickly distill a product’s value so the distributor can focus on customer service.  

NEMRA reps are provided with programs and technology to quickly educate distributors and the time to provide long-lasting support.  It starts with our Hot Lines program, which provides new electrical manufacturers with local sales representation and the opportunity for exposure to the channel. The reps then use their market knowledge and experience to bring these new lines to their distribution partners, assessing how each product fits with the distributor’s key customers and market strategy. Once the distributor carries these new lines, NEMRA reps will remain on hand to provide training, specification assistance and problem resolution. At the end of the day an independent manufacturers’ representative is successful when the distributor sells more. That’s why reps are the distributor’s best new-product partner and can be the key to increased sales and profits.