Speaking Out: Delivering Data That Counts for Electrical Reps

Dec. 26, 2013
NEMRA believes its new CRM system is a big win for its member reps and manufacturers.

You have heard the old adage “time is money.” For manufacturers’ representatives, time is a critical commodity best used by calling on customers to generate sales and profits. A major drain on a rep’s time is the loading of data, generating reports and data interpretation. One of the drivers behind this is the channel’s need for in-depth and granular sales activity information. To feed this demand, reps are increasingly asked to insert data directly into manufacturers’ customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

As more manufacturers embrace CRM systems and become dependent on data sharing, reps are being challenged on several fronts. They are expected to be conversant in many different CRM systems, deal with a greater emphasis on end-user markets and account targeting, and meet various deadlines to respond to manufacturers. Things become even more complicated when several members of a rep’s team, including an account rep, end-user specialist, merchandiser and a principal, have to call on a customer and then load the relevant data and generate reports. Some reps may have to employ additional manpower to help them meet these requirements.

Rep insights. The National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), Portsmouth, N.H., recently embarked on a research project to gain more insight into these challenges and several other factors, including how reps were using CRM systems, their benefits to both reps and manufacturers, and to understand sales and market reporting activities, including non-CRM reporting. The results were revealing. Here are some of the research project’s key findings:

  •                 Sales and market reporting between manufacturers and reps remains very fragmented. In fact, less than 20% of manufacturers require their reps to submit monthly sales and market reports.
  •                 The majority of reps see some value in compiling and analyzing their manufacturers’ sales and market reports.
  •                 The universal frustration that reps have in completing sales and market reports is that they rarely receive any feedback on their reports from their manufacturers.
  •                 The majority of reps reported they have been burdened administratively to comply with their manufacturers’ sales and market reporting requirements.
  •                 The majority of manufacturers surveyed believe reps, as business owners, would be well-suited to have their own CRM system to manage contacts and opportunities.

One key result for NEMRA was that most rep respondents were looking to NEMRA to develop a solution for sales and market reporting and CRM data input in the channel. Most reps said they would like NEMRA to develop a standardized sales and market reporting template that all reps can complete for their manufacturers. Of great interest to NEMRA was the comment of one manufacturer: “NEMRA would be well-served if it provided a standardized or best practice template or approach to sharing sales and market reporting.”

With this research in mind, it became obvious that reps needed a CRM and data sharing solution that would better serve them, manufacturers and the industry at large. NEMRA then began evaluating the big-name CRM solutions available on the market.  All provided great systems, but would still require a significant amount of customization. 

NEMRA’s solution. It was clear that a solution specifically designed, built and oriented for our industry was needed, both at the rep and the rep to manufacturing level. The solution had to have all the functionality that reps and manufacturers need for sales reporting  without requiring major customization. 

NEMRA took the proactive step of redesigning and tailoring a CRM solution for its member reps and manufacturers. The cloud-based system is called the NEMRA Network and it has a low barrier to entry for reps and manufacturers who decide to implement it. NEMRA will also provide all parties with the necessary training, support and backup. In addition, all their current data will be cleaned to ensure it’s usable on the new system.

As a fully functioning CRM system, NEMRA Network will give reps a powerful customer solution that allows them to capture information on a database related to their accounts, contacts and business opportunities.  All data will be searchable and immediately available. 

The NEMRA Network will help reps seamlessly and effectively communicate with manufacturers, providing them with granular product and sales information on a monthly basis from the rep’s perspective.  The system will facilitate enhanced customer engagements by generating a full picture of potential business opportunities. 

All of this can be done remotely and in real time. The NEMRA Network will also have its own mobile application, empowering reps to access up-to-date information residing on their internal CRM system. Data can also be shared from the field with manufacturers.  The NEMRA Network will be launched at the 2014 NEMRA conference.

The author is the president of the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), Portsmouth, N.H. He can be reached at [email protected] or 800-446-3672.

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