I pointed out that, in this rough-and-tumble environment, reps, being the link between supplier and retailer, often take the brunt of criticism from both sides.
I also pointed out that in today’s increasingly competitive climate, being good is often not good enough. We all need to figure out how to be great at what we do, then execute that goal.
After that column appeared, many of you were kind enough to write to tell me it was “spot on.” I also got one or two emails saying that I had not communicated the value of the independent sales rep sufficiently.
For the record, that was not the intent. My intent was simply to show that when business is tough, everyone comes under a greater level of scrutiny. I could have just as easily written a column about how consumers are being tougher than ever on retailers. Or, how retailers are being harder on suppliers.
Nobody is more in the corner of the independent sales rep than yours truly. The independent sales rep has been — and continues to the be — the critical link between suppliers and retailers.
I recently spoke to Mike Root, a past president of IHFRA (International Home Furnishings Representatives Association), a second-generation rep, and a guy that I would describe as always showing up with his A-game.
I asked him for the short list of the ingredients in his recipe for A-game repping and this, verbatim, is what he told me, “Citing a few bullet points you could consider from my personal experience.”
+ Stay in constant communication in many forms based on buyer preference. Text, phone, email, direct mail. Don’t stop with one touch and expect a buyer will drop everything.
+ Answer customer service calls and strive to get them taken care of within 24 hours. An unhappy customer is waiting for an answer or a floor model that is damaged and not doing you any good.
+ Provide your cell phone and encourage floor salespeople to call you any time. Customers come in on evenings and weekends. Answer the phone and make a sale.
+ Take care of problems between the factory and retailer as quickly as you can to keep goods flowing. It’s only business so don’t take it personally — just get the job done.
+ Be organized in sales presentations. A buyer’s time is valuable, so be ready to answer any question or have management on speed dial.
At IHFRA’s recent Furniture Industry Awards Gala (FIAG), we had the pleasure of presenting Ashley’s Ron Wanek with our ICON Award.
After graciously accepting the award, Ron addressed the more than 600 industry professionals in the room and made the point that Ashley doesn’t even use the term “independent sales rep.” Instead, the nation’s largest supplier and retailer prefers the term “sales and marketing professional,” which every great rep is.
At IHFRA, we publish our Opportunity Center, a weekly list of suppliers looking for reps. Judging by the growing listings from suppliers advertising, the industry definitely sees the value of great reps.
In my previous column about independent reps, I observed that today, being good just isn’t good enough. Today, everyone is looking for great reps. My advice stands — step up and be great.
Ray Allegrezza also is executive director of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association.