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Independent Rep Debate: ‘20% Should Be Shot’

Manufacturers and integrators at the recent Azione Unlimited dealer conference debate the value of independent reps, with one supplier noting that a certain percentage of reps "should be shot."


What is the value of independent reps? It’s a subject that is front and center among many manufacturers and integrators. The continuing trend is for manufacturers to drop reps, instead opting to sell directly to consumers or use in-house sales teams.

At the recent Azione Unlimited buying group dealer conference in Houston, president and chief creative officer Richard Glikes led a lively discussion on the matter. In this 8-minute video, both dealers and suppliers, including Access Networks, Sonance, Digital Projection, PerfectPath and Salamander,  chime in.

Among the comments are:

Reps are in essence “too old” for lack of a better description because it has been so long since they were integrators that they do not understand how CE pros run their businesses anymore. This problem is ongoing because dealers are no longer matriculating from the field to become reps.

A minority of reps “should be shot” for their lack of organizational and sales skills, which unfortunately forces manufacturers to drop their entire rep organization. Several manufacturers mention that they cannot support a rep business model if the entire team is not productive. One supplier estimates only 20 percent of his reps “are doing a great job.”

Manufacturers should insist on written agendas from their reps to help keep them organized.

Because the industry has matured, reps are no longer needed to introduce new technologies to dealers. Most integrators know about all the product categories, but instead need help learning the nuances that separate brands from one another.





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Article Topics

News · Videos · Buying Group · Azione Unlimited · All topics

About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

29 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Rick Murphy  on  12/04  at  10:52 AM

For every ineffective, behind the times, old-school ‘catalogs and Cadillacs’ IMR out there, you can easily find TWO useless RSMs and/or NSMs who collect a check for passing report and pipeline requests up and down the chain.  Asking most regionals to travel in the territory was like pulling teeth, and there were plenty who you instantly regretting allowing to travel with you because they seemed to be from the ‘sales prevention’ department when they opened their mouths.

Look at your own staff, manufacturers….  Glass houses, etc.

Posted by Mike Philpott  on  12/04  at  11:00 AM

A new manufacturer must use reps to get their products in the hands of customers.  Once the brand is established the reps are dropped.  It’s just the way it works.

Posted by Paul Epstein  on  12/04  at  02:13 PM

Jason,

Did you watch the video or read through the survey that Azione did with its members? Because they seem to contradict what you write here. Those comments were made but the spin you put on them was out of context. The conversation, and the survey, was that reps were important business partners to all involved and had knowledge of the local market that the manufacturer in many cases lacks. The business model is changing, no doubt, but what you write implies that the function is obsolete.

Posted by Jim Pelech  on  12/04  at  02:33 PM

Independent reps get paid 100% of their income after a sale is made. This is often overlooked during rep discussions. How many manufacturer sales people would work on this program?  Also, 100% commission and a 30 day contract do not instill trust between the manufacturer & rep so the rep ads enough “other” brands to hedge against the insecurity of this relationship/contract. Manufacturers then get frustrated because his/her rep run with too many lines and this age old problem continues….

Posted by Steve  on  12/04  at  02:39 PM

As a former long-term TM/factory rep, I had the opportunity to work with many IMR’s over the years; good and bad.  My personal experience affirms the percentages expressed by most people in the video.  I think that most mfr/IMR relationships that fail do so because expectations are not clearly established and maintained.  Both parties have a responsibility to that end, and few failures can be outright honestly pinned on just 1 party.

Posted by Branden Pirot  on  12/04  at  02:40 PM

When I want to find a product to fit a need, I research online mostly RC and IP.  When I pick new lines, I research RC and IP.

When I have decided on something I figure out who the Rep is to take a PO.  When I ask most Reps specific questions regarding product they stare back with a blank expression.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  12/04  at  02:53 PM

@Paul and others—keep your eyes peeled for the results of the Azione survey that Paul mentioned. It will be up on the website soon.

Posted by Paul Epstein  on  12/04  at  03:06 PM

Thank you Jason. I’ve already seen it and it is a good guideline for what dealers should expect from their reps. And what many reps have been doing for a long time. I appreciate you sharing it with the rest of the industry.

Posted by 39CentStamp  on  12/04  at  03:54 PM

Dropping reps is a management idea. What i mean by that is it looks good on paper but fails miserably in the real world.

99.9% of mid/upper end products are unknown to the world. The only reason our clients know what Sonance or RTI remotes are is because we sell it to them. The only reason integrators know what Sonance and RTI are is because our reps made us aware of them.

Integrators (mentioned above) can go to sites like RC or IP to find out about new products. This may make rep firms slightly less valuable in terms of pushing product but the rest of the world doesn’t know about those sites.

Brands that most of us carry never get “established” unless they are rock solid products like Middle Atlantic Racks. Most of the other stuff can easily be replaced by 2 or 3 different manufacturers so the only loyalty to the brand comes via reps/distribution imo.

Unless a product just wants to race to the bottom and move a lot of boxes and then cash out in a few years they should probably keep their reps. Maybe the problem is you have the wrong reps?

Posted by Richard Glikes  on  12/04  at  04:15 PM

I think that the 20% comment was meant to arouse the audience. Azione with it’s dealer and vendor members does not imply in any way that reps are bad, to the contrary they made suggestions to aide in the longevity and effectiveness of these fine individuals.

Please watch the enitre video and read the entire press release which is posted on our website at http://www.azionegroup.com

Posted by Tim Childers  on  12/04  at  04:19 PM

Jason, these comments were taken way out of context. I suggest that you go back and watch the entire video.  Better yet, post the results of the survey. Any rep principal worth his salt has already made the move from “salespeople” to “techs” a long time ago. There are however, still dealers out there that only do business with their friends and those are the ones that normally complain about the quality of reps.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  12/04  at  07:58 PM

As Richard noted, if the goal of the video was to get people talking about the future of reps, it succeeded.

In terms of the comments being out of context, I think the comments by each individual are in context in relation to the video by itself. But when you combine the video with the press release, I agree with you. I was forwarded the YouTube link from a rep and did not see the corresponding survey results from Azione until later or I would not have written them as separate items.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I have already prepared the “36 tips” from Azione for reps (which are excellent) that will be posted as a separate news item on cepro.com.

Posted by Paul Epstein  on  12/04  at  08:17 PM

@Jason - As a journalist I’m sure you understand the impact of a headline on an article.  The article has a headline “20% Should Be Shot” and nothing else that was said by the person who made that statement. It doesn’t get any more out of context than that. Unless you follow it up by watching the video which I would say 90% of your readers won’t. Not only did that individual not intend that remark to be taken literally (we both know that gentleman and he has the respect of the industry) he also talked about the tremendously high quality of a percentage of his reps.

That headline is as far out of context as anything I’ve ever seen.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  12/04  at  09:11 PM

@Paul—I hear your argument, but I think you are misinterpreting the term “out of context” with, as Richard stated, something that was meant to be provocative.  Certainly, no one in their right mind would actually think that headline was literal and that someone wants to line up reps and execute them (like I am sure many of you literally want to do with me sometimes.)

I make this analogy: That would be the same as thinking that President Obama’s statement yesterday of a “Scrooge Christmas” about the fiscal cliff means a person really believes that Ebeneezer Scrooge is going to visit families this year.

Posted by Paul Epstein  on  12/04  at  09:23 PM

Of course in context it was meant to stir the crowd. But you only ran one phrase as a headline without the rest of the man’s commentary. As a headline, it was the definition of out of context.

Everyone knows he didn’t mean it literally. As for your analogy, if a headline read
“Obama: ‘Scrooge Christmas’.” The casual reader would think Christmas is gonna suck this year. The would need the rest of the comment to put that statement in context with the overall message.

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