That’s right, I am declaring 2015 as the year of the sales rep.
Now some of you may think I am off my rocker. You may ask “Why in this day and age would anyone congratulate or honor the sales rep?” Or “How are you coming about these conclusions?”
The genesis of the idea came from a fine book I finished over the holidays by furniture retailer Larry Schneiderman “Call of the Couch”. If you are in the furniture business and have not gotten this book then you really are missing out on a great story of a main street retailer’s growth and his learnings along the way.
But Chapter 8 entitled Vendors and Sales Reps is what started my thought process. Larry writes about his relationships along the way with those on our side of the table. Alas, he does not write about his experience with a brand new sales rep in the territory who had been out for three days on his first week without a single order. I was seriously considering whether this was going to be a good economic pursuit only to stumble into Larry’s office in the middle of the North woods of Minnesota. Thankfully I wrote my first order with Larry of 25 sets of dining for an upcoming Memorial Day ad over 20 years ago, and the rest is history. He and his brother Russ continued being a customer for several years until I no longer represented that line.
But I digress… Here’s why I think the era of the rep is here and now.
Larry writes about his complete understanding of the sales rep from the early days when guys travelled all stores in a territory to today when it is not as economical due to lower commissions and larger territories. He suggests there is still a place for the professional rep to help with product placements for factories, relationships, product distribution and any number of other things reps deal with. He is empathetic to our challenges and lists several of his good reps by name and why they were successful. The fact that a major retailer has actually come out and expressed appreciation for our trade in a book published in late 2014 gives me some hope.
I also have been working with a major retailer who is opening an extremely large store this quarter. To see the work that has to go into setting up new catalogs, price lists, sales training, contact lists, shipping requirements, and any number of other details items required for a smooth deployment before the doors open, I realize that professional sales teams are still very viable for much more than just making the initial product sales. We are the coupler that joins the vendor’s product pipe to the retailer’s operation. Without good reps, the seams will get leaky and sales will be lost.
And my final observation about why this is the year of the rep is our rep organization IHFRA. Over the past six years since I have been involved we have doubled our membership finishing 2014 with over 2000 members. Thank all of you who are with us. Times were not that great in 2008 for most reps and many in the industry. But with hard work, great benefits, terrific industry support and a fabulous office staff, IHFRA is a model of success for many to observe. This is the highest membership level of the century and beyond. It’s by far the best value of anything because the dues are guaranteed to be recouped with minimal use. If you are interested in learning more got to www.ihfra.org or email JSova@ihfra.org.
Business is picking up, retailers are healthy, factories are expanding, customers are spending. It is the optimum time for the professional sales rep to benefit through hard work. Help your customers sell more furniture and 2015 will truly be your best year ever. As always, feel free to leave your positive comments below and let’s make this the Year of the Rep!