by Danny Collis, President, Collis Group, Inc.
As I consider my 23-year history as an independent manufacturers’ representative, I’ve got to admit that I’ve really never encountered one! I’ve seen very successful reps — but not perfect ones. Wouldn’t achieving perfection lead to more compensation? Why can’t we get there?
Shouldn’t striving for perfection be in the DNA of a great rep? But what does perfection really mean? Is it someone who is ideal, flawless, faultless? There are so many words we could use to describe perfection; but I’ve got to admit that I’ve never been labeled with any of these adjectives.
As I consider the concept of perfection, it makes me think of the perfect marriage. What looks good from afar could be far from good. In other words, we all have things we need to work on and to be better at in order to achieve that perfect marriage.
For instance, I’ve seen some forward thinkers among my rep peers who speak about going paperless, while the rest of the world is saying “paperless?” How do we do that? I’ve also seen principals implement sophisticated computer systems that could only be a good fit for reps who are truly technologically “perfect.”
At the end of the day, everyone’s interpretation of perfection is different. My belief is that professional development and joining organizations such as MAFSI (the rep association for the food service industry) or serving in my current position with MANA, have made me a more complete representative — but not perfect. This experience has opened my eyes to what other professionals do rightly and wrongly. When you are exposed to what others do, it provides you with options to consider and the opportunity to observe what others believe constitutes perfection.
As a rep, I’m extremely impatient. Winning now is the only option. For example, when we take on a new line, we want to show our principals that they have made the perfect decision on the team they have hired to grow their business in this territory. We all know that growth occurs with familiarity and trust and that can take time when a new line comes on board. So how do we understand what our factories are thinking? Can they share the same perfect vision?
Is a “hunter” or a “farmer” the perfect rep? Perhaps we need the characteristics of both in order to manage certain accounts. There are great reps that manage, maintain and grow business organically and by being an asset for a customer. Are those reps perfect? Or, is the rep that is on the street pounding the pavement finding new business leaving no stone unturned the perfect rep? There’s no single correct answer.
Most of the time, talents possessed by one or the other are needed, but is one better than the other, or does the perfect rep try to be everything for everyone?
I would suggest that even if you speak to one of your manufacturers, you’ll find they are not convinced that the perfect rep exists. That could start a whole conversation that many people may not want to have. I think they would envision what a perfect rep would look like and that would be someone who dedicates themselves 100 percent to their product line. Let’s face it — that’s not realistic for a multi-line synergistic rep.
And then what about the time when we have constructive criticism thrown our way? As a rep I’ve always been comfortable with criticism; however, many of my fellow reps are not. Being told by our factories that they would like to see more of something that you think you are already doing well can leave us shaking our heads. We all know that we could conduct a survey of principals or customers and it will show that we’re performing four out of five functions at the highest level, but is that perfection?
Here’s what I’d advise: Perfection should always be strived for! Perfection should always be found in a great rep’s DNA.
Danny Collis is president of Collis Group, Inc., a manufacturers’ rep group in the Province of Ontario, Canada. Collis Group represents the food service equipment industry. They work closely with consultants, end users and distributors in the selection of equipment used in kitchens all around the world. Collis is past president of MAFSI (Manufactures Agents for the Food Service Industry) and currently sits as a board member of MANA. For information on the Collis Group visit www.collisgroupinc.com.