By Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA
Charlie Ingram, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Eriez Manufacturing, just shared with me his insights about how having a rep sales force is helping his company get through the COVID‑19 crisis.
Here’s what he had to say:
- “Effective immediately, our home office employees have travel restrictions, so we can’t get our product and market sales managers into the field. Thank goodness we have a rep sales force to take care of our customers while our sales managers are grounded.”
- “Customers are restricting sales visits, and at best those customers will be distracted. And while they’re distracted those customers will instinctively reach out to trusted resources with whom they have strong relationships. Those trusted sales resources are our manufacturers’ reps.”
- “Even though visits to customers’ plants and offices are restricted, our reps will be in contact with customers by Skype, phone, email and texts. Nobody has enough regional managers to handle that volume of communication unless they have reps in the point position.”
- “Because our reps represent multiple complementary non-competing lines they know what other manufacturers in our industry are doing and can consult with us on how the best practices from their other principals can be adopted by our company. We are in uncharted waters, and the things we are learning through our reps is invaluable.”
- “And thank goodness for our rep council. At our request, each rep council member reached out to a group of our reps to gather real-time data about how customers are reacting, how customer needs are changing, and the trends developing throughout North America. We knew more and knew it faster than anyone fielding a direct sales force could have accomplished.”
Most of us knew all the arguments why reps are the most effective way to take products to market in normal circumstances. Now we know why reps are the best resource for manufacturers to have at their disposal during a crisis.
Charles Cohon, CPMR, is CEO and president of MANA. In 2016 Cohon earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation after completing American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) coursework and testing. Cohon also earned an MBA with honors and with concentrations in strategic management and entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and was founder and owner of a very successful Illinois manufacturers’ representative firm for nearly 30 years before joining MANA.