by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

You have heard it from MANA, from manufacturers, and from reps. In the new normal, manufacturers that sell through reps have significant advantages over manufacturers with a captive sales force:

  • In uncertain times, customers don’t take risks with untested vendors. They turn to trusted, proven resources for the products they need to keep their companies running. And, more likely than not, those trusted resources are manufacturers’ reps who may have a decade or two of history with their customers.
  • When customers’ buyers and engineers abruptly had to pull up stakes and work from home, regular communication channels often were disrupted. Only trusted, proven resources like manufacturers’ reps were entrusted with customers’ personal cellphone numbers and permitted to text as needed to keep customers up-to-date with information about mission-critical products they need to keep their companies running.
  • Face-to-face video chat appointments are granted only to those same trusted, proven resources. A stranger’s request has a slim-to-none chance of getting a video chat appointment. So if your product needs face-to-face demonstrations, but you don’t have trusted, proven rep resources as your salesforce, you are out of luck.

But there is another aspect of the new customers-working-from-home normal that has not gotten much attention. It’s flextime.

Let me explain.

Customers who work from home have discovered that their jobs are to get their work done. But not necessarily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

What does having customers working unconventional times of day mean to reps? I rarely see a rep who doesn’t check emails outside conventional office hours. Reps are there when customers working flexible hours need answers. When there is an emergency, customers know that reps reply faster than manufacturers, who will likely respond during the next business day.

Reps, go ahead and strut your customer-first attitude. It’s flextime.

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.