How Involved Should Reps Be on the Internet?

by Craig Lindsay, CPMR, CSP, Pacesetter Sales & Associates

I am sure for many Baby Boomers (like me) this question comes up on a regular basis and like many situations, we have options:

  • Jump in with both feet and figure it out.
  • Wait awhile and see what everyone else does (leading edge not bleeding edge).
  • I don’t know what I am doing so I am not going to do anything.

Sadly, it appears that option #3 is selected far too often by some Boomers that run independent manufacturers’ representative businesses. Often, we refer back to what we know and are skeptical of the unknown, so we move slowly (or not at all) into the cyber world. I have heard quite a number of my age similar compadres say they don’t participate on Facebook because they think someone is going to put up uncomplimentary photos of them, or they don’t want to tell others what they are up to or even read what others are doing.

As with most things, abuses can exist. However, in reality it seems these abuses are few and far between (yet they are the ones we hear about). At the same time, the question may be asked: What are we missing? Can more than one-billion Facebook participants be wrong? It does seem that companies like Amazon seem to be doing okay (large understatement) with Internet business. And what about some of our customers? All (most) seem to be adopting and finding ways to create new methods to serve their clients that are not only effective and efficient, but are also reducing their cost to serve and often dramatically increasing their margins.

So what about reps? Can we do this? Should we do this?

We sure can and we can add value in the process by creating and providing outlets to customers (and potential customers) that our principals may not have regular access to. Depending on the rep business model, there are other services to be considered — shop online, promos, specials, new product releases, industry news, non-industry news, etc. It seems we can be a conduit as well to our principals (who often have very well-developed sites but can’t get in front of the right people), get their information out to our network of connections through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. At the very least, it can help build your company brand just through awareness and being out there.

I know I faced the dilemma of not knowing even where to start with this a few years ago, but it occurred to me that perhaps the best way to get started was to find someone in our company who was more savvy than I in this regard and assign them the project. Often this person is right under our nose and we don’t even know it. My bet is that you have this person in your company too, and in fact they may find it a project they really enjoy and would love to sink their teeth into. In my case it was my 30-something daughter who goes nowhere without her smartphone, checks social media umpteen times a day, Googles the answer for everything (and does it quickly) and connects with more people through this in a day than most salespeople do in a week. The millennial generation has learned how to touch people with their fingertips instead of dialing a phone or driving a car and guess what — in 10 years they will be running our collective businesses.

So I would encourage us all to find that person in our company and get the ball rolling on a defined Internet presence so our companies and businesses don’t get left behind.

Craig Lindsay founded Pacesetter Sales & Associates in 1992. Now, 20 years later, Pacesetter has representation from coast to coast in Canada with providing both safety and industrial products. A MANA member from the beginning and past District Director, Lindsay also serves on the Board of Directors for CPSA (Canadian Professional Sales Association). A past president of SEMAA and former board member for NIRA, Lindsay holds both his CPMR and CSP designations.