During the discussions on the ongoing changes in the rep model, the group cited three distinct prototypes of rep agencies found in the Foodservice and JanSan Industries:
- Local Market - an agency that specializes in a smaller market with excellent relationships and market knowledge
- Regional - an agency that touches multiple local markets
- National - an agency that has coverage in all markets in the U.S.
Joe talked about his reasons for selling to a national broker and if he would do it again (he would, but he would look at taking better care of his employees). Joe fielded a lot of questions, among them who and what was the shake out after a few years. The results - 2 out of 9 employees are still working for the national broker, and out of 20 lines, the national broker still represents 3 lines.
All of the manufacturers on the panel, agreed that the nationalization trend was over and in their opinion it failed. None of these Principals wanted to work exclusively with a National brokerage. Their major concern was their importance in the overall line card and the resulting amount of selling time they received from the sales team. None of them wanted to go from being in the top tier (#1 - #5) to the middle of the pack (#20 - #25) or lower.
These manufacturers were not as opposed to working with the Regional agencies. They felt these agencies, if managed well, can and do provide the results they expect.
They did all agree that they preferred working with the Local Market agencies. These agencies have a greater knowledge of their smaller geographic areas and have legacy relationships that the national agencies can't reproduce.
The reps in attendance agreed with the consensus that the nationalization trend is over and a failure, but they did agree that more smaller agencies, in order to stay competitive, will have to look at merging or buying out competitive firms.
No matter the size or type of agency, the manufacturers are looking for three Keys to Success in their rep agencies:
- Execution of the goals set in the manufacturer's plan and agreed upon by the rep
- Excellent communication from the rep on their common objectives
- Emphasis by the rep agency on value added, target account, and end user selling
I thought it was interesting that one of the manufacturers always asked what the succession plan was for the rep agencies with whom he worked.
Technology was, as always, of interest to the attendees. A demonstration and discussion on the importance of CRM systems - how could I not like that - and tips and techniques on how to make the best use of technology were presented.
It was great meeting with so many of our customers, potential new customers, and old friends while in Chicago. Thank you to everyone who supported and championed MRSware and me during the meeting.
A successful conference with a lot of new attendees led to a great networking event. Next year's seminar will be held near the end of February somewhere in the Southeastern U.S. Stay tuned for future announcements.