Answering the “WHY?” Question
Ask any member of the 80-year-old Electronics Representatives Association (ERA) why his or her firm belongs, and the responses will vary as much as each individual company does. Just as each professional field sales (rep) firm covers various territories … for thousands of manufacturers … by selling their products to countless customers across all sectors of the electronics industry, the reasons for investing in ERA membership are many and far-ranging. Thank you for taking the time to read just some of those reasons.
Continuing education is a primary focus of ERA. Some of the most valuable learning occurs on an informal, rep-to-rep basis among members, but organized activities and easily accessible resources, like the following, are also critical.
NATIONAL ERA CONFERENCE and Other Events for reps and manufacturers offer how-to and informational programs, workshops and networking focused on sales management, marketing and sales/industry trends.
FREE TELEFORUMS for rep and manufacturer personnel focus on sales strategies and relationship-building topics. They are conducted by ERA sales consultant and professional coach Nicki Weiss. One or more veteran reps or manufacturers also co-facilitates each session. Teleforums are conducted every other month (alternating with Webinars), and all registrants receive the audio files for future reference. Since January 2009, ERA has offered 30+ teleforums covering a broad range of topics for both reps and manufacturers in the ERA Teleforum Library, and as an ERA Member you can now access the audio files of these programs.
ERA WEBINARS are interactive seminars that are also offered every other month. They cover a broad range of subjects targeted to rep firm and manufacturer personnel. The member cost per connection is $65, and a single connection can be used by multiple attendees in one location. Audio and PowerPoint files from all ERA Webinars to date are available for purchase at just $20 per program.
ERA UNIVERSITY provides member firm personnel, family members and others with hundreds of on-line business and personal development courses offered for only $79 per course (for 12 lessons or 24 hours of instruction). Click for more info
- Instructor-facilitated classes with live interaction to connect with both faculty and fellow students.
- Access to lessons when you choose, where you choose, any time, 24-7.
- A vast array of courses, covering sales and marketing, business skills, software training and technology, personal development and much, much more.
- Easy on-line registration … with NO textbooks required … and NO minimum or maximum class sizes.
- Certificate of completion for each course.
Most classes run for six weeks and include 12 two-hour lessons (that’s 24 hours of instruction!) for just $79 per course To view the entire catalog, read all the details about each class and instructor and register, click here.
CPMR and CPS PROGRAMS are the standards of rep professionalism. ERA members receive tuition discounts on both courses from the Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), which was founded by ERA in 1985 and now includes 30+ associations as sponsors.
The CPMR (Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representatives) program, for rep firm owners/president/successors, runs one week a year for three years (every January at University of Texas at Austin).
The CSP (Certified Professional Salesperson) program, for rep firm salespeople, is a multi-day class conducted in various cities several times each year.
CHAPTER PROGRAMMING and Activities are members’ local connection to their fellow reps in the same territory. The rep-specific educational and informational programming and events include: how-to seminars; presentations by leading manufacturers and customers; local trade show sponsorship; industry social events; scholarship programs; rep-to-rep exchanges; and outstanding networking opportunities.
THE REPRESENTOR Magazine is a quarterly periodical of 36-48 pages produced for reps and manufacturers. It is sent to all member reps and 3,000 manufacturers at no charge. The content covers: field sales processes; rep firm and sales management; marketing; rep-principal relationships; legal, tax, public relations, sales and technology advice columns; industry news; plus ERA chapter and marketing group news.
“REP FIRST BEST PRACTICES” are shared on a national and local level whenever ERA members come together. In addition, industry guidelines are available on the ERA Web site on becoming a rep, operating a rep council, requesting split commissions, reporting POS and forging shared investment plans (for missionary lines). Also available are summaries of rep commission protection laws in effect in most states.
ERA CONTRACT GUIDELINES AND EVALUATIONS are available on ERA’s Web site for agreements between: reps and manufacturers; stocking reps and manufacturers; reps and employees; reps and sub-reps. Also available are forms/guidelines for reps to evaluate prospective principals and for manufacturers to evaluate prospective reps.
The ERA PUBLICATIONS LIBRARY provides many other resources which are downloadable from the ERA Web site, including: a multi-year archive of The Representor magazine; resources describing why and how manufacturers benefit by selling through reps; reprints of industry publication articles; and a cost-of-sales spreadsheet (for manufacturers to compare rep versus direct costs).
Many ERA members say their greatest membership ROI comes from networking with fellow reps and from building peer relationships, both in their own territories and across the globe. ERA supports and facilitates networking in a number of ways.
LOCAL, NATIONAL and INTERNATIONAL – reps network via chapter activities, their INDUSTRY PRODUCT MARKETING GROUPS, conferences and other events as well as ERA’S LINKED IN PAGE. This is how many reps: find new lines and help principals find reps in other territories via referrals from/to fellow members; learn how their peers are solving current problems; share what technology, communications systems and software they use and why; and exchange industry information about trends, principals, customers and more.
TRADE SHOW ACTIVITIES include special Lines Available Bulletins, business center services, on-site meeting space and programs that are hosted by ERA at major industry events.
To assist members with marketing their rep firms and their principals’ products, ERA offers a variety of resources, tools and programs.
The REP LOCATOR – A free on-line directory of ERA member reps, available 24-7 to manufacturers worldwide. The Locator offers detailed search capability and data about each rep firm, including product specialization, personnel, branch offices and optional services.
LINES AVAILABLE SERVICE – An instant e-mail bulletin sent to ERA members to alert them to manufacturers seeking representation in the rep’s respective territory. All current Lines Available listings are also always available to members in a searchable database on ERA’s Web site.
ERA ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY DICTIONARY of Abbreviations, Acronyms, Nicknames, Terminology – ERA’s new Industry Dictionary is available to ERA members as an Excel file download – make sure to check periodically for updates!
GLOBAL EXPOSURE for ERA members to international manufacturers is provided via the Locator, The Representor and Trade Show Activities, including at Electronica, the world’s largest electronics trade show, held every other year in Munich, Germany.
DTAM (Distribution Total Available Market) REPORTS are developed annually by several ERA chapters for their territories.
In addition to the already-noted Locator, Lines Available service, “Rep First Best Practices, Contract Clauses and Guidelines, Many Other Publications and DTAM Reports, ERA provides members with these management tools.
EXPERT ACCESS (Free Phone Consulting) – for legal, tax, professional field sales and insurance advice is available to members at any time from ERA’s team of rep-savvy consultants.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATES are sent to rep and manufacturer members monthly, or as needed through ERA’s membership in the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC). The bulletins explain the implications for small businesses of all pending or recently-enacted federal legislation.
CONFIDENTIAL MATCHMAKING SERVICE allows members who wish to buy, sell or merge a rep firm, find a sub-rep or form an alliance with other reps (within or beyond their territories) to advertise to fellow members via free, targeted e-mails. Click for more info
CUSTOMIZED ELECTRONIC SURVEYS provide members with the ability to easily create, transmit and tabulate Web-based surveys of customers, principals, distributors and/or employees. Click for more info
Here’s how this new service works.ERA’s survey coordinator, Tess Hill, will help you develop, edit and finalize an on-line survey questionnaire. (Many question and answer formats are available, so your survey can be customized to your specific needs.)When the survey is ready to launch, you will be e-mailed a Web link which you can then transmit (via e-mail, letter or fax) to your targeted respondents with your personal invitation to participate. Your survey responses will be monitored over the time period you select, and you will receive a summary report of the results. IT’S THAT EASY! – BOTTOM LINE: You can now conduct effective electronic surveys – with expert help from ERA – all at a fraction of the cost of a survey service subscription alone (which typically costs $600 per year).
And … your cost is based only on the number of questions in each survey. So once a survey is created, you can send it to as many people as you choose, at no added cost. The fee for each survey, payable by check or credit card, is:
- $200 for 1-5 questions
- $300 for 6-10 questions
- $400 for 11-15 questions
- $40 per question for 16 or more
There are so many options available through this new service from ERA that they cannot all be listed here. For all the details, contact Tess Hill (at 630-545-9101 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
ADVOCATING FOR THE REP PROFESSION
Some reps feel networking brings them the greatest value for their ERA dues. Others firmly believe in belonging to the only electronics industry organization that speaks and acts on behalf of their profession. ERA advocates for professional reps through The Representor and the previously described Contract Clauses and Guidelines, Many Other Publications and Trade Show Activities.
Advancing and protecting the rep profession is ERA’s most important mission … With the Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), which ERA established in 1984, and the 30+ associations that are now its members, ERA is continuously supporting the rep profession by: providing articles to industry periodicals about the value of reps to both manufacturers and customers; producing tools reps can use with manufacturers weighing the rep-versus-direct question; interceding when customers pressure manufacturers to bypass their reps; supporting academic research and working with university business school and marketing department faculties and students to expand their knowledge of outsourced field sales.
ERA is also engaged in the MONITORING of and LOBBYING for STATE REP LAWS – activities conducted in cooperation with other rep associations. Passing and/or updating state laws to protect rep commissions are an ongoing focus. (Summaries of ALL current state laws are available on the Publications page.)
ERA delivers discounts to members on a wide array of business products and services, including Webinars, ERA University, the CPMR and CSP programs and ERA’s survey service. Many other discounts are also available, including from both rep-specific and general business suppliers.
INSURANCE PROGRAMS (REPCARE) – are offered at ERA-discounted rates for life, long-term disability and accident plans as well as business owners’ (property and professional liability) coverage. Expert consultants also assist ERA members with finding the best possible rates for group medical coverage.
DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS – are provided by rep-specific software and service providers (i.e., Empowering Systems, MRSware, Perfection Data and RPMS) as well as general business service providers (i.e., Avis and Hertz Car Rental, Rembrandt Advantage (testing and evaluation services for current or prospective personnel), UPS Shipping, Office Depot and Pennywise Office Products).