OBSERVATIONS & REFLECTIONS
Reps: the engines of change
by Harry J. Abramson
Electronic Salesmasters Inc.
Harry Abramson founded Electronic Salesmasters Inc. in 1972. He established industry notoriety by virtue of his firm’s peak performance, hundreds of articles and speaking appearances at ERA’s national conferences and chapter meetings and sister trade association MANA. He has an electrical engineering degree from Temple University and entered the electronics industry as an engineer at RCA in Camden, N.J.
His ERA involvement includes serving as vice president of the Components Group and president of the Ohio Chapter. Under his leadership, the chapter was awarded the National Chapter of the Year Award. Abramson recently was recognized with ERA’s prestigious Life Membership Award.
You can reach Harry J. Abramson at 216-406-4119 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have been through a very traumatic year and upon reflection I can state that sales reps are truly resilient, tough, optimistic and caring. They love what they do and the clients they serve. Reps solve challenging problems with a keen acumen for the products and services they sell. Read on to garner the perspectives from an ERA veteran of many years.
1. The greatest conference ever?: Kudos to the ERA staff, conference committee chairpeople, speakers, volunteers and especially our outstanding CEO and leader, Walter Tobin, for putting together a stellar virtual conference. There was a record number of attendees and sponsors! Does this imply that ERA is better than ever? Very possibly! Let’s just say that the times are different. Who would have guessed that something virtual would have so much intrinsic value? Many attendees have stated that the “takeaways” were golden.
2. Thrive or survive?: True to form, it looks like the best and the brightest are thriving in this challenging environment. That speaks volumes about our “interdependent reps’” adaptability and business smarts.
3. Are reps COVID-strong?: No doubt, considering what they have been through. It’s hard to fathom the concept of virtual selling with tools like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, etc. replacing face-to-face sales presentations, but sharp salespeople have risen to the challenge.
4. Have catalog houses survived? Yes, and they obviously have a niche. They simply changed to meet market conditions. The D.A.M.N. team (Digi-Key, Allied, Mouser and Newark) are apparently here to stay because they’ve mastered the logistical art
5. Is reshoring likely? I think so, but it will be a slow transition. It took years to outsource and offshore and it will take years to bring it back. Furthermore, there are many people who consider China to be an economic and military adversary for many reasons. Mexico is a viable alternative, but they do not have the mass production manufacturing sites, infrastructure and engineering knowhow. In summary, don’t anticipate a stampede back to the U.S. in the same manner that it left. China has not only impacted the electronics business, but the critical pharmaceutical industry to an even greater extent.
6. Rep/principal tenures: Are they more stable? I think so for one very good reason. There are far fewer rep firms today than there were in the past few decades. More importantly, the survivors are sophisticated “peak performers.”
7. The Zoom impact: Incredibly, the Zoom explosion was in perfect step with the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom has changed the landscape of all interaction be it customer interface, sales meetings or educational seminars. Further benefits include:
• Greater attendance
• Savings on travel, entertainment and lodging
• Face-to-face dialogue
• Record & save capability
• You can still read body language
• It’s easy and seamless
• More ERA members benefit
8. WFH (working from home): Congrats to the entire rep community and their principals who transitioned to conducting business from home. That also applies to the engineers and buyers within their account base. Most importantly, it is being accomplished in a seamless and transparent manner. This pandemic year has also demonstrated that support staffs can function just as well, if not better, from their home base as they can from a central office. So what are the other benefits if reps go virtual? Things like rent, liability insurance, maintenance and utilities can all be eliminated. Studies have proven that remote employees often put in more hours from home than in the traditional office environment. Why? There is no small talk/superfluous banter or long lunches.
The following fact is critically important: Reps/salespeople are the engines of change and we drive the economy. We never stop selling! Our value will never diminish in good times or bad. We cherish our proud profession!