Representor Spring 2024 - ERA XCOM Digest

Spring 2024 – ERA XCOM Digest

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Industry Update – by Kingsland Coombs, CPMR, CSP


Kingsland Coombs, CPMR, CSP
Control Sales, Inc.
Sr. Vice President at Large
kingc@controlsales.com

White Pin Internship update: Spring/Summer 2024

For the past three years, the ERA White Pin Group and ERA National have forged a partnership aimed at growing the pool of talent at manufacturers’ representative firms across North America. Together, they have championed the Mark Motsinger White Pin Internship program designed to award three internships annually, serving as a conduit to engage and onboard talented college students as interns, either during the summer or throughout the academic year.

It is with great pride that the ERA White Pin Group unveils the recipients of the 2024 Mark Motsinger White Pin Internships:

• Julie Rowe, Business Marketing major at East Carolina University, interning at Pinnacle Marketing

• Nathan Dubsky, Business Analytics and Entrepreneurship major at the University of Cincinnati, interning at Staffco

• Ethan Bowers, Engineering Management major at the Missouri University of Science & Technology, interning at R.W. Kunz & Associates

These three individuals will start their journeys this spring through immersive 10-week programs. Building on the success of the previous year, Ellen Coan, Walter Tobin and I are excited to host two check-in calls with the rep firm owners and interns throughout the summer, gathering connections and insights. The enthusiasm and energy displayed by last year’s interns during these calls was truly inspiring.

Distinguished by their enthusiasm and hailing from top tier colleges, this year’s interns represent a shift towards business school majors, diverging from the previous cohort dominated by engineering disciplines. Tasked with a diverse array of responsibilities — including foundational marketing tasks, data analytics, shadowing account managers during customer calls, distributor trainings and industry tradeshows — these interns are poised to experience many of the intricacies of the manufacturers’ representative model.

Ultimately, our aim is for these interns to not only grasp the nuances of the manufacturers’ representative business but also to develop an appreciation for it. We aspire for them to embrace this dynamic industry and, ideally, forge enduring connections that may culminate in future employment opportunities with their respective representative firms upon graduation.

Mark Bowers, vice president, R.W. Kunz & Associates, summarized the plan with his son, Ethan, well:

“This internship will be structured so our intern will get a full understanding of how the manufacturers’ representative industry is an important asset to its customers, distributors and manufacturers represented. Ethan will learn about territory and account management, outside sales, technology marketing and enhanced communications and gain product knowledge of the design-in process at the engineering level. I look forward to this summer with further hopes that he will join the R.W. Kunz team afterwards.”

At the culmination of the 2024 internships, Ellen and I will seek testimonials from the rep owners, undoubtedly bolstering the program’s visibility for the upcoming 2025 group of interns.

I ask the entire rep community to earnestly consider participation in this program, as we hope to see even more applications next year. It is important to note that for an application to be duly processed, an intern candidate must be identified by the rep firm. While the ERA and White Pin team stand ready to offer guidance throughout the process, it’s imperative to emphasize that the task of finding interns rests with the rep firms themselves. In this regard, we strongly encourage rep firms to liaise with local universities, junior colleges and trade schools, and utilize platforms such as Handshake.com to identify suitable candidates.

For reference, the White Pin Internship program is prominently featured on the ERA website under the section designated as ERA Resources. Here, internship recommendations and guidelines are available for prospective participants.

Dating back to its inception in 1960, the ERA White Pin Group remains a society comprised of like-minded reps who have demonstrated commitment through volunteer leadership roles at the national ERA level for a minimum of two years. Membership to the White Pin ranks expands annually, affording new members the privilege of actively contributing to the internship program among other endeavors. Central to the ethos of the program is its overarching objective of nurturing human talent and facilitating their integration into the successful narrative of our rep firms.

The genesis of the Mark Motsinger White Pin Internship program in 2022 was borne out of ERA’s steadfast resolve to acquaint college students with the intricacies of the rep model, while concurrently cultivating a pipeline of fresh, dynamic talent to invigorate the electronics industry.

Named in honor of Mark Motsinger, president of Wallace ElectronicSales and esteemed executive director of the ERA White Pin Group for more than 16 years, the program stands as a testament to his enduring legacy. Motsinger played a pivotal role in shaping the educational trajectory of the White Pin Group, spearheading initiatives aimed at propelling the recruitment and assimilation of recent college graduates into our industry.

Education Update – by Ellen Coan, CPMR


Ellen Coan, CPMR

C C Electro Sales, Inc.
Sr. Vice President/Education
ellen.coan@ccelectro.net

Conference takeaways will provide value to our customers

Identity theft, email hacking, phone scams, phishing emails, etc. — from creative people who should use these skills to improve our lives instead of disrupting them. But we have to stay ahead of them and put in the effort daily to learn new technology to avoid these situations and be more productive and creative in ways we didn’t know existed.

In February 2024 in Austin, Texas at ERA’s annual conference we shared several breakout sessions to address these technologies. Craig Jackson, deputy director at the Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, presented cybersecurity research and best practices for your company’s CISO (chief information security officer)—who knew you needed one? We learned about awareness training for employees, cyber insurance and the infancy of that product, and password keeper apps.

Then there were the AI presentations from our industry experts, Sam Richter and Matthew Amato, who gave us a lot to think about, from avatars that imitate us to productivity enhancements that allow us to keep doing more, better and faster!

For me, it came down to prompt engineering and experimenting with Gemini (the new Bard from Google) and Chat- GPT4, but there are others as well, and additional plug-ins to improve the experience. It was a deep rabbit hole, but time well spent. From there I went to read.ai and Otter to help with meeting transcripts and action item management. Just like the Internet, I do not believe this will replace any of us, but it will help make us more efficient and creative. Education and networking are the best conference takeaways!

Look for more tools and best practices at ERA’s STEP (Sales Training for Electronic Professionals) on Sept 24-26, 2024—three days of virtual training (manageable schedule over all time zones with time to address real-time business issues) on relevant topics for our day-to-day best practices to provide value to our customers. Together we are better!

Manufacturing Update – by Ken Bellero


Ken Bellero
Schaffner EMC
Sr. Vice President/Manufacturers
ken.bellero@schaffner.com

From the inside: Navigating corporate acquisitions and the effect on employees and corporate culture

Often, when I think about pertinent topics for manufacturers, reps and distributors in the electronics industry, I encounter conflicting and occasionally contradictory perspectives. However, thinking about this article, I opted to explore a theme that strikes a personal chord, resonating not only with my own experiences but also with the broader community within the electronics sector. This topic holds relevance amidst the backdrop of recent corporate acquisitions, affecting many individuals across the industry.

Mergers and acquisitions are common occurrences in the electronics industry. When a large corporation acquires a smaller counterpart, it sets off a chain reaction of changes that can profoundly affect employees and corporate culture. This is an attempt to provide observations on the many impacts of such acquisitions on employees and corporate culture and some best practices to navigate through this sometimes-difficult situation.

First, the announcement of an acquisition often triggers uncertainty and anxiety among employees of the smaller corporation. I can certainly sympathize. Concerns about job security, changes in roles and responsibilities and potential layoffs loom large, leading to apprehension and stress in the workplace. Clear and transparent communication from both the acquiring and acquired companies is essential to ease the fears and provide clarity regarding the future direction and implications of the acquisition.

After the acquisition, there are typically changes in the organizational structure and reporting lines as the two companies integrate their operations. This can result in the consolidation of departments, realignment of teams and reshuffling of management roles. Employees may find themselves reporting to new supervisors or collaborating with colleagues from the acquiring company, necessitating adaptation to new working dynamics and corporate cultures.

One of the most significant challenges is integrating differing corporate cultures. The acquiring company may have distinct values, norms and operating practices that differ from those of the smaller corporation. This can lead to cultural clashes, resistance to change and difficulties in fostering a cohesive and harmonious work environment. There must be efforts made to bridge cultural gaps, promote open dialogue and cultivate a shared sense of purpose are essential to successful integration.

Despite the challenges posed by these acquisitions, there are also opportunities for growth and development for employees. The resources and expertise of the larger corporation can provide access to innovative technologies, markets and career advancement opportunities. Through training programs, mentorship initiatives and cross-functional collaborations, employees can enhance their skills, expand their professional networks and thrive in the post-acquisition environment.

Maintaining employee morale and engagement during and after an acquisition is the most important factor to the long-term success of the integrated organization. Recognizing and addressing the concerns and needs of employees, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment and celebrating milestones and achievements are crucial steps in preserving morale and motivation. Leadership transparency, empathy and responsiveness are essential in building trust and fostering a positive workplace culture amidst change.

In conclusion, when a large corporation purchases a smaller counterpart in the electronics industry, the impacts on employees and corporate culture are significant. From uncertainty and anxiety to opportunities for growth and development, navigating the complexities of corporate acquisitions requires careful planning, effective communication and a commitment to preserving employee well-being and engagement. The success of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) goes beyond financial considerations; it depends significantly on the careful management of human factors. Recognizing and addressing the impact on employees is vital for a seamless transition and longterm success. Retaining talent through positive experiences, recognition and career development opportunities ensures that the workforce remains committed and engaged.

By prioritizing transparency, collaboration and cultural integration, companies can successfully navigate the challenges and realize the potential benefits of acquisitions, driving long-term value and success in the dynamic landscape of the electronics industry. For me it is important to remember that our greatest asset lies in the dedication and talent of our workforce, and by nurturing these, we pave the way for sustained success and innovation in the electronics industry and overcome the challenges created by a corporate acquisition. As always, if you would like to reach out to me directly to discuss this topic or any others that are pertinent to our industry, please do not hesitate to email me at ken.bellero@schaffner.com or give me a call at 732-910-1717 anytime!

Membership Update – by John Hutson

John Hutson, CPMR
The MacInnis Group
Sr. Vice President/Membership
john@macinnis-company.com

 

Your customer is not that far out of reach— let ERA help

Most would agree that it has never been more difficult to get in front of the customer. Many factors have contributed to this, with technology certainly being one of the more impactful. Ironically, as the means to communicate have become more available and affordable, this has not made the process of getting an audience with our customers any easier.

Education remains a primary pillar in ERA’s mission to advance and support the professional field sales function in our industry, and ERA has a long history of identifying changes in our business and defining best practices to help our members excel during times of change. ERA has been tracking how challenging it is to get the attention of our customers for a while now, and they continue to address these challenges by sharing means and methods for helping with this struggle. Helping you get in front of your customer is just one resource that provides you with return your ERA membership. Are you accessing it?

With ERA’s assistance, the manufacturers’ representative has adapted various tools to help us get in front of the customer, but the most effective continues to be the value in representing multiple manufacturers. Throughout the sales process—demand identification, demand creation and demand fulfillment — having accessibility to all of the resources that multiple manufacturers offer an independent manufacturers’ representative provides an invaluable opportunity to achieve “trusted advisor” status with the customer, thus improving the ability to get their attention.

ERA has been working hard to identify tools and tactics for parlaying the tried-andtrue multiple line advantage in order to maximize customer engagement, most of which also apply to our manufacturer and distributor members as well. For example, everyone has access to data, and the cost of tools for efficiently analyzing data has come down to the point where it might be a wise investment for all ERA members. Analyzed data is information, an informed salesperson is an empowered salesperson, and an empowered salesperson is better positioned to capture the attention of their customer than the ill-informed. Have you invested in data analytics, incorporated it into your sales strategy, and are you sharing it with your channel partners to maximize customer engagement? Many of your fellow ERA members are, and they are sharing their best practices.

Digital marketing represents a significant evolution in enhancing customer engagement. Historically, marketing communications (MARCOM) were managed by manufacturers, with distributors co-oping in these efforts. However, as digital communication has advanced and the cost of automated email programs has decreased, reps have gained the ability to effectively market and communicate the benefits of their diverse product lines, thereby increasing direct engagement with customers. This shift allows reps to engage in localized MARCOM activities, fostering a new level of collaboration that significantly boosts customer interaction. Members of ERA are proactively integrating this approach into their sales strategies. Are you on board with this change?

One of the most interesting developments continues to be AI, and here again ERA is here to help. ChatGPT, and any equivalents, continues to advance at a rapid pace. The release of ChatGPT4 was more than ten times more powerful than ChatGPT3.5, and the anticipated release of ChatGPT5 will further impact how we do business. These tools provide our membership with the opportunity to become more efficient and productive across multiple aspects of our business, including how we communicate with our customers. Have you incorporated AI into your organization? ERA is here to help.

ERA’s SearchLink.ai may be the best tool to date to help you get in front of your customer. More information is available to us than ever before, but processing such a magnitude of information can be overwhelming. ERA’s SearchLink.ai scrubs the internet in a way that allows you to effectively identify valuable information on your customers that improves your ability to engage and capture their attention. A SearchLink.ai subscription is icing on your sales strategy cake. When combined with all of the other resources that ERA is offering our membership, the representative, manufacturer and distributor alike have a toolbox of items that they can use to help them get in front of the customer.

As you can see, ERA continues to help its members adapt to the changes in the industry, especially when it comes to customer engagement. These efforts were recently showcased in Austin, Texas, at the sold-out annual conference, but you don’t have to wait for next year’s conference to access this information. Most of the ERA chapters are incorporating this content into their local chapter events, both in person and virtual, and you are highly encouraged to attend. Terrific information is also available on the website, or you are welcome to reach out to national to share your ideas and needs in order that we may strive to assist. With ERA membership, your customers may not be as far out of reach as they appear. When we utilize all the tools available to us, and work collectively towards this goal, improving our presence with our customers can be achieved.