Representor Summer 2023 - ERA XCOM Digest

Summer 2023 – 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

Distributor engagement

A mutually beneficial association between different people or groups is a symbiotic relationship. I cannot think of a better example of symbiosis than the relationship between reps and distributors. Like all relationships, time and energy are necessary to maintain and strengthen bonds. Here are some of the more interesting and exciting ways I see reps and distributors engaging in the industry today.

Virtual meeting technology has been a game changer for all of us, and the impact on distributor training has been a net positive. The training objectives are the same — gaining mindshare, promoting new products and brainstorming target customers. With virtual meeting technology we can now share documents, datasheets, whitepapers and presentations in real time. We can expand our audience to include remote employees and those in the field. Importantly, we can engage our audience more effectively by including our manufacturers’ subject matter experts who deliver deeper content. Collaboration can continue in smaller groups or one-on-one after the meeting is adjourned.

Distributors, manufacturers and reps are now co-hosting virtual technical seminars that tackle wide-ranging technical industry topics like electrification or robotics. Virtual technology allows for a broad audience — in this case engineers from multiple key accounts, and offers a platform for bestin- class subject matter expert presenters. Attendees learn and engage on topics they care about, and the hosts have new leads to nurture.

According to Ricky Manahan, director for the sales development components division for Panasonic Industrial Devices Sales Co. of America, “Technical seminars are an enriching experience not only to suppliers but also to our reps and disty partners as well. They allow for information sharing and collaboration with our rep and distribution partners and ultimately with our end customers. These seminars can provide a comprehensive discussion on solutions to one’s unique needs. I highly recommend these seminars for anyone seeking synergies in enhancing and strengthening their business partnerships and delivering results to their customers.”

While virtual technology has immense potential, it will never replace the personal relationships that drive high-value business. Early engagement with distribution for large opportunities is a strategy that is more important now than ever, considering the supply chain difficulties we have seen during the past few years. When I have a high-value opportunity that will likely go through a preferred distributor, I intentionally reach out early to collaborate with them on a risk assessment for stocking parts. If they agree, they have a better chance of winning the business. If they win the business, I have a better chance of hearing from them about an opportunity for me in the future.

Last month, myself and Susan Leager, director of distribution at Control Sales, had the privilege of visiting one of our key distributor partners to tour their facility, strategize with their product managers, discuss key accounts and get to know each other a little bit better.

I would encourage all rep owners and distribution managers to personally visit their key distributor partners. Visits can be an invaluable learning experience and are the best example of what is, was, and always will be, the truest way to engage.

Education Update – by Ellen Coan, CPMR

Ellen Coan, CPMR

C C Electro Sales, Inc.
Sr. Vice President/Education

Better together

“Tomorrow looks different and so will we!” and “Change carries risk but NOT changing has more risk” are both quotes from Admiral Linda Fagan, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. I listened to her on a podcast called “ReThinking” as she shared that what worked yesterday may not work best today and that changes are coming. An example she gave is that her command may now be allowed to leave, join private industry and come back — just one of the new ways the Coast Guard is thinking about how to keep people engaged. People are the root of every rep firm, distribution company, manufacturer and customer. Investing in them and keeping flexible is the key to success.

How do we invest in our people? What do we do in our companies to meet the needs of tomorrow? We listen and educate ourselves on the tools available to make successful decisions and further our growth personally and professionally. ERA prides itself on fresh, new training as we explore AI, cyber security, CRMs, new technology and more. This fall, ERA’s virtual education offering, STEP (Sales Training for Electronics Professionals), will offer nine training sessions that address these topics and more with our peers and professionals. This live event will take place Oct. 17-19 and is highly recommended to all in the field of electronic components industry sales. The sessions will also be recorded and archived for future use. This is one way to invest in people while always remembering our “why” (Simon Sinek can help with that – his podcast “A Bit of Optimism” is a great resource.)

One of the hardest topics to tackle is time management. One recent book is Four Thousand Weeks, which takes aim at traditional productivity and time management tips, which the author alleges only allow for more tasks or emails to jump into your finally empty inbox. The more productive we get, the more we have to do. How do you control it? We are given so many weeks of life – how will we use them? What gives us fascination that dissolves stress? Music? Art? Photography? Outdoor hikes? Shopping? Gardening?

Stepping back from the day to day and asking that question can show us what drives us each day to find the next big customer or enticing line or helpful co-worker. It is scientifically proven that the essence of quiet and meditation gives clarity. I look for podcasts and books to listen to during my Midwest windshield time on these subjects. We share our best practices at conferences and sales meetings. Face to face, we are once again learning from each other and taking it back to our corporate culture refreshed and ready to tackle it all. We are better together!

Manufacturing Update – by Ken Bellero

Ken Bellero
Schaffner EMC
Sr. Vice President/Manufacturers

Key factors that contribute to the successful relationship between manufacturers, reps and their distributors

In May many of us attended EDS in Las Vegas and for some, it was the first time in almost three years. I began to think about why many of us plan to go to EDS every year and the answer is quite clear. It is to solidify our relationships with our distribution, manufacturing and their rep partners and spend some business and social time getting to know each other better so that together we can be more successful in selling our products to our customers. That led me to the topic I chose to write about today. What are the qualities that strengthen the relationships between manufacturers, their reps and their distribution partners?

Here are some key factors that contribute to a successful relationship between manufacturers, their reps and distributors in the electronics components industry:

Clear communication. Effective communication is crucial for maintaining a strong manufacturer-distributor relationship. Both parties need to have open and transparent lines of communication to discuss product requirements, changes in demand, technical specifications, pricing and any other relevant information. Regular and proactive communication helps build trust and enables better collaboration.

Mutual understanding. It is essential for manufacturers and distributors to have a mutual understanding of each other’s goals, strategies and expectations. Both parties should align their objectives and work towards achieving common business goals. This understanding allows for better decision-making and facilitates a collaborative approach to problem solving.

Reliability and consistency. Reliability is key in the electronics components industry. Manufacturers must consistently produce high-quality components that meet agreedupon specifications and delivery schedules. Distributors, on the other hand, should be reliable in terms of order fulfillment, inventory management and timely deliveries. Consistency in performance builds trust and ensures smooth operations throughout the supply chain.

Product expertise. Distributors play a crucial role in providing technical support and guidance to customers. Manufacturers should select distributors who have a deep understanding of their product line and possess the necessary technical expertise to address customer queries and provide solutions. Distributors should stay updated on the latest product developments, industry trends and technological advancements to effectively promote and sell the manufacturer’s components.

Collaborative planning and forecasting. Collaboration between manufacturers and distributors on demand forecasting and planning is essential to optimize inventory levels, production schedules and customer satisfaction. Sharing relevant market information, sales data and insights can enable both parties to make informed decisions and avoid supply-demand imbalances. Collaborative planning helps minimize lead times, reduces stockouts and improves overall efficiency.

Market development and support. Manufacturers and distributors should work together to develop and expand the market for their products. This can include joint marketing activities, product promotions and participation in industry events. Manufacturers can support distributors by providing marketing materials, training and technical resources. By collaborating on market development, both parties can increase brand visibility, reach new customers and drive sales.

Flexibility and adaptability. The electronics components industry is dynamic and subject to rapid technological changes, market fluctuations and customer demands. Manufacturers and distributors need to be flexible and adaptable to respond quickly to evolving circumstances. This may involve adjusting production schedules, modifying product specifications or exploring new market opportunities together. A willingness to adapt and embrace change is essential for long-term success.

These key factors contribute to building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between manufacturers, reps and distributors in the electronics components industry. By fostering effective communication, trust, reliability and collaboration, both parties can optimize their operations, enhance customer satisfaction and achieve sustainable growth.

There are numerous examples all across the industry of successful partnerships where manufacturers and distributors work together to provide comprehensive product offerings, technical support and efficient supply chain management. These collaborations have played a significant role in driving business growth, expanding market presence and improving customer satisfaction in the electronics components industry.

As always, if you would like to reach out to me to discuss this topic or any others that are pertinent to our industry, please do not hesitate to email me at or give me a call 732-910-1717 anytime.

Distribution Update – by Gary Zullo

Gary Zullo
Arrow Electronics
Sr. Vice President/Distributors

Prioritizing local relationships

Well, here we are with another EDS Show in the books. If I’m being honest, it’s often a difficult week to look forward to. It’s on the heels of Mother’s Day and it’s a scheduling challenge running from meeting to meeting for three days straight, overeating and dare I might add the word, elevators. Yet I always end up leaving energized and more prepared to tackle second-half of the year challenges, and this year was no different.

I’m not sure if there still isn’t a hangover effect from COVID-19 – that we went a few years with limited face-to-face contact – it seems to make something we maybe took for granted and make it all the more sweet. While EDS does offer the opportunity for some high-level strategy updates, the real power lies in the ability of the supplier-distributor-rep triangle to sit in a room together and help ensure our local support model is squarely focused on the joint customers we serve.

The simple fact is that our customers benefit the most when our local relationships are the tightest. Often, it’s a distributor meeting with a supplier or a supplier communicating with their rep network. Herein lies the magic of EDS. It offers the opportunity for any strategy and organizational updates, but most importantly it offers an audience for real-time, constructive feedback, which allows the teams to make needed adjustments. And of course, the timing couldn’t have been better, as the industry navigates through a bit of rationalization. It provided an opportunity for all three groups to share perspectives on the market, both for the next few quarters and beyond.

Lastly, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the personal component and opportunity that EDS provides. In some cases, it’s the once-a-year opportunity to rekindle long-standing industry relationships. It’s the perfect venue to reconnect with suppliers, extended rep organizations and competitors. Even though we’re working through a market that is very different from the past couple years, the optimism regarding the future was on full display. Whether it be AI, the electrification of everything, transportation or the host of additional verticals with ever-increasing electronic content, the future for our triangle is bright.

Membership Update – by John Hutson, CPMR

John Hutson, CPMR
The MacInnis Group
Sr. Vice President/Membership

Empowering members with knowledge

It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through 2023, but wow, what an exciting year it has been thus far!

It seems like just yesterday that we were all gathered in Austin for what was a sell-out crowd at the annual ERA Conference where the dynamics of our industry were on full display. The positive energy that culminates when we gather together flowed from Austin to Las Vegas at what proved to be another successful EDS Summit.

I am pleased to report that ERA is doing terrific things beyond supporting these events, with the new ERA being top on the list. Centuries ago, Sir Francis Bacon wrote “knowledge itself is power” and ERA can provide your team with the knowledge that can power the new sales generation for which we all strive. ERA helps our members scrub the internet for all kinds of information that makes for a more informed salesperson, making it an invaluable tool in your sales toolbox. If you are not capitalizing on ERA yet, I encourage you to do so.

In addition to ERA, our chapters continue to deliver educational and networking events at the local level. Have you attended a chapter event lately? Are you communicating these events to your team members who reside in the territories where these events are taking place and encouraging them to attend? Or better yet, you may want to get your team members added to ERA’s email distribution list so that these exciting events can be communicated to you.

It is not a coincidence that all of the excitement that ERA members are generating is also driving membership, although a tip of that hat must go to Ama Derringer, the ERA Membership Services Coordinator, who can communicate the value of ERA membership with so much conviction and grace that it is impossible to say no. Ama is always available to assist in any way.

As we enter the second half of 2023, I look forward to more wonderful things from ERA nationally and at the chapter level, and I hope all of you can be participants to all that we have to offer.

I wish a safe and happy summer to all.

Rep Update – by Cameron English, CPMR

Cameron English, CPMR
English Technical Sales
Sr. Vice President/Industry

Supply chain volatility and disruptions

The electronics industry has seen a rapid evolution over the last few years, and so has the supply chain for electronic components. A robust and efficient supply chain can help businesses meet customer demands, reduce costs and gain a competitive edge in the market.

Supply chain volatility may be the one issue that commands the attention of all three market players: manufacturers’ representatives, manufacturers and distributors have all been impacted by severe supply chain fluctuations from material shortages and long lead times to support critical customer demands.

What do we do now that we know economic conditions are moving toward a cooling-off period after one of the hottest and expansive inflationary periods that we have experienced in decades? Manufacturers continue to suffer due to their dependencies on efficiencies to maximize productivity, while distributors continue to frantically source scarce products for their customers!

The once relied-upon strategy to anticipate change in demand and manufacturing forecasts are proving to be the ever-elusive unicorn of our world. Let’s face it: accurate forecasts and accurate lead times are becoming more and more problematic.

Obsolescence, long tail inventory, high MOQs, low-volume unique parts and demand fluctuations may be the greatest challenge facing our industry within the foreseeable future. Distributors propose traditional stock planning for alternative parts that are facing obsolescence. They will state that their deep inventory and knowledge of the options available are the solution. Distribution will offer bill of material (BOM) management, analyzing the relative health of your BOM, in order to anticipate future issues and problem child individual components.

I am now seeing more and more OEM customers send out inquiries asking: Is the following part going to remain in production for the long-term, and if not, when is end of life (EOL) projected? This is an issue not only for them but for all of us within the supply chain industry.

Now let’s further complicate the situation by including economic headwinds we are facing: raised interest rates, tightened credit markets and economic contractions with low-projected growth for 2023 and 2024, coupled with supply chain disruptions at levels not experienced since the first impact of COVID-19. Strong fluctuations in demand, inventory build-up, requests for returns and cancellations and dysfunctional book-to-bill ratios continue to be the norm for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024. Encouragingly, OEMs and ODMs appear to be continuing to make progress on lowering on-hand inventory dollars and driving down days.

In conclusion, the paradoxical nature of the economy right now appears to be a direct result of several macroeconomic forces that are pushing and pulling. Some emerging growth industries are encouraging; however, growing inventory concerns from both distribution and OEM components suppliers continue to plague our industry.

Some believe the Fed will continue to lose the battle of inflation versus interest rates — similar to the scenario in the style of a classic Godzilla movie, where we are all confident that the good Godzilla will prevail, but the city is sure to be trashed after it is all over. Our economy is running on momentum and hope, not a solid set of economic-positive characteristics.

What does this mean to us as sales and marketing-focused individuals? During times of great challenge, long-term strategies will prevail. This could be an exceptional time for the relatively financially healthy parties to stay the course, grow market share, build brand image, take their resources and make strategic acquisitions while focusing on emerging growth segments. Representatives in particular are in a great position to see early data on which companies/verticals/markets will continue to prosper in difficult economic times.