The Future of the Independent Representative in the Custom Integration Market
Technology Integrator: Why is the independent representative more important now than ever?
Eric Bodley: The independent rep should provide three vitally important elements in their marketplace: 1. Strong personal and business relationships with the dealers and a knowledge of their strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. 2. A technical working knowledge of the products they represent (and don’t represent), and who to communicate with within each of the manufacturers to ensure that the “sum is greater than the parts” of the systems that their dealers sell and install. 3. Vital and useful information and feedback to the manufacturer from the marketplace on topics ranging from technical issues to customer satisfaction, so that current and future products will meet the needs of the market.
Nick Phillips: Reps have evolved to provide dealers with integrated solutions rather than just emphasizing certain products. This sales approach is essential as technology is changing rapidly and dealers rely on outside expertise to guide them to solutions. I also find that many new dealers are emerging as the economy improves, and they may not have the business expertise to grow their company properly. Many good reps provide an unofficial “business consultant” role for dealers to help guide them on the business aspects to be profitable in this evolving market.
Andrew Ard: Over the past few years, marketing decisions by existing manufacturers have been impacted greatly by market uncertainty, survival and “we’ve never seen anything like this before” paradigms. Beyond that, new companies to our market have entered during this same timeframe. Consequently, we are now in a period where many prior decisions are being reevaluated, including even by those manufacturers new to our industry. There is a strong need for the in-field and seasoned input and viewpoint of independent representatives in helping manufacturers with:
a. Refocusing their efforts and emphasis of their product mix;
b. locating and prioritizing existing and up-and-coming market partners, and;
c. planning new approaches with these accounts. which will yield the most effective and timely results.
David Humphries: Our industry is seeing technology advance at a pace that we wouldn’t have envisioned five years ago. This includes old and new manufacturers that have launched highly technical products that require a skilled technical sales staff to support the integrators. Technical representatives provide this skill set across many product lines and technologies that are being deployed by the integrators. The representative of today may have staff who have engineering degrees, advanced IT and telephony backgrounds. There is advanced training, field support and consulting services for these products. An inside person at a manufacturer cannot provide the level of service an integrator requires in the field. A regional manager covering everything east of the Mississippi will never be able to provide this level of service. Representative firms can provide an array of the leading product lines from several manufacturers to an integrator as a complete solution and do this at a much lower cost to the manufacturer than a full-blown direct sales team. The manufacturer sales representative will continue to provide the high quality of service the integrators expect in addition to adding an exceptional value to the manufacturer partners.