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Jim Green's blog

Reps and Breaking Ties

January 12, 2011

I am writing my second book dealing with the furniture industry and as part of my research, I have been speaking with a wide variety of executives from both the wholesale and retail sectors of the industry. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with a very well known and highly respected CEO of a Top 40 chain of retail stores. In the course of our conversation and in speaking about furniture representatives and their effectiveness, he made a point that I found extremely interesting; one that I had never really considered before. The position he took was that a truly effective Rep was "VALUE-ADDED" for the manufacturer for whom he or she works. I never really saw the role of a rep in quite this context.

His thinking seemed to be that it was unlikely his company would buy product from a line offering merchandise that was either sub-standard to the market or did not meet their needs, even if that company's representative was outstanding. On the other hand, they probably WOULD buy from a company with terrific product but poor representation. So, first, the product has to be right and has to meet the retailer's needs. This executive's point, I believe, was that an outstanding company with an excellent representative is an unbeatable combination; that for this type of company the representative adds value to the prospect of buying from that company. It is one more reason to use the vendor as a valued resource. Often, it becomes a tiebreaker whereby, if there are two different companies vying to become a vendor for this retailer but one employing an excellent rep and the other a marginal rep, the company with the excellent representative will emerge the victor.

This all may seem fairly obvious, but realistically, while a rep does not make the line, he or she sure can make a difference. Just something to think about.