NEMRA Delivers … 1900+ Attendees

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A couple of weeks ago I attended the NEMRA meeting as Channel Marketing Group has been working with NEMRA on its POS / POT initiative (point of sale / point of transfer). I was there to launch a draft of reporting standards to help streamline and improve the POS / POT process (we conducted a State of the Industry report on POS / POT for NEMRA which was released early last year.) And the meeting delivered.

During the three days I interacted with a number of manufacturers and distributors.

NEMRA Delivers!
  • There were over 1900 people in attendance! The largest gathering of electrical professionals in the industry. Attendance was up.  According to Ken Hooper this is a reflection of membership growth hence more reps attending, more suppliers utilizing reps and hence attending, reps further diversifying their business and hence needing additional people to attend to meet with suppliers. There were “lots” of one-on-one meetings, hallway meetings and group meetings (suppliers presenting to reps).  For most manufacturers, this is essentially their national sales meeting.
  • The economic tone of the meeting was a little surprising. Rather than being “down” due to the economy and the industrial space, most I spoke with were “accepting” of the marketplace with many reporting that there were “even” or “up” (for 2015 and YTD) as they had either brought on new lines (especially LED lines) or were focusing more on commercial construction product lines. While those in the industrial space (and specifically oil / gas) recognized they could be doing better, they also recognized that budgets have been cut and no matter how much “up-selling” or presenting they did, there wasn’t much opportunity.
  • The industrial market, as expected, is done.
  • The lighting market appears to be the only product category that is experiencing growth. There were a number of LED companies seeking representatives which led to the question of “how should reps decide which LED line(s) to represent?” One reps said he carried 5-6 competing lines as he didn’t know which one(s) would survive or have the next “big” offering.
  • Some reps commented on the cost of doing business (going up) but some suppliers reducing commissions (and that commission dollars are decreasing with the economy) but manufacturers wanting reps to do more customer service, quotation activity, put on specialists, interact with CRM systems and spend more time at end-users / contractors.
  • The big word at the conference was “demand creation”.  “All” manufacturers want it, few seem to understand it or are providing their reps with research and/or tools to generate demand (and the reality is many product categories rise and fall with the construction investment level) – upselling isn’t necessarily demand creation. Up-selling should be an expectation based upon understanding customer needs.
  • The National Association of Independent Lighting Distributors, NAILD, was in attendance promoting its LS1 Lighting Specialist Certification Program. Reps who carry lighting lines should look into this. It provides some of the industry’s best non-manufacturer lighting training. It is not necessary to be a member to take the test. Reps receive a NEMRA discount. Contact Linda Daniel for info.
POS / POT

The introduction of the POS / POT initiative was well received.  17 manufacturers endorsed the initiative, in writing, and 25 leading rep firms also committed their support. The key focus is streamlining the reporting from distributors to manufacturers and manufacturers to reps. According to a number of reps, “this could be major administrative help”. Another commented “These are the types of initiatives that help us be more efficient and more productive.”

Manufacturers recognized that this could help them somewhat but more importantly could be of benefit to their reps as all manufacturer to rep POS / POT reports would be in the same format, hence easier for the rep to review and compensate their people. For a copy of the recommendations email me or Ken Hooper.

Endorsing manufacturers to date are: American Polywater, CRC, Electri-Flex / Liquidite, General Cable, Halex, Ilsco, King Electric, Legrand, Leviton, Light Efficient Design, Littelfuse, Minerallac, Morris Products, Northern Cables, Orbit Industries, Rab Lighting and Ventamatic.  There are others who verbally expressed interest but needed to coordinate with their internal groups first.

NEMRA has also engaged with the five national chains and will continue to reach out to other manufacturers and distributors.

Educational Sessions

There were three educational sessions – Affiliated Distributors, IMARK and a Rep of the Future Panel.

For the two marketing groups the intent of their sessions was “how he envisions AD / IMARK and the AD / IMARK members thriving in the future. He will offer suggestions on how NEMRA members, reps and manufacturers can align with AD / IMARK members to achieve our mutual growth goals.” (the same description was used for both.)

Bill Weisberg, AD, took a more “traditional” approach and emphasized:

  • AD is member governed, has quality members  and shared a video that utilized member videos.
  • They identify areas for member collaboration to compete vs global chains
  • And emphasized that a strength of the group, due to its 7 divisions, is to support “channel convergence” as distributors seek to broaden their product offerings (i.e. into power transmission, safety, industrial supplies, PVF, etc).
  • There are 131 US members representing approximately $15B in industry sales
  • Highlighted a number of the programs including the Field Marketing Summit as a means for reps to further support his members as well as supplier involvement in their incremental rebate program and AD Rewards, which is an inside sales / counter spiff initiative.
  • AD’s current major initiative is an eContent and eCommerce initiative to help members compete effectively for eBusiness. He mentioned that AD members can acquire a storefront for $3500/month plus data content for a very robust, industry leading (from a functionality viewpoint), site.
  • And lastly he spoke about SupplyForce as another AD initiated initiative to support the collaborative needs of the membership. SupplyForce now has:
    • Over 150 agreements serving 7000 plants and over $400M in MRO spend (which creates some interesting opportunities for manufacturers to work closer with SupplyForce)

Bob Smith, IMARK, took a different approach.  Having been a manufacturer for a number of years (Pass & Seymour most notably) and having been a manufacturer sitting on the NAED board, Bob has a unique industry perspective.  He shared his thoughts on NEMRA’s Rep of the Future report and the importance of various elements. From an IMARK viewpoint he touted IMARK’s willingness to be transparent with reps through its website on a number of the organizations initiatives with the belief that the more people know, the more supportive they can be.

Key areas he talked to included:

  • Reps, and manufacturers, using CRM as communication tools and the need for CRM systems to be able to talk to each other
  • Rep staying power and reputation
  • The future role, perhaps viability, of commodity products vs commodity reps
  • The need for end-customer focus, end-customer training and rep “service” divisions
  • Continuing consolidation and, in his experience, that independent distributors are more profitable to manufacturers
  • The need for multi-cultural and multi-generational employees and the benefits this type of diversity can bring to a company.

There was also an engaging panel discussion regarding the Rep of the Future report. It was scheduled for 45 minutes and could have gone 2 hours!  A couple of key takeaways:

  • From the contractor (Rosedin Electric) – reps can influence contractor decisions by showing new products. In his words “distributors don’t do this.” He also saud “bring solutions as distributors do a poor job of this.”
  • From manufacturers – reps needs to continue to invest in technology and training of their people and reps need to be more “fact” based in business discussions with manufacturers. Use metrics.
  • From reps – reps need to become more sales, marketing and service organizations to create demand; consider areas for specialized field sales to create demand

Contact NEMRA for a copy of the complete report.

Keynote

And the keynote speaker was President George Bush. It was an engaging “interview” conducted by Bill Deveraux from R/B Sales.  President Bush was very engaging, was well received and shared stories about his Presidency and family, insights on various issues and shared some personal observations. The ballroom was packed and there were numerous standing ovations. Probably one of the best keynote events that I’ve seen within the industry over the past 20 years. Kudos for NEMRA for pulling this off (it probably helped that the meeting was in Dallas) and definitely something that will be difficult, if not impossible, to top. It was an experience to personally see a U.S. President for many (and some met him personally and got a picture).

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all of the reps and manufacturers who approached me to comment, and thank us, for ElectricalTrends. You are welcome and we appreciate that it adds value for you.

It was a very busy 3 days as NEMRA delivered for the industry sales channel.

If you attended NEMRA, what was your experience?

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