Rep Success E-newsletter is a quarterly publication focusing on ALA news, industry stories, tips and other articles for manufacturer representatives.
Members of ALA have access to myriad resources designed to help their businesses succeed, from informative publications, to videos, to online training materials.
Manufacturers' representatives must wear many hats. As technology has progressed, the role of a manufacturers' representative has changed and grown. "Nowadays, showrooms are computerized, so they are able to write their own business, and reps are more promoters of products," said Michael Estrin, CLMR, owner of Estrin Sales Agency. "As a rep, you now need to provide a higher level of service that is different from the service of 20 years ago. Today, showrooms really need people who help them make a sale."
Manufacturers' representative members of ALA are uniquely positioned to share information on ALA's many resources designed to help showrooms. ALA has developed a list for manufacturers' representatives to share with their clients looking for ways to improve their businesses. Members are encouraged to download this one-page document and share it with their ALA-member showrooms, or showrooms interested in becoming an ALA member. This is just one more way manufacturers' reps can provide answers and support to their clients.
CPMR Program Offers Invaluable Experience to Industry Professionals
ALA members have access to a wide variety of continuing education opportunities, from monthly live webinars to in-person training and certification courses.
As an Association Partner to the Manufacturers Representatives Education Resources Foundation (MRERF), ALA’s members benefit from the added value of professional development opportunities specifically designed for manufacturers’ representatives.
One of those opportunities is the Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR) program. The CMPR program provides executive education for current and future manufacturers’ representative firm owners and managers. CPMR candidates invest one week annually for three years to attend the program held in Austin, Texas, to gain knowledge and insight into operating a more effective and profitable firm.
“The CPMR is specifically designed to teach all aspects of running a rep business – not how to sell products,” said Bryan Shirley, who serves as a visiting professor at The University of Texas at Austin where he teaches courses for the CPMR program. “The curriculum has solid sessions on rep firm operations, financials, contracts, strategic planning, sales management and succession planning.”
When individuals complete the program, they gain access to an international network of fellow CPMR graduates, as well as CPMR instructors, MRERF staff, association partners and more. Additionally, they earn the right to use the CPMR designation on all of their business materials and are recognized as CPMR alumni by the Institute of Professional Advancement.
Last year, ALA member Brody Foy of Western Lighting completed his final year of the CPMR program, earning his designation and leaving with invaluable experience. According to Foy, one of the most valuable aspects of the program is the networking experience.
“To me, the networking is the biggest thing,” said Foy. “This program gave me access to a group of professionals that offer advice they’ve gained from their past experiences. I can go to them for help on how to solve a variety of issues.”
The program is not industry specific; therefore, participants receive access to a network of professional manufacturers’ representatives from a variety of industries, ranging anywhere from electronics distributors to pluming reps.
“Rubbing elbows and sharing success stories and concerns with reps outside of the lighting business is surprisingly rewarding,” added Shirley. “You might not think reps in plumbing, electrical, electronic components and other industries have the same issues, but they do. Spending time in a learning environment is fun and the network relationships you create sustain for years after CPMR.”
With a growing network of over 1,750 CPMRs, Shirley believes the best reference and testimony comes from the many CPMR graduates. “Ask the opinion of your colleague who proudly displays ‘CPMR’ on their business card or signature line. They will tell you that the program has greatly enhanced their rep business and success,” said Shirley.
As a recent CPMR graduate, Foy is quick to recommend the program to anyone who inquires, and also has some specific advice for ALA members interested in earning their CPMR designations.
“My personal advice is to go in with an open mind,” suggests Foy. “Don’t go in thinking you know how to do everything, because you may not, or you may do it differently than what is being presented or recommened in the program.”
In addition to maintaining an open mind, Foy also recommends showing up at the program prepared to focus on what is being taught. As the in-person portion of the program is just one week out of the year, it is crucial participants focus on the content and spend their nights studying for the final exam administered at the end of the week.
Finally, Foy encouraged ALA members who participate to make sure they tell their clients and manufacturers of their plans. “You’re going to be missing a week of work,” added Foy. “You need to make sure your customers and manufactures are aware.” He also added that telling his manufacturers about the program alterted them to the various resources offered by MRERF, including their manufacturers best practices guide.
ALA members benefit from a $300 discount off the CPMR registration costs. Those interested in learning more about the CPMR program or the other resources offered by MRERF may visit mrerf.org. The CPMR course is held in January and requires participants register ahead of time.