Over the last week I have received numerous emails from sales representatives regarding the mandatory use of MarketGate and the $500 price tag that comes with it. The emails I am seeing are emotionally charged and carry a call to action. Some reps see this as a case of rep hating; a new profit center for the TIA; a plot by Wal-Mart and in general an attempt to marginalize them.
Those of you, who know my writing, are aware that I am a champion of independent sales reps. I find them to be among the smartest groups of people in the toy industry. They possess a rare combination of mental intelligence, social skills and street smarts that makes them formidable in their ability to analyze and communicate.
Before we move on to my analysis, let me tell you about my diligence. In order to prepare for this posting, I went to the TIA offices and met with leadership, I spoke with sales representatives on both sides of the issue and I also spoke with a representative from ECRM.
Based upon my meetings, I have come to the conclusion that before the sales reps storm the barricades, they need to put those afore mentioned analytical abilities to work in studying MarketGate and determining whether that $500 is a cost of entry or an investment in enhanced sales and reduced over all costs. Here are just a few questions that I would like to see them research:
1. Is there a value proposition?
2. If there is, what qualitative and quantitative value does it provide?
3. Are there any problems with the system?
4. If there are what can be done to fix them?
I can tell you that the TIA and ECRM do see a strong value proposition. Here is their position:
· The $500 purchases access to the MarketGate system for an entire year and not just for the duration of the show.
· The MarketGate system will assure that buyers show up on time, that they are not rushed and that presentations will therefore be more effective.
· Sales reps will save hours of time and money by being able to do quote sheets and populate customized catalogs by using the information that is pre-loaded into the system.
· Reps will be able to use the ad tracking system to find out what products in any category are being advertised by retailers anywhere in North America.
· The data base of retailers, suppliers and sales representatives will mean that reps will be able to get contact information for new retailers and buyers they need to find; be able to find new product lines to represent and, I thought most importantly, be able to be found by retailers looking for products and manufacturers looking for new reps.
One potential glitch in the system that I noted was that reps could end up with multiple appointments at the same time. This would occur because appointments are made by retailers with manufacturers and not with specific reps. I was told that if that does occur, the rep has the ability to make changes in the appointments by contacting their buyers.
I fully understand the concern that reps have with any system that appears to undermine their position in the process. I also understand the concerns regarding new costs and new technology. I believe, however, that the use of technology is inevitable and that rather than jumping in front of the train in order to stop it; it might be better to first figure out whether the train gets you there faster and cheaper.
Reps are an essential part of the business process and no piece of technology replaces their brilliance, their ability to pick up the phone and contact the buyer, their understanding of the retailer’s systems, their product knowledge, their persuasive abilities and their effectiveness in fixing seemingly insurmountable problems.
So, please everyone take a step back and study the value proposition. We need more light and less heat.