MarketGate and sales reps; what’s the value proposition?

Sales-questions 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 Salesperson 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.

Man%20jumping%20up 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.


2 thoughts

  1. Dear TIA Employees & TIA Board Members,
    On behalf of 60 plus reps groups (so far) throughout the country and many of your own TIA members, it is with great objection that the board chose to align themselves with ECRM for numerous reasons:
    1. First of all, it was quite a surprise for the reps to learn that when we tried to register for Dallas, we were blocked from doing so until we agreed to pay $500 to buy the ECRM software. Shame on the TIA for locking us out of the show. 90%+ of the exhibitors employ reps. We understand that exhibitors are also being asked to subscribe at cost of $500 but it appears that this is optional.
    2. The main reason for our objections is that this format does not belong in this type of show and the vast majority of retailers are not supporting ECRM. It may work in stationary for example as most reps represent one stationary line. The ECRM system does not account for the fact that a rep may have 10-15 companies showing in Dallas and thus subject to impossible appointment overlaps.
    3. The registration site claims that 3 major retailers support ECRM. We understand that TrU will be taking the training classes. We have heard that K Mart may “try it” this year and have been told that although WM as a company supports this, the appointment format makes no sense for them as they tend to walk the show and make a few select appointments on their own (assuming they attend Dallas).
    4. The TrU reps and K Mart reps do not support ECRM either. Many have been involved with ECRM in other shows and have relayed that there is no pertinent application to the Dallas Toy Show. And those same rep groups have other customers that will not be using the software.
    5. Outside of the above listed accounts, every rep group to date has reported that their customers would not be using this service. Retailers have relayed to us that they feel the ECRM proposal is (1) a waste of time to review the software and (2) does not meet their needs anyway…..they will see who they want to see and want plenty of time to walk the show on their own.
    6. Let’s face facts….WM likely will not use this at all. They hardly support Dallas as it is. TrU will since mgmt made it mandatory. And who knows about K-Mart. Target is not supporting this.
    7. This alliance raises many questions: Do major retailers receive any residuals from participating? Is this a way to for the TIA to raise money? How much (if any) of these charged costs go back to the TIA? Did the TIA cave in to WM or TrU or both without considering the downside? These may seem like suspicious questions but the fact that a system has been implemented that makes zero sense for 99% of the retailers and 100% of the reps warrants this scrutiny.
    8. Why is the TIA risking declining attendance? The vast majority of retailers naturally resent WM or TrU initiatives. The “Industry” in TIA seems to be exclusive of most retailers and the rep groups. Why should the reps be forced into a $500 fee to support two retailers? Why should any rep group support a WM initiative since they don’t allow reps to call on them? If our customers are not using this and we are not using it, there is no reason for this assessment. Believe me, most of us think this is extortion…..and so do many of the companies that we represent.
    We highly recommend that the board immediately drop the “mandatory” ECRM participation and change to “voluntary”. If there are a few exhibitors that want to support this, fine. The board needs to address this at once. We hope that we will see more focus on the “Industry” portion of the name.
    Thanks in advance for your support.
    Gary Smick & Mark Fragel
    Smick & Associates

  2. Richard, I understand all of the points that you have noted however I still see this system as a disadvantage to the independent rep. While there are some pros with the system there are more negatives than positives for the independent rep.
    Aside from the cost, the disadvantages are the loss of the personal touch independent reps have with their Buyers and the loss of control in scheduling and managing their show appointments. It is inevitable that there will be scheduling conflicts for independent reps that will cause them to miss some key account meetings. The independent rep is the expert and liaison between the Vendor and the Retailer and without their involvement the process and their importance is diminished.
    In your comments you mention “The MarketGate system will assure that buyers show up on time, that they are not rushed and that presentations will therefore be more effective.” I am interested in how this works. What is built in to this system that prevents a Buyer from running over on an appointment or prevents the VP/DMM involvement that often happens and extends the meeting beyond its scheduled time that is traditionally an important component of this type of planning show? This VP/DMM involvement is welcome and almost always leads to an improved Vendor/Retailer relationship as well as improved business.

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