Occasionally, the easiest way to produce an editorial is to paraphrase someone in the industry to create a compelling, controversial piece and end the column with a back-pedaling statement to avoid heat toward the publication. In my opinion, this is the reason for your August 1995 editorial, "Let the buyer beware."
Larry Johnson, president of The Light Brigade Inc., is entitled to his opinion and, as a quasi-distributor, the results of his ranking of industry sales representatives according to their product knowledge is predictably self-serving. My concern is not with Johnson, but with your publication`s apparent siding with the rankings without any opposing view or comment other than that "these statements are generalizations."
As a manufacturer, Ortronics uses an independent sales force. All our representatives must meet specific requirements and attend mandatory training sessions to ensure they are up-to-date on product knowledge, installation techniques and standards compliance. Although many other companies also use this sales technique, there are exceptions; companies that cannot afford, or do not care, to train their sales representatives. But I submit your callous generalization does a great injustice to the professional independent sales representative.
These individuals often have many years of experience, are well-educated and provide their customers with the best products and services. Most are commissioned salespeople who consistently put their reputation, knowledge and integrity on the line. They must thoroughly know their competitors` products and lines they represent so they can spec a job that meets the end-users` needs.
Certainly, a buyer must evaluate vendors, but to provide a slanted ranking and call one group "the most dangerous" is irresponsible.
Larry Johnson, president of The Light Brigade Inc. (Kent, WA) responds:
The word "usually" is key in the second paragraph of the editorial: "Independent sales representatives usually have the lowest level of product knowledge." In fact, the editorial does state that some representatives undoubtedly know far more about their product lines. However, not enough people are at the level of knowing both the products and the industry. For example, representatives may not have the latest information on discontinued products, whereas a factory-direct person will likely have that information.
Successful systems depend on designers, installers and end users integrating components, tools and equipment. As in all industries in which recommendations are made, we depend on the credibility of those [sales] organizations and personnel to offer the highest levels of expertise. Any weakness of information from those selling the products can affect this successful integration.
In my 18 years` experience in communications, I have seen the best and the worst. We do business with those who have a good product at a good value and who represent their products and our best interests. I agree with the comment that "you get what you pay for."
I do not believe there is a "typical salesperson." Instead, there are people trying to do the best job with the tools they are given. Many people, however, are not given the training, support and knowledge to make recommendations for today`s communications systems. Unfortunately, many organizations believe that technical training takes representatives away from their sales role instead of enhancing their selling capabilities.
My hat`s off to technical sales people in the front lines; they should be rewarded for their efforts and activities.