Kitchen & Bath Design News

OCT 2018

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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THEY'RE OFTEN AN overlooked link in the kitch- en and bath industry's product-distribution chain, but their impact on the flow of commerce is immeasurable – and far more critical than many people think. I'm referring to the legion of independent and factory sales reps who link product manufacturers to their custom- er base of kitchen and bath dealers, designers, remodelers, hardware/plumbing showrooms and other key specifiers. Manufacturers' reps, in many ways, are the unsung heroes who make the kitchen and bath industry hum, foot soldiers in the army of sales professionals who fuel the industry's continued vibrancy and success. Without reps, manufacturers have no way of supplying and servic- ing their customers and, ultimately, consumers. Without them, design pros lack access to product, sales training, marketing support and other much-needed services. The critical role played by independent and factory sales reps is illuminated by a major new survey conducted for Kitchen & Bath Design News by its exclusive research partner, the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI). KBDN's latest Product Specification Survey, conducted in late summer, was aimed at identify- ing the key criteria design professionals rely upon when selecting and specifying kitchen and bath products. The nationwide poll revealed, among its other findings, that while superior product design, supplier reputation and consumer preference rank as the most critical factors when it comes to adding or changing a product line, the dealer/designer relationship with their manufacturers' rep was reported to be a major factor as well – far more important than favorable pricing terms, higher profit margins, incentive programs, brand name or colleague recommendation. Nine in 10 surveyed de- signers, in fact, said they feel their rep is either "some- what" or "very important" in their decision to continue to carry a product line. Similarly, while poor product quality, negative client feedback and problems with delivery emerged as the lead- ing reasons to drop an existing product line, not enough (or poor) rep support was identified as a major factor, too – far more significant, in the minds of surveyed design- ers, than lack of adequate product availability, decreased consumer demand or price. Other survey results also point to the critical role man- ufacturers' reps play in product-buying decisions. To wit: • When identifying important supplier attributes, product quality ranks highest, followed by prompt, reliable and complete delivery and consistent, competitive pricing. But right behind those factors – and far more important than product availabil- ity, warranties, territorial exclusivity, purchasing incentives and marketing assistance – is the knowl- edge and helpfulness of manufacturers' reps. • When it comes to the characteristics they most value in a rep, surveyed designers cite a knowl- edge/understanding of products; a prompt re- sponse to issues that arise; consistent support, and good communication. Perks like contests, trips and tickets to events pale by comparison. • When commenting on what attributes suppliers need to improve most, rep knowledge and helpfulness ranked just below product quality and prompt, reliable and complete delivery – but significantly higher than such factors as product availability and pricing. The good news, as gleaned from KBDN's survey, is that the vast majority of surveyed design pros report that their reps are either "somewhat" or "very" helpful in pro- viding the level of service that's needed. Less encouraging is the finding that three in four surveyed design pros re- port they'd like to see some or all of their manufacturers' sales reps more frequently. Stated succinctly, the latest KBDN/RICKI survey contains important cues for suppliers trying to make hay in today's competitive, fast-paced market. While excellent product, competitive pricing and prompt delivery remain key components for success, the most effective strategy of all may simply be to hire, train and support sales reps who know how to service their customers. ▪ Editor's Note: Findings of the KBDN/RICKI Product Specification Survey will be explored at KBDN's 4th Annual "Insights" breakfast presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas. The event, aimed at select manufacturers, will include an in-depth examination of the ways that manufacturers can help over- come under-spending in kitchen and bath remodeling. " In today's competitive market, the best strategy for manufacturers may simply be to hire, train and support sales reps who know how to service their customers." Sales Reps: The Unsung Heroes October 2018 • 7 EDITORIAL ® Like us: KitchenBathDesignNews Follow us on Twitter: @KBDN Join the discussion: Follow us on Instagram: @kbdn_sola PUBLISHER Paul DeGrandis PUBLISHER EMERITUS Eliot Sefrin EDITOR Janice Anne Costa MANAGING EDITOR Anita Shaw ASSOCIATE EDITOR Autumn McGarr GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Patrick O'Toole CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kim Berndtson Joe Dowd Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS Elizabeth Richards Denise Vermeulen COLUMNISTS Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, CAPS Denise Grothouse Bruce Kelleran, CKD, CPA John Morgan Ken Peterson, CKD Leah Peterson Mary Jo Peterson, CMKBD, CAPS, CLIPP Sarah Reep, CMKBD, ASID, CMG, CAPS, IIDA Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD CREATIVE & PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Tracy Hegg SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Erika Nygaard AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT Donna Heuberger READER SERVICE MANAGER Jeff Heine DIGITAL PROGRAMS MANAGER Tim Steingraber PROJECTS MANAGER Heidi Riedl Copyright © 2018 by SOLA Group Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be produced in any form, including electronically, without written permission from the publisher of Kitchen & Bath Design News . ELIOT SEFRIN PUBLISHER EMERITUS

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