July '18

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82 • RV PRO • July 2018 rv-pro.com A F T E R M A R K E T F or Tom Manning, success as a manufacturer's rep comes down to one thing: Resolving issues. "My father told me ages ago: Busi- ness is about solving problems," says Manning, president of Coldwater, Mich.-based Tom Manning & Asso- ciates. In the case of Manning and other manufacturer rep firms in the RV market, solving problems is largely an issue of bridging the gap between suppliers who are attempting to enter the industry or achieve greater market penetration and dealer retailers on the lookout for the next "hot" new product or an existing one with widespread customer appeal. Some rep firms also help original equipment suppliers make inroads with RV manufacturers. Simultaneously balancing the needs of suppliers (who pay for the services of manufacturer reps), and the dealers who act as the end retailers is a must, according to Manning. "It is in our best interest to help deal- erships be more successful in meeting customers' needs," he says. "We grow the (product) market; we grow the deal- erships business; we grow our business … in that order." It's not enough to simply present good products to retailers and expect them to sell, says John Roba, a retired rep who served the RV aftermarket industry for four decades and is a 2014 RV/MH Hall of Fame inductee. "You can take the best product made of the best material made by an out- standing manufacturer; but unless you train the RV dealer on the product, it's not going to sell," he says. Additionally, offering various forms of merchandising assistance can be invaluable to retailers, according rep firm representatives inter- viewed for this article. Who Needs a Rep, Anyway? Although manufacturer reps have served the industry since its earliest days, their role isn't always easily understood by those who don't have direct dealings PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARC REPRESENTATION & CONSULTING, SHEPHERD SALES, SM OSGOOD AND TOM MANNING & ASSOCIATES Reps to the Rescue The Tom Manning & Associates sales team boasts a veteran group of reps. Pictured in this group photo are (back row, left to right): Chris Polley, Tom Manning, Terry Goddard and Tom Lynd, and (front row, left to right): Jeff Hostetler, Cathy Sutton, Joe Pico and Steve Stewart. (Missing from the photo is Matt Boles.) Manufacturer rep firms can fill a vital role for both suppliers and dealers with services such as product training and merchandising assistance. By Tamarind Phinisee

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