Canadian Electrical Wholesaler


October 18, 2016 


Murray Chamney 

Over the past number of years, much has been written about the “hollowing out” of management at Canadian subsidiaries of international companies. Large publicly traded companies are under tremendous pressure to be more efficient, to do more with less. Often, the Canadian division loses its leadership role to individuals at its head office.

A similar transition has occurred among middle management of sales and marketing. Many progressive companies have lost their team of technical specialists, inside and outside sales support, and local marketing experts. This can be said of both manufacturers and distributors, including privately held enterprises. Canada isn’t alone in this problem.

Contractors, OEMs, industrials, and institutions have begun to use online sources to assist in product selection and purchasing. The supply chain has recognized this and changed their way of interaction. Our industry’s issue has been to fill in the gaps that are not addressed by online transactions. Our customers still need significant assistance in planning, specifying, and detailing their electrical system’s needs. Order assistance is still required, especially with non-standard and specialty products. Delivery assistance is needed to insure a timely delivery of goods. After-sales support is often required to aid in commissioning systems. All of these require a personal touch; people.

As manufacturers and some distributors have pared down their staff, many progressive manufacturers’ reps have added staff to fill these voids. Here are some examples of the types individuals now commonly employed at rep firms:

     specification specialists — these are reps who work on developing specifications and planning for architects, consulting engineers, designers, OEMs and industrial accounts. They are often professional engineers or CETs, and work with manufacturers’ engineers and their distributor partners’ sales staff. They are at the forefront of creating demand for products and services.

     contractor specialists — these reps assist in the take-off of projects, and introduce innovative and labour saving products and ideas to electrical contractors. They also help coordinate their projects, as they progress from concept to installation. The contractor specialist works with both the supply side of the manufacturers’ teams and the sales and project team at their distributor partners.

     marketing specialists — many manufacturers and distributors have pared back their marketing departments. Often, most of the marketing efforts are put into their online presence. Content is still required to keep everyone’s’ webpages “fresh.” There is also a considerable amount of face-to-face business that occurs. Rep marketing teams will localize programs, and develop unique distributor plans.

     inside sales support — many manufacturers have decreased their inside staff in anticipation of a flood of on-line transactions. They may have also decreased their inside technical support. Distributors, and the ultimate customers, still need applications information and order assistance. Most manufacturers’ reps have increased their inside staff to have a similar number as their outside staff.

     transactional staff — although many orders are now processed via EDI, many orders continue to be forwarded via email and fax, and must be manually input. Manufacturers have continued to reduce staff in this area, and have shifted some or all of the transactional duties to their reps. Many reps have a large order service team to perform this duty.

Most reps are very successful at performing these duties. Often, the additional functions are rolled down to the rep, without additional compensation. In fact, some manufacturers are reducing commission, while continuing to download operations. This presents one of the largest challenges in the rep community. The progressive reps will continue to find ways to fulfil their service requirements, and be justly compensated.

Murray Chamney is President, Intralec Electrical Products, and a member of Electro-Federation Canada’s  National Advisory Council.

Read Managing Editor Line Goyette’s recent profile, “Murray Chamney — The Art of Looking Further Ahead”:




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