What OPE Dealers want Account Representatives to Know

A&B Outdoor

Ideal recently spoke with Anna Dattalo, co-owner of A & B Outdoor Equipment in Nederland, TX, to get a better understanding of how dealers interact with manufacturer sales reps and what they expect when a rep walks into their business.  Read on to learn what Anna’s advice is for any account representative walking into their business…

Ideal: What is your background? What do you do?

Anna: After college I started in the computer industry in 1965.  I have worked for NASA on the Apollo project, Exxon, and recently retired from teaching in the IT department at the local college.

I am married to Barry who is the owner of A & B Outdoor Equipment.  I do not have an official title. If I did it might be “Jack of all trades”.  I mainly do the financials otherwise I do whatever my daughter Annette tells me who is the GM.  I did go to service school many years ago but I do not spend any time in the shop.

Ideal: How long have you been in business?

Anna: This April will mark 29 years with A & B.  Initially we bought an existing business that had been here for 18 years prior.  We changed the name to A & B (Anna & Barry) to help us get to the top of the yellow pages.

Ideal: As a dealer, how many different account representatives do you work with?

Anna: With all the wholegoods and parts it is approximately 15 account reps.

Ideal: How often do you meet with account representatives?

Anna: If I could average it out I would say twice a year.  There are some reps that are more frequent with once a month and some are less with once a year.

These days with the internet, texting, and email it is not necessary to meet as frequently.  It does not make sense for a rep to come in and stand in line behind customers for a simple request or response.  When reps come in unannounced they will wait in line behind customers because they know that customers always come first.

Ideal: Do you need to prepare before an account representative comes to see you?  Do you expect a call ahead of time?

Anna: Usually there is no need to prepare for a rep ahead of time.  I do prefer a call. Some reps are good about this and others just walk in.

Preparation or scheduling is necessary for annual orders, spring orders, or new equipment demos.  Normally a rep will send something ahead of time so we can prepare.  Equipment demos have been popular recently in the last couple of years with handhelds, four-cycle engines, and new technology entering the industry.

Ideal: How long have you used Business Management Software?

Anna: It has been a long time and you will have to check your records to get the exact date (January 7th, 1987).  We were the second dealer to get software from Ideal Computer Systems.  With DOS we learned to crash it more frequently than we had it up.  Prior to having software, the inventory system was on index cards; there were tons and tons of cards.  We decided that we needed to computer everything to become more efficient.  We searched and searched for software but could not find anything that was industry specific.  Later that year Barry was in Louisville at a trade show and discovered Ideal.  Within 6 months we were on a plane to Cedar Rapids to have Dennis (Ideal’s president at the time) give us a demo.  We will never change from Ideal.

Ideal: How has having Business Management Software positively impacted your business?

Anna: Everything is available in Ideal that we will need.  With the reports, it practically makes decisions for us.  For example, when reps come in to check inventory it is a very simple task.  It would have been an impossible task to keep up with the work without Ideal even with personal computers and spreadsheets we have today.

Ideal: What features in Ideal help you when interacting with account representatives?

Anna: Inventory, inventory control, listing parts or wholegoods, and work orders.  Work orders give good data when asking reps for help with the technical assistants. It helps to make the rep aware of it as well as the technician.

We have shown some of our reps how to run inventory reports and they come in and do it without assistance.

Ideal: What characteristics make a good account representative? 

Anna: First and foremost they need to be knowledgeable about their products and the company they are representing.  Second, someone who is very aware of the retail business and all of its opportunities.  A rep needs to be on our side.  They are the go-between the big manufacturer and the small business.  They need to represent their company but have us in their heart and look out for our best interest.  There are some reps out there that have become our personal friends over the years.

Ideal: How do account representatives help you most in running your business?

Anna: Probably being the one contact for the manufacturing company they can get us information in a timely manner and understand our needs.  Being able to communicate in a timely manner.

Ideal: What characteristics would you like to see account representatives improve on?

Anna: When there is a lack of communication.  When you don’t hear from them in a timely manner.  More than anything when they are not knowledgable of their own product.  They are “problem children”.  They do not last long.

Ideal: How would you classify the account representatives that come into your business?  What is their motivation when dealing with you?

Anna: Hopefully motivation is to help us be more successful.  I want that to be their motivation.  There are reps that are part of the family, when they change companies you know you are dealing with a good person.  There are some young guys that are learning the ropes and sometimes they tend to move around learning themselves and figuring out their careers.

Ideal: If you could give account representatives one piece of advice, what would it be?

Anna: Listen to your retailers. In turn, listen to what the customers need and want.  Help with cost control, and efficiency.  When a dealer expresses concerns, and suggestions, pass them along to upper management.

Written by cmstudio

Ideal Computer Systems is committed to the integrity of our editorial standards. We are dedicated to providing our readers with accurate and reliable information that they can trust to make informed decisions.

Update on July 11, 2023 | 5 minute read
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