The recession is over, manufacturers are building up production and distributors are increasing inventories. Does this sound too optimistic? I believe that the worst is behind us, and it is time to start thinking about rebuilding the future. Now is the time to forget about why business has been so slow and start investing in market success. So how do we get back to the basics of selling and drive sales?

It all starts with a plan. A plan for each of the lines represented and the distributors that sell those product lines. The plan needs to include promoting those items to distributors' counter people, inside and outside salespeople and show room people. In addition, it is necessary to gear up distributors so they are ready to capitalize on the uptick in business. It is important to plan counter days, lunch and learns and educational seminars to develop relationships with distributors and promote products. Investing in our people, distributor staff and contractors will produce great paybacks now and in the future. We have seen so many changes over the past five years that we need to regroup and make sure our message is prevalent to every distributor and contractor. A tremendous amount of turnover has occurred at all levels, and we must make sure that the products we represent have top-of-mind awareness.

This will not be an easy process but it is something the industry needs. Manufacturer reps have diligently been making their calls, participating in shows, counter days and events, but now it is time to double the efforts. The market will continue to improve, and home builders will start to build more homes. How long this recovery will take is anyone's guess. No one can do anything about the economy or recovery, but one can be ready for when it does come back. Don't wait until the economy is back because by then you'll have already missed the opportunity.

I had the privilege to be involved in the HARDI Congressional Fly-In in May. A number of distributors, manufacturers and manufacturer reps made their way to Washington, D.C., to promote our industry and lobby for different causes. It was a great experience to see our government at work and talk with the people who we voted for to represent us. The overwhelming talk on the hill was about our nation's debt. There is no doubt that we have an uphill climb to get ourselves out of debt, but it was refreshing to see that our representatives are ready to tackle that subject. The people that I spoke to were willing to listen and support my position if there is sufficient payback and job creation. There seemed to be an urgent call to the senators that if they are going to spend money on programs, it better result in job creation and benefits to the states that they represent. I believe that the current senators are ready and willing to support our industry.

I look back at the last five years and feel lucky. Not because I was able to survive the worst economic times that I have ever seen, but because I am in an industry that has so much opportunity. I have been able to develop relationships and do everything possible to help distributors be successful with the product lines that I represent. This industry is truly a relationship business. People still buy from people, and for that I am thankful.


Michael Dungan is Manufacturer Rep Advisor to the HARDI Board of Directors and president of Eden Prairie, MN-based Sales Engineers Inc. Contact him at 952/944-0773 or mdungan@salesengineersinc.com.