Ten of the best muli-line reps open up about what it’s like inside their businesses.
Being a multi-line rep is not a job for just anybody. Multi-line reps spend countless nights away from home. They must recall and explain details on dozens of products within multiple lines. They are constantly feeding suppliers information in an effort to improve the company’s business processes and sales but have little control over the companies they represent and the business decisions made. Their job is to make sure both suppliers and distributors are happy. They start every month with no guarantee of income—but recognize that the opportunity to expand their income is almost limitless. They are exceptional communicators, and they must be highly organized and self-motivated because the work they do is critical to supplier sales.
This is the bold and brave life of a promotional products multi-line rep. And most of them would not have it any other way.
In the following profiles, you’ll meet this year’s PPB Best Multi-Line Reps—10 individuals nominated by their suppliers and distributor customers for their superb performance, and selected by PPB in our annual tribute to these hard-working souls who keep the gears of the industry moving perfectly in sync.
Walter Brzyski, or WalterB as his friends call him, got his first taste of the promotional products industry while attending college—he worked part-time packing orders and stacking shelves at one of the industry’s top suppliers. After graduation, it was an easy choice. He went to work for the company, moving up through the ranks to national sales manager before launching his own rep company in Lincroft, New Jersey, in 2003. Today, with 28 years in the industry under his belt, he looks back on his decisions and is sure he got it right.
Being an entrepreneur has its ups and downs but his favorite part of the job is running his rep agency and implementing all the aspects of sales, marketing and customer support. The most difficult part? “Having the time to run a business and implement strategies when I’m constantly in the field selling,” he says. Still, Brzyski has made it work—and has turned many clients into fans in the process.
Among those fans is nominator Bill Alonge, MAS, marketing manager at distributor On Target Impressions, LLC, who is impressed with how quickly and seamlessly Brzyski makes things happen for his clients. Alonge met Brzyski at a trade show and talked to him about one of his clients. “Walter said, ‘Send me their logo; I’ll make up samples for you.’ The samples sold the job,” recalls Alonge. “He remembers my clients from show to show and suggests something for them by mentioning them each time I see him.”
Nominator Lisa Pine, VP of sales and marketing at distributor Axis Promotions, Inc., praises Brzyski’s ability to make every client feel important. “He’s present. He knows his audience. He’s available. He knows the product and how to support creative projects,” she explains. “He cares, offers incentives and has a team behind him and a well-rounded product line.” Her teammate and fellow nominator Sandy Poster, sales executive at Axis, says Brzyski also offers ease of contact, quick responses and understands the importance of free samples and spec samples to get orders.”
One On One With Walter Brzyski
On the exclusiveness of his lines: I feel you need a portfolio of lines to keep your business afloat, have resources to invest in your business and maintain or increase momentum year after year. Having lines with products that are mutually exclusive of one another is challenging as lines often diversify into other overlapping segments, so you must look at the fundamentals of what that line developed, brought to market and is known for, such as apparel, writing instruments, etc.
On giving equal attention to all lines he reps: With top industry promotional suppliers that have several/multiple lines, you must “read” your clients to see where the selling opportunities lie, formulate a presentation to satisfy those needs, secure the line/client connection and dovetail other aspects of the lines once the initial contact has been established.
On how multi-line reps can stay relevant in a changing industry: Top distributors prefer to see a multi-line rep, as they offer more than one category of product, more new products (not just from one vendor but from several) and new ideas from new companies. MLRs are the first line of introduction for new firms entering the market with fresh ideas and products. Many suppliers start with MLRs, then hire factory reps once the volume grows. However, they often go back to MLRs after they review the ROI, especially when they look at sales comparing the MLR to a factory rep. With MLRs, they can reap the sales performance benefits while reducing their cost per client.
On what motivates him: Being commission-based (versus salary-based) we “eat what we kill,” so if you don’t sell, you don’t eat. That’s a huge motivator to get out there and seize every opportunity available, make every call, return every email and service every account. It’s not only how we take care of our families, but we have the overhead of covering all our costs: lodging, health insurance, support staff, gas, tolls, meals, shows, etc.
On how distributors can help him serve them better: Choose the ‘uncola.’ Since we’re all creatures of habit (myself included), many of us just go with what we know. So even though I may have the greatest and newest widget or service since sliced bread, when my clients go back to their desks and receive a widget request, they simply default to their habitual widget since it’s what they know. Give your MLR the chance to make it easy to break this habit, which may increase your profit, enable you to offer newer products and ideas, and expand your product assortment. A three-second email is all it takes.