On The Road Again


Dale Johnson Cornell
Dale B. Johnson (DBJ) Associates

When Dale Johnson Cornell answered a help-wanted ad in The Boston Globe for a New England territory manager, she had no idea that she was breaking new ground. (“The ad had the word ‘advertising’ in it so I thought it would be right up my alley,” says the former broadcast advertising sales pro.) But that move into the ad specialty division of Sheaffer Eaton won her the distinction of being the first woman hired in the division and, in 1985, she became the first female multi-line rep in the promotional products industry when she opened her own rep firm. Today, from her home base halfway between Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, she covers a territory from Maine to Washington, D.C., traveling approximately 35,000 miles every year.

Her more than 30 years of expertise in the field, and a solid reputation based on performance, give her suppliers a much-needed boost of reassurance and peace of mind.

That experience is most often appreciated when problems arise. Nominator Tami Wainscott, MAS, national sales manager at supplier The Allen Company, recalls this example. “There had been an order gone awry and Dale reworked her entire sales week to fly to the distributor’s warehouse and personally inspect the products. Due to Dale’s quick action and proactive resolution, we were able to immediately make it right for one of our top distributors, who in turn created a win for their top client. We have had multiple reorders ever since.”

She also says The Allen Company personally travels with its multi-line sales representatives to see what they are up against out in the field. “I have never experienced any negativity in working with Dale and Cheryl [Wainscott also nominated Cheryl Lickteig at DBJ Associates and her profile is on the next page] in our travels together. Their schedules can be truly hectic at times, with back-to-back trade shows, sales calls, etc., but these professional women go at it from sun up ’til sundown without hesitation, because they feel it in their bones—they love this industry. They are passionate about the opportunities that come their way daily in helping our promotional professionals find solutions to their clients’ needs and helping them grow their business.”

Nominator Lisa Antinelli, vice president at supplier Diamond Cosmetics, Inc., says Johnson Cornell contacted her company asking to represent it because of its unique, niche product line.  “Her input is invaluable as she has her hand on the pulse of the market and assists us in creating new products by bringing us new ideas and insight,” adds Antinelli, who also nominated DBJ Associates rep Cheryl Lickteig. “Dale and Cheryl are true professionals. They are our biggest and best advocates, and we would not be doing the amount of business we do without them.”

One On One With Dale Johnson Cornell

On the part of the role she likes best: I totally enjoy the diversity of working with multiple suppliers and many creative distributors. Every meeting and trade show is open to new opportunities. If one product line does not fit well into a customer’s program, I’m sure we’ll find something from one of the other product lines. I love being a very organized and self-motivated individual.

On managing the challenges: She says asking family and friends to coordinate their schedules around hers is difficult, as is scheduling and coordinating appointments with distributors, plus the constant follow-up with both suppliers and distributors. “And in-between, the frustration of not being able to work while driving,” she adds.

On maintaining the exclusivity of her lines: As a multi-line rep it is very important to represent product lines that do not compete in a single category. Representing non-competing suppliers allows me to present multiple ideas in a short period of time. As a multi-line sales representative, my job is to educate and help market and increase sales for each company I represent.

On how reps can remain relevant in a changing industry: Multi-line reps are not always affected by the mergers and acquisitions in our industry unless there is a conflict with the product category. It is often a win-win situation for all. Many of these supplier companies recognize and appreciate the relationship the multi-line rep has with the distributor firms. In order to remain relevant in today’s industry, a multi-line rep must be service-oriented as well as sales-oriented.  Understanding and working with the challenges of a changing and growing market place is essential.

On how distributors can help her serve them better: I would love to have more distributors ask for assistance with their projects. For example, ask for ideas, creative applications of existing products and assistance in acquiring unique products through the companies I represent.


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