“Lori is as creative as she is supportive,” says client and nominator Rachael Wahlgreen at Boundless Network. “She’s always proactive and looking for ways to better serve our account—and you would think that each line is her only one.”
That personal touch, honed through years of customer relations experience in the wholesale apparel business and then within the promotional products industry since 2001, is what attracts and keeps her clients happy. From her home base in Trophy Club, Texas (located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area), she covers the state as well as Oklahoma for several apparel and hard goods lines and racks up more than 35,000 miles every year to call on customers.
Eaton started her career with a company that developed and produced private-label apparel for distribution primarily to middle-tier retailers. The company, seeing a decline in their overseas sourcing business due to acquisitions, moved into the promotional space as an alternate outlet for their golf shirts. “I got the job of calling on promotional products distributors directly and immediately fell in love with the customers,” she says, adding that she didn’t know at the time how perfect a match the job was for her skill set. “I spent years honing the craft of communicating about all aspects of developing product with customers and the overseas factories.”
That dependable and clear communication is one characteristic that won over client and nominator Julie James, corporate branding rep at HALO Branded Solutions. “Lori is top-notch in customer service and follow-through. You can take her word to the bank,” she says. “Lori truly cares about her customers and will go out of her way to get what we need—after hours, weekends, you name it. She offers suggestions too.”
James says she often asks Eaton for customer ideas—and gets plenty, plus virtual proofs. “Lori works hard to give us good, quality offers that have a good value for potential sales, and she will even go to the client with me if needed to help close a deal. She’s friendly, professional, easy to work with and I think she rocks!”
One On One With Lori Eaton
On what she likes most about being a multi-line rep: Generally, I like getting to help people; specifically, I like the variety of solutions and resources I have when my customers have a need.
On the challenges: There is the two-pronged challenge of keeping my sample line pristine, fresh and up to date with current specials and removing out of stocks, and keeping all the printed materials organized and accessible. There are also the little nuances to each supplier’s often- changing go-to-market strategy that can also take time to master.
This has also made me very empathetic to the distributors’ hardships and, I think, made me understand what I need to do to keep things simple. I know that my suppliers hear from me a lot about how to improve our customers’ experiences. I’m very fortunate to work with suppliers who are open to feedback and really want to improve the customer experience.
On how she manages her lines: I have lines that have products in the same category but they fit a different customer profile (either by price or design) and I tailor my presentations or product solutions to the audience. For the most part, my meetings will cover each supplier’s best and trending best sellers, as well as that supplier’s strengths. I do not think the information I provide should not only be about product.
On the future of multi-line reps: To remain relevant, I utilize my vantage point to observe market trends, and I have positioned myself as a consultant. The lines I represent offer alternative solutions to the mainstream, and I tend to attract and be attracted to customers who are also trying to be different and/or ahead of the curve. I have also hired my son, Mike, a Millennial, to help me and my clients with ideas to reach a younger audience.
On how her customers can help her serve them better: Let me assist you with product ideas. This is my favorite part of my job and too often, the only time when I get to develop case history experience. Also, please let me know about problems you have with products or procedures. Please don’t assume someone from the factory told me about the problem you had or are having. I may be able to see a solution that the people in the middle of the problem don’t see, or I may at least be able to address it so it doesn’t happen again to you or someone else.