There was a time when Greg Jackson made his living as a bartender and Santa Monica lifeguard. In 1983, he started repping a line of recreational marine products. Life was good. But it got even better in 1990 when one of his marine lines came out with a bomber jacket; it opened an enormous new sales area for Jackson.
“I sold a mast to a distributor who was having a custom sail boat built,” he says. “He saw the bomber jacket, asked how much, and said he had a 100-piece opportunity; did I have a sample? My reply was, ‘A 100-piece opportunity? I only have this one, take it!’ His name was Greg Murdock and we sold about $30,000 through him that first year. I was hooked.”
What’s kept him motivated in the years since is the ability to pick the suppliers he wants to work with and to be more than a one-product source for his distributors. Today, from its home base in Seattle, Northwest Reps consists of three full-time reps who cover Washington, Oregon and Idaho. “We like to think we are different,” says Jackson. “We give it our all every time. And I include our suppliers as part of our team. We can’t do it without them—and we don’t think they can do it as well without us.”
“Greg Jackson and his team are always thinking of creative ways to separate his lines from their industry counterparts,” says nominator Teddy Scott, vice president, sales at supplier AZX Sport. “Jackson is always on the road making sure his lines stay front of mind with distributors in the area and he does whatever it takes to ensure our customers are pleased with their orders even if that means delivering orders himself. Jackson is a fantastic partner and hands down one of the best reps in the business.” Among the unique features Jackson brings to his customers are good-quality videos that showcase new product ideas for all of his lines, says Scott, and the weekly barbecues held at the company office/showroom for top distributors. “Sometimes a boat ride on the lake is also part of the event.”
One On One With Greg Jackson
On what’s most difficult about being a rep: Not making the cut with suppliers. We are huge team players; we like being part of the team and when the coach/supplier decides to cut us, it hurts, not just monetarily but to the core. It’s like we’re not adding enough value to make the team.
On exclusivity and giving equal attention to each line: We try not to overlap but it happens. Most of our lines specialize in one category but when you have a great line like Starline, it’s hard not to overlap. They hit multiple categories so there’s bound to be an overlap here or there. Equal attention, that’s the great part about being a multi-line rep. We have some awesome lines, and because of that we can book appointments when others can’t. We try to get in at least two appointments minimum per season and feature half of our suppliers at each presentation. We always take our line card and a smattering of the other line samples with us to remind distributors of what we have.
On multi-line reps remaining relevant: If your line is affected by a supplier’s acquisition, you have to remain positive; there will always be acquisitions. You have to continue to add value to the supplier and value to the distributor. The multi-line is the buffer between the two, the advocate for both.
On how distributors can help him serve them better: There are many things we can do to help them, they just have to ask.