First In Service


The finest multi-line reps make it look easy, but they probably have the toughest job in the promotional products industry. On the road for weeks at a time, many of them cover more than 30,000 miles annually, crisscrossing their regions to represent their suppliers and solve problems for distributors. To be the best, they must expertly be able to discuss hundreds of products within different product lines for a variety of suppliers and stay on top of new products coming into the market. They must swiftly respond to requests, remain unflappable when tested, maintain their sense of humor and manage their business with the accuracy of a tight-rope walker. Despite the pace, workload and complexity, most multi-line reps are hugely passionate about their work and admit this gig has them hooked for life.

This month, PPB spotlights eight of the best multi-line reps in the business, chosen from 30 nominations submitted by PPAI members from across the industry. Since 2011, PPB has conducted this annual recognition program to highlight these pros who often fly under the radar but fill an indispensable role in sales and communication between suppliers and distributors. 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Ken Cecco was selling Yellow Pages advertising for Bell of Pennsylvania when he landed a job selling advertising to suppliers at the Advertising Specialty Institute. From there, he worked in sales for several supplier companies before opening his own multi-line rep firm in 2010. Now in his 29th year in the industry, he travels 25,000-30,000 miles every year to bring ideas and solutions to distributors across the Northeastern U.S.
 and Atlantic region.

Nominators:
Corina Peacock, Specworks, Inc.; Don Trevelino, Safeguard; Glenn Hastie, Spike’s Trophies; Nunzi Allegrucci, Nunzi’s Advertising

What makes him the best:
Nominator Nunzi Allegrucci says, “First, he gave me a chance when our volume was small.

“Second, he educated me [about] the industry and did things that helped me. Third, he listens and helps with creative. Finally, his word is golden and he over-delivers on his promise.”

His secret to success:
I was taught well by some of the very best who took me under their wings and, to this day, I still incorporate much of what was bestowed upon me. Whether it is networking, education or whatever, I always work hard and help others achieve their own goals. A key element in helping others is to always try to make the transaction as simple as possible. What’s my secret? There are over 4,000 supplier lines to choose from and ultimately the distributor will work with someone they like and who makes day-to-day business easy. I have some of the best customer service teams in the business, and we strive to make using the line an enjoyable experience. We try to provide selling tools like specs, random samples and custom e-flyers to help. When a distributor finds the line to be responsive, the information easy to digest and the products of high quality, then they will always come back.

How distributors can help reps do a better job:
Distributors have a lot on their plates, but when a distributor provides all the necessary information on requests and on orders, it makes it easier for everyone involved. Easier said than done sometimes. 

The biggest issue facing reps today:
The internet continues to be a threat and an option for end users. The issue of the internet being a shortcut to purchasing promotional products will correct itself as more end users discover mistakes being made along the way. Multi-line reps are calling on distributors and we need the business to come through the distributor channel. I feel the distributor brings value to the equation and as long as there is value, there is a need. 

What he wants distributors to know about reps:
In most cases, we have been around for quite a while. We have solid relationships with our lines. When a distributor creates a relationship with us and our suppliers, we can extend special opportunities like no charge specs, discounts and when rush service is needed, we are often there to help.

His alternate career choice:
All things considered, I’d like to come back as a cyber security action figure. It is just awful the stress and frustration our suppliers and distributors go through when their websites are hacked. There is no room for cybercrime in this world, but it isn’t going to stop. That’s where I’d come in as Cyber Superman and put an end to it all. 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

Vincent Deissroth heads up a family-run, multi-line rep firm that covers a wide swath of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River from Maine to Florida. Together with his wife, Jeanne, and youngest son, Thomas, the team represents eight suppliers, takes an active role in 15 regional industry associations and participates in approximately 80 trade shows a year. Before starting the company in 2014, Deissroth had amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience about the promotional products industry after 24 years as a consultant to industry suppliers working with the Advertising Specialty Institute and also with supplier Garyline.

Nominators:
Rick LeDonne, Garyline; Jean Pierre Scarisbrick, J.P. Scar Inc.; Brian Deissroth, Vantage Apparel; Nick Damin, Generations Printing

What makes him the best: 
Nominator Rick LeDonne says, “Vince is a detail-oriented person who gives 110-percent daily for any line he reps. He goes above and beyond the call to ensure that the distributor is taken care of and is always looking for growth opportunities with the distributors. He is a very honest and humble person, and a solid individual who achieves the goals he sets out to achieve.”

His secret to success: 
There’s no secret. We under-promise and over-deliver.

How distributors can help reps do a better job: 
Effectively communicate the markets they sell into, the price point they are looking for and how the product will be used. Providing this information will allow us to accurately assess the products that will work best for their client.

The biggest issue facing reps today: 
The consolidation of supplier lines makes it increasingly difficult to offer exclusive product categories per supplier. A solution could be to bring manufacturing back to the USA—bring back the days when suppliers specialized and were experts in a product category.

What he wants distributors to know about reps: 
We are full of creative ideas and help provide solutions for client projects.

His alternate career choice: 
I’d be in some type of sales. I love the interaction, relationships and the education during the sales process.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Chris Dollar was recruited into the promotional products industry in 1993 by supplier Outdoor Cap Company upon graduation from Oklahoma State University. After 10 years with the company, he opened his own business called River Rock Apparel. After RRA closed, he became a multi-line rep and started CDMG in 2009, representing the Southwest territory. Today, CDMG consists of four multi-line reps: Matt Sheffer, Tina Fincher, Dick Rauner and Thomas Robertson, and Jaleen Rippy, who manages the office for the team

Nominator:
Geoffrey Duncan, Radius Display Products

What makes him the best: 
“Chris brought to our attention to some items that he was getting questions about,” says nominator Geoffrey Duncan. “It was something we didn’t offer at the time, and his team could have simply said, ‘No, we don't offer that,’ and left it at that. Instead, his team recognized there was a serious need for this item and clients were not able to easily source it. As a direct result of that feedback, we pursued the opportunity, and with some trial and error, we figured out how to make the item (Slim Stand Glow) and it was added to our 2020 catalog. Chris’s going the extra mile and thinking out of the box resulted in increased business and improved service.”

His secret to success: 
The CDMG team and honesty, honesty, honesty. Even if it’s bad news, and it is hard news to deliver, distributors and suppliers can react to honesty and truthfulness in a timely manner.

How distributors can help reps do a better job: 
I work with great distributors overall. The best way to help me is to give me the complete ask in the initial conversation, whether it’s by text, email or phone. For example, I need the in-hands date, quantity needed and budget for the project, and attach the art file.

The biggest issue facing reps today:
I believe we have two big issues. First, consolidation and mergers between suppliers, and second, product crossover from each supplier trying to expand and grow their bottom line. I believe time and the future will tell us what the solutions will be.

What he wants distributors to know: 
[I’d like them to know] how much we are truly on the move, from show to show and between multiple appointments each day. This slows down our response time to our emails and phone calls.

His alternate career choice: 
I would love to be a motivational speaker, encouraging and pushing people to be the best they can.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

Before he became a multi-line rep, Alain Gailloux spent his days quite differently. For 10 years, he worked as a supply technician in the Canadian Army and then he owned and operated a drive-in movie theater before seeing the career possibilities in the promotional products industry. In 1986, Gailloux accepted an invitation to join his uncle, Georges Gailloux, as a full-time employee in his multi-line rep company. When his uncle passed away 19 years later, he and business partner Rachel Brunet changed the name of the company to Agence Alain Gailloux and continued to offer distributors across Quebec the personalized service they had become accustomed to and products from a variety of supplier lines. In between running the business and on the road to visit clients, he’s also an active volunteer leader within Promotional Product Professionals of Canada, stepping up to support various nonprofit organizations for children and securing prizes for the Quebec Chapter’s 60th anniversary golf tournament. About the Best Multi-Line Reps recognition, he says, “I am very proud to receive this honor. Thank you to PPAI and Caroline Néron, and special mention to all the suppliers I rep—you are a part of this honor. Thank you very much."

Nominator:
Caroline Néron, Busrel, Inc.

His secret to success: 
To live, you need oxygen, and my customers are my oxygen. When you like what you do, you are not working. Also, my partner Rachel Brunet has done a wonderful job; she is a big part of our success and the future of the company. The most important thing is to be close to your customers. If you are in front of your customers, it’s way better than being in front of a computer.

How distributors can help reps do a better job:
They can help by communicating their needs, and I can help by listening to them.

The biggest issue facing reps today: 
We need close, human relationships if we are to understand people’s needs and help to solve them.

What he wants distributors to know: 
Working together we will grow faster, and it is easier for all of us to succeed.

Alternate career choice: 
I would be a speaker in the promotional products industry so I could share my knowledge and help others.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Jen Kruger covers a broad territory across America’s heartland—Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska—as owner of her own multi-line rep firm. Asked about how many miles she puts on her car every year, her answer is short. “A lot!” she says. Kruger joined MW Reps as a partner in 2018 after working for 10 years for industry supplier Starline. Her first taste of the industry came with a job in the supplier’s accounting department. As she came to better understand the industry, she followed her calling into sales as a factory rep and never looked back, she says.

Nominators:
Eva Barnes and Connie Francis, Funk Advertising

What makes her the best: 
“Jen is superb!” says nominator Connie Francis. “She is extremely personable and makes you feel like you are the only customer she has. She answers messages quickly and is always cheerful, polite and ready to help. When Funk Advertising was building momentum, she came to our office with a huge number of samples for us to view and spent more than two hours showing us products and answering our questions. That may not sound like much, but we are located in tiny Iron County in the middle of nowhere. She is a superstar in our office.”

Her secret to success: 
I use my personality and energy to draw distributors and suppliers towards me.

How distributors can help reps do a better job: 
I love when distributors open up to me and let me know who the end users are and which projects I can help with. We know our lines inside and out and are here to give you the best options for your clients. We might also think of ways to use an item or decorate an item that isn’t always obvious.

The biggest issue facing reps today: 
It’s consolidation on both the supplier and distributor side. Many suppliers are consolidating in order to expand their product offering, but that can create competition overnight with other lines we already represent, which leads to challenging discussions or decisions. With distributors consolidating, we see relationships that we’ve enjoyed for years disappear overnight. One day, a distributor is our customer and the next day, they’re part of a different company that falls to another region or sales rep. It’s hard to let go of relationships that we’ve spent years building. Many of our customers have become our friends.

What she wants distributors to know: 
We are here to help you with all our lines. We can get you ideas from each and every line very quickly and usually have something to fit from one or several of our lines for your project.

Her alternate career choice: 
I would be a spin instructor. I love going to spin class. It makes me full of energy and feel wonderful inside and out.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

Thirty-three years ago, Kurt McGovern answered a newspaper ad for a factory rep at an industry supplier. In 2013, he opened the doors on McGovern Marketing Group and today he puts about 40,000 miles on his car annually to serve distributors across Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky from his home base in Cleveland.

Nominator:
Sophia Weidner, CE Competitive Edge LLC

What makes him the best: 
"Kurt is always helping us think outside the box. If I contact him about polos for an upcoming golf event, he always suggests additional items such as caps or golf towels that I wasn’t even considering including in my proposal. He helps us stand out from the competition,” says nominator Sophia Weidner.

His secret to success: 
Follow up and do what you say you will do. Help others be successful.

How distributors can help reps do a better job: 
I’d like them to remember, we are true partners. We are in this together to help their clients with the best items to promote their business.

The biggest issue facing reps today: 
Supplier acquisitions and mergers. Reps face the issue of losing a line through this process. One remedy is making sure you have strong relationships with your distribution network. Suppliers will keep a rep who is front and center with their distributors, keeping business after a merger. Suppliers and their reps are in this together as true partners with the same focus on growing their respective businesses.

What he wants distributors to know: 
I’d like them to know about our creativity and idea-selling. Some of the most creative people I know are multi-line representatives. These are people on straight commission and want nothing more than to earn your business.

Alternate career choice: 
I would learn how to play a guitar, go to Key West and be the next Jimmy Buffet.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

After graduating from The Ohio State University in 2009, Kyle McGovern moved to Las Vegas to work as a construction project manager. Then the recession hit and he was laid off, but he knew the executive chef at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant, who got him a job there as a prep cook. After a few years, McGovern moved up through the ranks and became a corporate chef, traveling the country and opening up new restaurants. But even a cheeseburger in paradise gets old after a while and he was ready for a career change. Enter promotional products. He was familiar with the industry through his father, Kurt McGovern (a multi-line rep profiled on p. 56), so he asked his dad about taking on a partner. The younger McGovern took a leave of absence from his job to try his hand at repping promotional products. His dad told him to take a month to try the new job on for size, but it didn’t take long to sell Kyle. “After one week, I went to my dad and told him that I just quit my job and was moving back to Ohio. This was what I wanted to do with my life. I have been selling ever since.”

Nominator:
Kara Keister, Social Good Promotions

What makes him the best: 
“Kyle checks in regularly, not just to see what projects we have going on or what we need assistance with, but to notify us of new products and specials, and to provide samples and specs we might not even know we needed,” says Kara Keister. “He makes an effort to know our clientele and jumps in with ideas whenever he sees something from his lines that may be a good fit. He really puts the ‘pro’ in being proactive.”

His secret to success: 
The main secret is I love what I do. I love to talk to people and hear their stories and how they got to where they are. It’s more a personal connection that I have with my customers than just business. Some of my best friends are my customers.

How distributors can help reps do a better job:
Communication is always key. I tell my customers to never feel like they are bothering me. Ask me for virtuals, samples, etc. I am here to help and make life as easy as possible. We are in a partnership in which we can both succeed together. I wish more distributors would take advantage of this and let me do a lot of the work for them. We all win in the end.

The biggest issue facing reps today: 
Time is always an issue. There’s never enough of it, and everyone seems to want everything yesterday. To combat this issue, I try to use my inside reps as often as possible. I bring in the projects and they help to close them.

What he wants distributors to know: 
I wish they knew, or rather remembered, that I cover a bit of everything. With that, I can be a one-stop-shop for all their needs. Again, I like to make life easy for my customers.

Alternate career choice:
I think I would be in a management position. After being a chef, and now a partner in McGovern Marketing Group, I know I like to be the one taking charge. I have always tried to be a leader rather than a follower.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

Like some of the other multi-line reps profiled in this story, Marty Michalson got involved in the promotional products industry first as a factory rep. Over 12 years, he worked for three different supplier companies before setting out on his own in 2012. From his home base in Seattle, he covers Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, logging more than 33,000 miles every year to bring product ideas and creative solutions to distributors across the region.

Nominators:
Danita Smith, Third Day Creations, LLC; Kris Belveal, Identify Advertising; Lori Reading, In The Bag Promotions; Brandon Hoefer, Hubcity Graphics

What makes him the best: 
“Marty has driven four hours and spent one to two nights to help me with a trade show at which I was a vendor,” says Danita Smith. “He assisted me with meeting new clients and spoke with them as if he was my factory rep, there representing my business.”

His secret to success:
It’s no secret really—by being genuine, honest, resourceful and making lives easier for all, if you can.

How distributors can help reps do a better job: 
Understand the role each of us plays in the industry and train their employees in these roles. Also, ask the right questions of their clients when working on projects to gain the information to fully understand the scope of the project they are being tasked with.

The biggest issue facing reps today: 
Staying relevant, keeping ahead of changing trends and technologies. Solve it by always embracing change and expecting it.

What he wants distributors to know: 
Look at us for the experience we have to offer as a resource to make their work easier, and not as intrusions on their time or space.

Alternate career choice: 
One where each day would present something new to work on and a different place to travel to.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Each of the PPB Best Multi-Line Reps will receive a silver-plated lapel pin designed especially for this recognition program and donated by Harvey Mackler, MAS, president of PPAI supplier member Gempire/gwi (PPAI 113471, S6).

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The extensive product knowledge, industry exposure and experience that multi-line reps bring to the table can significantly help distributors better serve their clients. Take advantage of this ready resource by saying ‘yes’ next time a multi-line rep asks for an appointment to visit your office. Here are some ways reps can provide value:

  • They can demonstrate products in-person and answer questions about how products work. This is particularly helpful with technology and electronics.
  • They can provide case histories from suppliers.
  • They can introduce fresh ideas and solutions the distributor might not be aware of.
  • They can help differentiate the benefits of one product over another.
  • They can check the supplier’s stock, order status and production time.
  • They can troubleshoot problems with the factory.
  • They can accompany the distributor on client visits and demonstrate and discuss various products for campaigns and promotions. 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.

Read time:
words
Comments (1)
Tina
May 1, 2020
BRAVO! This is a fabulous group of reps and the article does an exceptional job defining the role and life of Multi-Line Reps. These reps work extremely hard, long hours, away from family all week for 3-5% commission. They are super heroes and have never been appreciated for their contribution to this industry nearly enough. From hiring them as a National Sales Director to becoming one, it is a honor to see this group and the profession recognized! Tina Jameson
Leave a reply