‘People buy from people’ rallying cry of account managers in the field, as some retailers look to online alternatives

Having effective account managers in the field helps retailers make more sales and grows brands, says Gil Elliott, director of G & S Agencies and Meeco Sales, which provide sales and marketing support in the consumer electronics market, representing brands such as De’longhi, Topfield and Sharp.

His comments were made in response to an article originally published in the July issue of Appliance Retailer about electrical retailers who were seeing some brands’ sales reps less and less, and had signed up to a new online ranging service call RangeMe.

RangeMe has set out to disrupt the usual process of suppliers sitting down in front of buyers to range products and CEO Nicky Jackson described the service as doing “the job of an account manager in showcasing all the key features of a product line so that buyers are always kept informed.”

As a second generation participant in the industry with over 35 years’ experience Elliott disagrees that software could do the job of an account manager.

“To suggest that a website that displays products and their features and benefits and attempts to connect buyers with sellers can and will replace a team of professional account and sales managers is drawing a long bow.

“That is like stating that the internet will completely replace bricks and mortar retailers, supplement certainly but replace?”

Elliott says he has seen a number of changes in product technology and the transmission of information to and from the field team over his career, but “the biggest constant has been people still buy and sell off people.”

He says that as margins shrink, “it costs a lot to put a person on the road,” however, “pulling back on account managers is counterproductive.”

Account managers are more than just sales reps that demonstrate products, Elliott says, they are the connection between the product and the retailer, as well as, “the eyes and ears for the brand” reporting feedback from the field to the brand and management.

Merchandising and staff training are also important roles that require account managers be regularly in store working with retailers, Elliott said.

E&S Trading joint managing direct Rob Sinclair recently said that a lack of well trained floor staff could “cripple the industry” and a huge opportunity exists for retailers to invest in their staff.

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