Challenges, problems, and triumphs
-- from a manufacturer's perspective.
What Makes a Great Sales Rep?
Colleagues and customers remember the late Bob
by "C" Boyd , Charlie Shaffer, and Jim Bremer (July
(Note: Most vendors have employed manufacturers' sales
reps, and it's easy to hear positive and negative comments about
their value. So what qualities separate the great ones from the
others? Over the years we heard nothing but positive comments about
Bob Watkins a rep on the West Coast who passed away late last year,
so we asked people who knew him well to comment.)
Comments from Bob's partner, "C" Boyd.
How do you find enough space to say "Bob Watkins was a great
rep?" Mike, when you asked me to do this, I thought it would be
easy because I have nothing but great memories of Bob.
I thought that I was a pretty god rep until I worked with him. I
still remember the first time I went out with him on a call. We went
to this large store that employed about 50 or 60 people and half of
them said, "Hey, Bob’s here" or "Mr. Delta’s
It was an experience. They were so happy to see him. That’s the
way he was. He knew his stores, his people, his management. These
were "his stores." He cared for them as if he owned them
– and it showed.
Have you ever seen 60 feet of one brand of paint with a sign and
story boards that covered the entire wall? Have you ever seen 40
feet of one brand of brushes? It was amazing. I had always
concentrated on promotions to large chains. Being in a craft store
such as this was a new experience. His volume per store matched his
This doesn’t really matter as much as the way he related to his
customers and his factories. He was family to both. If he said it,
you could count on it. He made deals that would last because he knew
the parties involved. He knew what they wanted now, why, and he knew
what they wanted long term. When he spoke, they listened.
Comments from a colleague, sales rep Charlie Shaffer.
Bob Watkins was from the beginning a joy to know. He was one of
the most generous people, giving his time and words of encouragement
at each conversation, as well as working overtime to supply all you
might need to get your job done. He went out of his way with acts of
kindness for everyone he knew. He had many friends because as soon
as you met him, he counted you as his friend. He called to see how
things were going for you and you had to pry his own personal
challenges out of him. He gave and gave and gave of his time and
energy and resources to help however he could to make your
He loved to cook for people and bring customers special goodies
he knew they enjoyed, because he’d brought them to them the last
time he came. He had such a good relationship with his customers
that they trusted his suggestions regarding the new trends and items
he sold them. He was always honest and was completely trusted by all
the people that dealt with him because he never gave anyone any
reason to think otherwise. He presented himself with a smile that
lit his eyes and the rest of his face and you just couldn’t help
but love the guy. He found out when one of his customer’s birthday
was, and always remembered to send him a cheesecake on his birthday.
He had stores that he called on regularly and was given an
employee name tag because he worked so hard getting the displays
just right and helping customers and writing the orders correctly to
meet the needs of the store. It was such a pleasure to get his late
night telephone calls and emails with his sometimes corny and
humorous jokes, putting a light in your day before you turned in for
He never complained, even though he was suffering great
discomfort; instead, he concentrated on finding out how you were and
how you were doing, and offered his care for you each time he
called. He stayed up into the late hours entering program data to
make our sales easier.
We miss Bob, but his memory always lightens the heart. He
inspires each of us to give and care, like he did.
(Note: Charlie has his own repping company in Northern
Comments from a retailer/customer, Jim Bremer.
Some things are just difficult and we delay out of how to do it
correctly. That is the case with me and notifying you about the loss
of Bob Watkins back in late November. Bob was to us the best rep in
our business. He was more than a business associate, he was a friend
and an example of how to treat others as we live our lives.
For Tall Mouse, Bob was the first rep – he used to deliver
Delta paint in the back of his car from Wally R's; the paint came in
baby food jars. This was back in the late 1960's before there was
really a "craft industry."
Bob, to me, represented the industry in the best ways. He was
interested in the stores and the people who worked and shopped
there. He was willing to educate, to show, and to guide. You could
count on Bob and were never mislead.
Bob was known for his humanity. He always remembered special
events in peoples lives and had a positive story to share. We lost
not only the best rep – we lost a wonderful example and a good
(Note: To read previous "Vinny" columns, click
on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment on sales reps or
any industry issue, email CLN at email@example.com.)