For many electrical manufacturers and manufacturers' reps, the designation as a certified professional manufacturers representative (CPMR) is synonymous with professionalism. It's one of the key building blocks for securing a good foundation for a rep agency's long-term success.

Administered by the Manufacturers Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), Arvada, Colo., the CPMR program was created especially for manufacturers' representatives and brokers with the cooperation of a variety of representative trade associations, including the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association, Tarrytown, N.Y.

To become a CPMR, candidates must attend three levels of on-campus classes, totaling 24 hours at each level of study. Participants invest one week annually for three years taking courses designed for owners and managers of rep firms. The entire curriculum can take between three to five years to complete.

More than 1,500 manufacturers representatives already have earned the CPMR designation, and hundreds more are currently enrolled in the program.

“Manufacturers are aware of the program and its benefits,” said Marilyn Friesen, executive vice president of MRERF. “They support it as one of the tools used for making a final decision in the retention/hiring of an agency.”

Bob Smith, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Pass & Seymour/Legrand, Syracuse, N.Y., wishes more electrical reps appreciated the significance of earning the CPMR. According to Smith, Pass & Seymour looks at CPMR in a three-pronged manner. “First, whenever we need a rep for a territory, the fact that he has CPMR is very important to us. Next, at our annual sales meeting, we always acknowledge those reps that are currently enrolled in the program or have already earned their CPMR. Finally, when it comes right down to it, and if all the elements of competing rep firms were fairly equal, the CPMR designation could very well tip the scale in the direction of the agency that had people on board who have successfully completed the program.”

Additionally, Smith and his company put great stock in the line-profitability-analysis aspect of the CPMR curriculum. “For those reps who regularly note which of their lines bring them a return on their effort, that's exactly what the manufacturer is looking for,” said Smith. “It shows a level of professionalism and dedication to the profession that brings real strength to the relationship between manufacturer and rep.”

With the four years Larry Fisher spent in the classroom as an instructor in the CPMR program and as electrical division manager for Erico Inc., Solon, Ohio, Fisher sees the program from a unique perspective. “Achieving the CPMR designation says that the rep is in it for the long haul,” he said. “They've made the effort to invest their time, money and personnel to improve their profession.”

While emphasizing the importance of CPMR for all reps, Fisher said that any rep going through transition — merger, consolidation or sale of the firm — needs the information contained in the program.

The curriculum's course offerings include a broad range of topics, including finance, legal issues, strategic planning, marketing and management as well as selling and negotiation skills.

Reps are taking action as a result of the knowledge and skills they glean from their CPMR training, said Dave Burnette, national sales manager, Electrical Division, Wheatland Tube Co., Collingswood, N.J. “I'm beginning to see some of my agents expand territories, something they weren't necessarily doing before,” said Burnette. “Also, I've become aware of the value of the line profitability analysis. We're seeing some reps drop some pretty big lines even though they were the rep's second or third line. I'm sure all of this was going on in the background previously, but I'm seeing more of it today.”

For more information on the CPMR program, please visit www.mrerf.org.