While you might think it's impossible to corral a bunch of industry salespeople for an in-depth certification program on sales skills, Manufacturers Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), Arvada, Colo., has filled classrooms with independent manufacturers' reps and distributor sales personnel for its Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification program. The CSP program follows MRERF's successful Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR) certification program.

Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR). This designation was developed exclusively to address the professional advancement needs of independent manufacturers' representatives. The program involves multi-level course work taught by instructors from the business and academic communities. Individual classes address a range of topics, including sales, management, financial planning, communication, marketing, productivity, strategic planning, ethics and technology.

The program is aimed at the seasoned representative firm principals or managers. Candidates for certification spend a week at Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz., each year for three years taking courses and passing examinations designed to make them more productive and effective in their own firms and on behalf of customers and principals. After they become certified, they must earn annual continuing education credits to maintain the designation.

Nearly 1,700 manufacturers' representatives, including 290 members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), Tarrytown, N.Y., and Canadian Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (CEMRA), Mississauga, Ont., have earned the CPMR designation. Two of those NEMRA reps are Mark Wilson and Charley Cohon.

“We're not just a sales organization, we're running a business here,” says Wilson, managing partner, Unity Electrical Sales, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa. “Most manufacturers' reps are good salesmen, but that doesn't make them good businessmen. This kind of education enhances your business and entrepreneurial skills and ultimately results in success on the bottom line.”

In addition to running his rep firm, Prime Devices Corp., Morton Grove, Ill., Charley Cohon serves as vice president of academic and special projects of MRERF. He says CPMR provides a rep with a more complete view of the disciplines needed to sustain a business over time. He says the CPMR designation is important to reps and manufacturers. “Manufacturers ought to be aware that the rep who has completed this training can successfully sustain his business over time,” he says.

Certified Sales Professional (CSP). An intensive four-day sales training program aimed at improving sales skills, CSP is the result of a partnership established between MRERF and the Canadian Professional Sales Association to bring the CSP sales designation — established in Canada in 1994 — to the United States. To qualify for certification, candidates must complete the program, have two years of practical work experience and agree to abide by the CSP Code of Ethics. All candidates must pass a written and oral examination.

While the CPMR program is available only to independent manufacturers' representatives, the CSP program was recently made available to distributor members of the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), St. Louis. To date, 114 distributor personnel have completed the program, in addition to the 93 NEMRA members who have earned the CSP designation.

Among the distributor personnel who have taken advantage of the opportunity are Paul Shields, The Hite Co., Altoona, Pa., and Shane Kerska. Border States Electric, Fargo, N.D. “As vice president of sales, I am always looking for ways to strengthen and improve our company's sales force so I wanted to see what this course was all about,” says Shields. “I was not disappointed. In fact, I believe this course is going to help a lot of salespeople succeed in their careers. This is a very complete and comprehensive sales training course.”

Says Kerska, “The sales certification program is a great tool for putting more meaning into your personal sales process. The seminar is very informative and energetic and gives you everything you need to succeed in your industry. This fact is reaffirmed by the written and oral exams that follow the training. The exams allow you to put to work the knowledge that you gained during the session. I recommend this program to anyone who wants to exceed their personal goals.”

CSP sessions are scheduled for Oct. 2-5 in Dallas; Oct. 16-19 in Minneapolis; and Nov. 6-9 in Orlando. Any manufacturers' reps or electrical distributors interested in learning more about the CPMR and CSP and programs, visit www.mrerf.org.