Reader Feedback: John M. Jones of Angler’s Workshop responds to Bob Mallard’s article on Pro Plans from the last print issue of Angling Trade.
(Editor’s Note: If you have something to say, let us know… this is your forum and all opinions are valued at Angling Trade…)
“The Pro Plan”… Again.
What’s wrong with the Pro Plan (for the sake of argument, let’s include Key Employees in the same boat)? What’s wrong is probably about equal to what’s right with it. I believe that it gets abused as much as it gets used correctly. Really. From the industry standpoint, if the Pro program causes increased sales, then it’s working, sometimes. On the other hand, if it’s supposed to be a way to dump inventory at a discount or for free, then its working… sometimes.
Let me digress just a bit. Quite a few years ago, the rep from Brand X came to the retailer I worked for and approached me and the other salesperson and asked if either of us fished Brand X. We did not. Then he asked if we had Brand X rods of our own, would we fish them? Sure. But the difficulty was that we already owned a couple of nice rods and were unwilling to add to the collection at the price needed to obtain one. “How about if the price was not an issue?” Well, that would certainly put the offer in a different light. Both of us agreed that we could give them a try, but just this once.
A few weeks later, two new Brand X rods arrived with our name on them. Wow! To be honest, we felt just a touch of guilt. These were expensive rods, and they simply handed them to us. Both of us were fairly new to the trade, and the rods that we already owned were top level, and bought at retail. To us, it was an incredible gift (much like Christmas when you were, oh, say 6 years old). Easily the best rod that I had ever fished, and my partner felt the same. Incredible stuff. Well, we fished a lot, and more important, we talked to a great deal of people who also fished. If you came by the shop and asked for Brand Y, that’s what we sold you. But, if you asked what I thought, it was Brand X every time. Same with waders and lines and so on. We honestly believed in the brands we sold, and we sold more products, and the manufacturers made more products to sell us. If we actually liked the product, and used it, we said so. Really clear, the program worked.
Brand X was pretty much done in our shop prior to this. They had been brought in a few years before we come on board, and it was noted that the brand never did sell well. The same store went to number one in sales a few years later for the same brand. But, (while I was born on Tuesday, just not last Tuesday) we could see that there were some abuses. There are a fair number of products out there that were sold at discount, or given to others and shops lost sales as a direct result. Key employees and Guides handing out gifts to friends and customers is an issue. Some of us flat would not turn loose of any product obtained thru the program for any reason (without permission). It was given in good faith and some will always hold to that standard. A difficulty is that not all of us feel the same way. .
If a company hands out products to selected people, there needs to be a measurable result. The measuring scale is profit. If we cannot see a positive result then we are wasting time and effort (do you recall “you need to be fishing where fish are?”). Administration of the Pro Plan is the key. Yes, it may take more effort, but if we need to work for our pay, perhaps we should do just that. If Fred(sic) the guide gets trips through your shop, you need to have clients come in letting you know that Fred told them to come into your shop for their needs. That’s the bottom line. If Fred is getting products for free or at a reduced rate for his use, then Fred needs to be selling those products for us to his clients. Flies, leaders, rods, reels, whatever. I have always taken the time to sit down with guides and let them know what is expected from them when accepting trips, and they need to let me know what they are looking for. When certain guides send clients in for rod and reel outfits, they are expecting me to sell them exactly what was requested (guess who I keep informed of any program deals). Many times the guide will call to let us know the client will be in the shop to pick up specific items. The client feels special as their reel is already set up, the rod has been inspected and it is ready to fish. Now, not every client buys, but many of them do. At the very least the guide needs to get the clients back to us if at all possible. Guiding is much more than simply fishing (that’s an article all by itself). Professional full time guides and employees in our store should be on the program, if they are keeping up their end of the deal. If the manufacturer makes their products available to us so we can put them in the hands of customers through whatever means we are able, then we should be obligated to do so. Having my best fishing buddies fishing with the latest gear does not keep the doors open in this shop.
WE, as in ALL OF US in the industry, need to see that the program works, and works well, and to our advantage. Believe me, the manufacturers are not trying to sabotage the professional shops. (perhaps they are, but a different time for that. The free line thing is really an issue…) They are trying to help us in most cases, but just like us, they have friends that fish and… I think you know where this goes.
If a potential customer does not buy from us because he received the product from someone in the trade it is another sale that cannot be made. That hurts, and we know that it happens. But if a customer walks in and requests a product because some fisher person was using it and spoke highly of it…
I do not believe that the program is broken, but it does need some maintenance. The Pro Program can be an excellent sales tool for the shops that are willing to utilize it. One tool is not enough to do every task, but it is a useful one, providing we use it correctly.
John M. Jones