Learn how the Certified Master Sales Representative credential can enhance your business.
by Kimberly Mosley, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association
What’s happening at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)? The launch of the brand-new Certified Master Sales Representative (CMSR) credential, for one thing.
Members who attended ASTRA’s first CMSR in person—a customer-service-focused workshop during the annual December 2018 sales representative meetings in Las Vegas—got a sneak preview of upcoming programs. ASTRA members and other toy professionals can now enjoy 24/7 access to an online, on-demand education that can lead to a lifetime CMSR credential.
Sales representatives make up 7 percent of ASTRA’s membership, while the largest categories of membership are independent retailers and manufacturers. Though the proportion of sales representatives is modest, their impact in the industry is huge, says Sue Warfield, director of member relations at ASTRA. In the toy industry, most sales reps handle at least two or three dozen lines.
“What all the good reps share is a deep base of knowledge about specialty toys,” Warfield says. “So they are experts on what is selling where and how different types of stores (Main Street stores versus suburban stores, for example) may see different sales patterns. They can be a critical resource in helping store owners, who are always beyond busy, keep up with what’s trending.”
Recognizing the valuable role that sales representatives play in the industry, ASTRA’s recent investment in professional education addresses key areas to bolster their professional skills. The online curriculum will lead to a credential that certifies a sales representative has mastered key topics in these aspects of the toy business:
Business and Finance
• Setting Goals and Measuring ROI
• Contracts and Agreements
• Accounting Practices
Customer Service & Promotion
• Understanding the Customer
• Identifying Follow-Up Tactics
• Creating/Improving Sales Rep Image
• Product Knowledge
• Prospecting and Client Discovery
• Time-Management Tools
• Product Tracking and Delivery
Children & Play
• Emotional Intelligence
• Child Development and Toys
Using input from ASTRA members, Ahren Hoffman, CTRS, CPE, director of education and training at ASTRA, spearheaded efforts to develop the curriculum. “Adult learning principles are woven into the course—particularly the reality that there is more than one learning style,” Hoffman says. “Learners will be able to watch, listen to, and read the content—then show mastery of the material through quizzes after each segment. They will have access to the content in digestible chunks that fit individual schedules.”
Warfield says individuals cannot overemphasize the importance of a thriving professional sales representative force in the specialty toy industry. For manufacturers, sales representatives are both hunters (finding new business) and farmers (cultivating the accounts they already have). For retailers, sales representatives are part of the “full circle of service” that manufacturers want to offer, but don’t always have the reach to deliver, Warfield says. “Manufacturers make great new products, but they cannot have feet on the ground in every market. Reps show products, train your staff, place your orders, solve problems, and get you the best deal on reorders. It’s a win-win role because everyone in the channel—manufacturers, sales reps, and retailers—all want the same thing: More business and more profit.”
The CMSR credential is one more example of ASTRA’s commitment to professional development of its members. Information about the full suite of ASTRA credentials can be found at academy.astratoy.org/certification. All ASTRA credentials offer a unique opportunity to learn from accomplished veterans of the industry and connect with expert mentors to guide members.
At ASTRA, we believe it’s never too late to make a New Year’s resolution. It’s still the first quarter, after all! How about making this the year that you make a little extra commitment to your own professional development? Check out the professional development offerings on ASTRA Academy, and you may find yourself with some new skills.