Bringing Out the Best in Brands

Want a world-class program that delivers results for you? Think Highlands.

We accelerate sales for your brand.

We're not like any other agency.  We are a 'rep group' but we are so much more.  We're a full service sales and marketing agency that will help you maximize sales in your existing channels and help you successfully penetrate new markets.

Our obsession is getting your products into the hands of consumers, quickly, cost effectively and ahead of your competitors.  Not only do we help you build a strategic sales and marketing plan but we execute it for you too.  We are truly your partner from beginning to end, and the next beginning...

Clients can access a range of services from sales representation, e-Commerce management, strategic planning, digital and traditional marketing through to selling into some of the world's largest and best distributors and retailers.

Want to know more?  Then get in touch.

Supporting your brand to maximize your sales.



Whether its design or production, digital or print, Highlands can help.  Our in-depth knowledge of e-commerce and catalog owners' requirements makes us experts in content creation too. We ensure your work is 'on brand', 'on time' and 'on budget'.
Let us develop and manage your strategic blueprint alongside you.  Our INSIGHT -PLAN - EXECUTE - OPTIMIZE methodology helps navigate the journey, deliver against expectations and ensures there's a process for continual improvement
Highlands has highly skilled and experienced sales people who will maximize the presence of your brand with key resellers and help grow your sales.

Supporting your brand to maximize your sales.

Our team have trusted relationships with all the largest accounts means that Highlands can get your products listed quickly and build plans to accelerate sales.
Highlands brings you a trusted and personalized eCommerce strategy to complement your traditional routes to market, growing your digital presence and online sales.
Our great team ensures we deliver on our promises.  Full content management, content creation, re-purposing of collateral and driving promotional activity are just part of what our team helps with.

Do what is right image

The time is always right to do what is right

May 8, 2017

I think it was Tom Hopkins who said sales is “the easiest, lowest paid job in the world, or the hardest, highest paid job”. I’ve probably misquoted the great man but the essence of it is, in my opinion, completely true.

The reference, I believe, was towards hard work and having to deal with rejection.  We all know that high activity rates tend to generate more sales.  We also know that until you ask “the question” you’ll never get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.  Many people are so scared of getting a ‘no’ they never ask “the question”.  Great salespeople will ask “the question” knowing full well they risk a ‘no’. And, rejection hurts…deep.

Because sales people are, of course, always looking for a ‘yes’ they tend to steer the sales process down the path that is most likely to get them an affirmative answer.  Even if it’s not necessarily the best thing for their customer.  I know; shock, horror!

This approach may, or may not, get you the sale. And, in the short term, everyone might be happy -  especially the salesperson.

However, we know that in the mid to long term this is not necessarily going to be right for either the salesperson’s company or their client.  Eventually something will go wrong, and then everyone dives into the contract detail and relationships fall apart.

I write this blog in the final stages of preparing for a big client pitch. The client wants to enter a new (to them), and highly competitive market with their existing brand proposition.  We’ve done extensive research on the client’s behalf and we think they need to make some fundamental changes.  One of those is to adopt a new brand for this market.  And, to complicate matters, they love their brand - of course they do.  We love their brand too, just not for this new market.

So, we have a dilemma.  Do we pitch for what we think is right, or do we pitch what we think they will say ‘yes’ to?

We really like the client and the people we work with, and would like to work with them for many years to come.

Easy then.  Pitch what we think is right.

Watch this space….


The Promise of Upselling

April 19, 2017

For some time, the traditional OP industry has been bifurcating.  Non-traditional suppliers are enjoying incremental volume, reasonable profitability, and a new market with new customers.  Traditional main line OP suppliers, on the other hand, are finding it treacherous.  Too many competitors, customer RFQ’s, and apathy among dealers add up to an increasingly challenging channel. 
As Highlands was conceived in the traditional OP space, it’s painful to witness so much dysfunction.  While there are some shining examples of growth and success, the entire channel is under duress.  The most frustrating part is that everyone resorts to the same bag of tricks - dropping price and further lowering cost of goods.  That just takes everyone down. 

How did we get here?  Generally, large resellers have had the most influence on category health, and many have changed their SOPs with merchandising wielding a larger influence.  Couple that with a lack of product/brand differentiation and oversupply in many categories, and we find ourselves awash in mediocrity.  Unless we can sell more volume to offset the lower cost, this is a zero-sum gain.  Consolidation may create opportunity for the strongest to sell more into a declining market, but let’s be clear it’s a declining market especially if your product is dependent on paper.  To regain footing, we must dramatically change how we do business.  We have no choice.  

As I see it, the only way out is a focus on upselling.  If we can’t sell more units, we must make units sold more valuable.  To do that, we need to alter our story and how we target the consumer.  Identifying consumer needs, building a compelling value proposition against that need and then properly targeting that consumer must be at the heart of any program. 

At Highlands, we work across the leadership of our largest partners to push this message - and it’s working.  It’s requires us to be extremely proficient in back-end program structure because that’s where the value lies.  We also help refocus product lines to illustrate the benefit of bundled solutions and efficient product assortment.  We help them leverage data - theirs and the reseller’s - to show both what they’re missing.  We help them to embrace online solutions, not shy away.  We help grant access to field sales to create cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

It’s time to re-build profitability and influence.  The programs we’re implementing are doing just that.  Working the traditional market with new approaches, while encouraging the players to do things differently, will work.  We’re seeing it work.


Bob O'Gara


Nothing Sells Itself

March 28, 2017

Low-involvement categories are best defined as “needed purchases” that rarely evoke passion.  Unlike iPhones, buyers are not waiting overnight to buy soap, salt, staples, or paper.  These products only get purchased when existing supplies run out, and a trip to the store (or online) is needed to replenish.  If no one explains the value of branded products in a compelling manner, it’s easy to understand how buyers can migrate to private labels.  

Compounding matters, resellers make money on either option - branded or private label.  Their objective is increased traffic. If buyers perceive value is the same, they will typically purchase the less-expensive option.  

This is the dynamic private labels hope for.

How do branded players in low-involvement categories combat this?  The key is NOT to rely on traditional product benefit sales techniques and personal relationships to push, but showing resellers business opportunities they’re missing.  Our proprietary process has been very effective in driving sales of higher-margin branded products.  Key to success is data, segmentation, customized marketing, and measurement.

While there are many aspects to our market test program, the key is customer engagement &mdash on all sides!

Resellers know the value of increased sales activity whether that’s driving traffic to their website or store, or creating interest amongst their business customers.  More shoppers mean more sales.  Selling more high-margin products increases profits.  Reseller confusion crops up when deciding which products to sell, at what price point, and what marketing programs to deploy that drive traffic to higher-margin SKUs.

Manufacturers need to look beyond their own product line(s) and be more reseller-centric.  Not all products matter, especially today as traditional business models (and supporting supplies) have forever changed. 

Understanding and analyzing data - from the reseller, manufacturer, categories, and from partners - is where value is created for both.  When done well, it isolates opportunity gaps.  In some cases, you reduce SKUs to sell more volume.  In others, audience segmentation reveals buying patterns that can be leveraged.

This approach helped one of our manufacturers better understand what sells to whom (end-users) and why (which promotion works best), and increased total sales by 143% during the test period.  Two-thirds of the incremental sales came from customers that previously were private label buyers!  Once new buyers are in your system, strong loyalty programs can keep them forever.  Best yet, the cost of this program was dwarfed by the value it provided and is now deployed throughout its geographical footprint.

This is where outside marketing partnerships can make all the difference.  These experts can help resellers make data-driven decisions, and then execute multi-faceted campaigns that deliver results.  Most manufacturers don’t have the capability or relationships to help resellers commit to such analysis.  

Nothing sells itself especially in low-involvement categories like office products.  Spit-balling promotions in a “one-size-fits-all” manner does not maximize ROI.  Smart market analysis enables dramatically improved sales and profit margins.  While this approach may not require Big Data Analytics or IBM’s Watsontm™, it does require sharing data and committing to do better.  



Great Questions

March 22, 2017

Great questions - especially the ones you ask yourself -" are hard to come by. But great questions help you think more clearly. They make you pause. They interrupt old ways of thinking that are getting in your way. They stimulate and provoke.

Great questions make you curious about yourself, your company and even the industry. It’s the kind of curiosity I remember when my daughter was five, and she kept asking, “why?”  While it annoyed me at the time, asking “why” is quite powerful.  
In manufacturing, it’s called root cause analysis or “five whys.”  By continually asking why we do it that way, why we care or why it matters, and then ask why to that answer we can peel away at what’s really going on.  In many cases, we just live with things because we haven’t dug deep enough to figure out what needs to change or how to change it.

And, it’s not just “why” questions, but also “what if” and “how” and “which” that could give us insight into key improvement areas.  The key is to ask open ended questions -" not just those with a yes or no answer.  Questions like “Are we…” or “Should we…” or “Does this …” don’t give you enough context to stimulate appropriate creativity.  You’ll get rich discussion by asking better questions.  

Examples include:
  • Why do some prospects not buy our products?
  • What is unique about our business? How does that uniqueness solve a customer problem better than anyone else?
  • In which markets or products should we stop investing? Why?
  • What could we outsource that we are not good at so we can focus on what we do best? How might we do that? (Examples might include: marketing, website/digital technologies, content development, strategy development, logistics)
  • What am I doing as a leader that is contributing to a particularly negative situation?  (Constantly asking yourself open ended questions will increase your own self-awareness and your personal ability to take accountability and influence change.)

How to get started

Write down one area in yourself or your company that is causing you worry or feels like a bottleneck. Then write down a few good questions. Work with your team to brainstorm and discuss the answers.  You’ll find richness in the dialogue and the discovery.  Good Luck.

Janet Collins, a strategic advisor in the office products industry and a long-time collaborator with Highlands.  She works with business leaders to develop growth strategies and mobilize teams to take action and achieve results. She's a coach who's been in your shoes, most recently as President of GMi Companies (Ghent, VividBoard and Waddell). 

Contact Janet at [email protected] or visit www.linkedin/in/collinsjanet.


Janet Collins

TurningPoint Strategy