Tips & Tactics

Some important security tips….

Our thanks for Gary Brusacoram, CPMR, Andrews-Johnson-Brusacoram, Minneapolis, Minnesota, who forwarded the following security tips from an attorney that had been passed on to him. If followed, these suggestions can do much to limit damages if a theft occurs.

The next time you order checks, have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks.

Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put “Photo ID Required.”

When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, do not put the complete account number on the “For” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check-processing channels will not have access to it.

Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a Post Office Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a P.O. Box, use your work address. Never have your Social Security number printed on your checks (DUH!). You can add it if necessary. However, if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Also, carry a photocopy of your passport when traveling either here or abroad. We have all heard horror stories about fraud that is committed by stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards.

Unfortunately, as an attorney, I have firsthand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen. Within a week, the thieves ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, and received a PIN number from the DMV to change my driving record information online. Here is some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

  1. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll-free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.
  2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where the theft happened. This proves to credit providers that you were diligent, and is a first step toward a successful investigation (if there ever is one).
  3. Most important: Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done. It seems to have stopped them dead in their tracks. Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet and contents being stolen:
    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
    • Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

An attorney’s value-add….

Hindsight is 20/20 in the view of one rep who recounted his recent unfortunate legal experience. “If I learned nothing else, I learned the importance of having an attorney familiar with rep law,” he began. “We repped a Canadian manufacturer and immediately ran into some legal problems that ultimately resulted in me having to pick up a sizable legal tab. If my attorney was familiar with rep law and rep practices, I don’t think that would have happened to me.”

For three years, MANA has sponsored an annual legal symposium where attorneys that are aligned with MANA and its members come together to discuss issues that they’ve dealt with in the recent past. In addition, MANA maintains a list of attorneys, many of whom can be found in the classified ads section of each issue of Agency Sales, who have established practices that show their expertise in rep law.

Dealing with sales force turnover….

A letter — and the answer to the question posed in the letter — appeared in the electronic newsletter Gentrends, published by The Center for Generational Studies, Aurora, Colorado. As you read, you’ll find that the problem cited is especially suited to the world of manufacturers’ representatives:

“I run a firm representing manufacturers who sell to the construction industry. We’ve always employed long-time salespeople who, once they’ve learned the product lines, enjoy a comfortable income and a secure job. For the past few years though, I can’t seem to find anyone willing to stay more than two or three years. Even if they’re doing well, they up and leave just about the time they’ve learned the lines and the customers. The turnover costs me a fortune and hurts customer relations. What’s the solution?”

In answer, Bob Wendover, editor of the newsletter, offered the following:

“This is a problem facing many sales organizations, and it’s a reality that won’t be going away. As I have maintained for a long time, younger professionals look at the job as a contract. Just because they are working for you doesn’t mean they’re not looking for a different/better opportunity from the day they start. Veteran salespeople have learned from this and are now emulating this behavior. The upshot is that locating effective salespeople who are willing to settle down is becoming an increasingly futile effort. The solution to this dilemma is threefold:

  • “First, your training cycle needs to shorten dramatically. This can be accomplished through technology, more intensive instruction up front, and evaluating whether new salespeople really need to know as much before you cut them loose with customers.
  • “Second, you need to maintain an on-going recruiting effort. Examine your firm’s cycle of employment. If your average salesperson leaves at three years, you should assume that the same will be true in the future and plan accordingly. Always keep your eyes open for good people.
  • “Last, examine the way you do business. What services and offerings can be moved to the Internet? How can you provide better service with less of a personal touch?

“Remember that just as younger technologically astute people are working for you, the same is true of your customers. In fact, many prefer the more detached relationship.”

Editor’s Note: While expressing neither agreement nor disagreement with the advice provided in this exchange, we would emphasize the importance of one of the rep’s major attributes: relationship building. As a result, while the author of this item advises exploring the feasibility of what the Internet might be able to do in terms of better servicing customers, the astute manufacturers’ rep will undoubtedly weigh any advice such as this in terms of how it might affect business relationships. As has been said often before, “In this high-tech world, there’s no substitute for ‘high-touch.’”

End of article