Editorial…In the Field

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I had a very good friend and customer of many years who passed away suddenly. At the time of his death, there were two brothers as equal owners and family from both sides working in the business.

My guess is that they always thought nothing would ever change, and they did not need to plan for eventual succession of the business. The disaster between families that followed is a story in itself.

Human nature being what it is, we don’t like to think of the inevitable, particularly when the business is running smoothly.

My friend’s experience taught me a lesson.… Read the rest

Succession Planning — Just Do It!

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Not that manufacturers’ representatives needed a reminder, but late in February, The New York Times began an article on the importance of succession planning this way: “Right up there with putting an aging parent in a nursing home stands the wrenching job of handing over a family business….”

Admittedly the article was not about reps but concerned a family-owned manufacturing firm in the Midwest, but the fact remains the majority of MANA members are owners of small family-owned operations. Given that fact, it’s inevitable that the time will come when the present owner had better come to grips with the … Read the rest

Tips & Tactics

More on succession plans….

There were two additional bits of information that rose to the surface during our interviews on the subject of succession plans that appear elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales.

  • CPMR — One rep we spoke with maintained that as he looks to the future for his own agency, one thing he will insist upon that is that “anyone put in place to succeed him must have earned their CPMR. Much of what I learned about running a rep firm came from the courses I completed during the three years of the program. In addition,
  • Read the rest

Recognition for Proficiency in Technology

Training in the areas of sales improvement, product familiarity and how to run their businesses more professionally head the list when reps discuss areas they are most concerned with. Not far behind — and becoming more important — is the area of technology. As high-tech tools become more affordable and more available to reps, it’s the rep who knows how to use them more productively that is going to stand head and shoulders above the competition. Added to that is the fact that the rep who lets his principals and prospective principals know how technologically apt he is will garner … Read the rest

Building Your Financial Safety Net

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Investing is important for your future.

Investment planners generally recommend these initial strategies be taken before beginning an investment plan:

  • Establish a cash reserve to cover three to six months’ living expenses.
  • Do not spend more than 35% of your income to pay off debt (including your mortgage or rent).
  • Obtain adequate life insurance — generally eight to 10 times your annual family income.

Then your initial steps should be:

  1. Determine your net worth — your total financial assets minus your debts. To do this, add up the current value of all your assets — real estate, vehicles, collectibles, savings
  2. Read the rest

The Future of the Internet

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The Internet is a fundamental part of our businesses, our culture and our life. Just because many companies with wrong business models have been hit doesn’t mean that the Internet is going away. In fact, the Internet is a more vital part of what we do now than ever.

Here are some specific ways the Internet will be part of our businesses and our lives as we look to the future.

Faster access to what we need — Right now most of those on the Net are doing so with 56K modems or less. No wonder it hasn’t changed everything. … Read the rest

The Essence of Being “Teachable”

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The article that follows concerns itself with the critical importance of manufacturers’ representatives exercising a willingness to learn new things and to explore how and why they should learn. Hopefully, the message that follows will prove interesting to everyone from the veteran sales agent, the customer service representative, the owner/leader, manager and office support staff. It covers everyone in the agency and should apply to all agency personnel.

When presented with an opportunity to participate in a training session or to take a business-related course, we always hear, “Who has time to learn anyway? I’m too busy making a living.” … Read the rest

Principles of Persuasion

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Whether you’re conducting a one-on-one interview, motivating your sales team or delivering a keynote address, your success as a leader is defined by your ability to persuade with clarity and passion.

In fact, you might say that leadership is synonymous with effective communication. According to Harvey MacKay, author of the book Swim With the Sharks, the number-one skill most lacking in business today is public speaking — the ability to present oneself. If you want to stand out from the crowd, get promoted or develop an award-winning sales team, you need to polish your communication and persuasion skills.

Throughout … Read the rest

Use Questions to Gain More Selling Power

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Studies show that most people approach a buying decision with some level of anxiety. The truth is, they really don’t want to have to make a decision. Believe it or not, your prospects are very often looking for an excuse not to satisfy a need or want. The decision‑making process is just too stressful for them.

What does that mean for you? Your job as a sales professional is to help your prospect overcome this anxiety — their desire to avoid making a decision — and commit to satisfying his or her need or want with your product or service.Read the rest

Is This a Good Fit?

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“I think I know what I’m supposed to ask a rep before we begin working together, but am I missing something?”

That was the opening question a manufacturer asked at the beginning of a panel discussion on how manufacturers and reps can better work together. He knew he was on solid ground with the rep when he asked about:

  • Management and personnel.
  • The agency’s history and tenure in the territory and markets served.
  • Other product lines they represented.
  • Where he would fit and how much time he could expect from the rep.

But, he wondered if there was anything else … Read the rest

How to Prevent 11th Hour Negotiations

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One of the enduring myths of negotiation is that it is a back‑and‑forth struggle with your customer that occurs in the final stage of the sale, the “close.”

Negotiation, at its best, is composed of open, honest and straightforward communication based on mutual respect and mutual trust. When you recognize it in this form, it begins with the very first conversation and is continuous throughout the relationship. We refer to it as the “diagnostic process.” When you are using this process, there is no need for high-pressure, last-minute bargaining, there are few, if any, objections and there is no need … Read the rest

Cut Through the Communication Clutter

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When your co‑workers are also the people you live with, communication challenges are bound to occur. Why? Because when you live and work with the same people, whether you’re married and in business together, in a family business, or even in a profession that requires lots of “together time,” such as on a cruise ship or in a firehouse, misunderstandings are bound to happen.

People who are together the majority of the time tend to feel comfortable with each other, and as such they say and do things they may never say or do in a traditional nine-to-five job. After … Read the rest

Calming “Customonsters” and Other High-Maintenance Clients

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It’s been more than 20 years since Madonna first sang about being a “material girl in a material world.” Since that time, women and men have become more demanding of businesses and what they expect in terms of service. One might argue that this age of the high-maintenance customer is simply due to businesses’ inability to get qualified help, and in some cases this is true. However, the facts are that product and service customization, competition and “the customer is always right” have helped create more than a few high-maintenance “customonsters” that over time may be more work than they

Read the rest