Editorial…In the Field

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Possibly the hardest decision a rep organization has to make is to resign a line. “How did we get to this point?” is often asked by a successful rep owner faced with this decision. A tremendous amount of effort goes into finding, marketing and growing a profitable manufacturer for the line card. So what can go wrong in the relationship?

  • Declining sales due to poor delivery or non-competitiveness in the marketplace.
  • Contract changes such as reduced commissions, termination clauses and territory.
  • A change in principal management.
  • A lack of investment in the business to keep current with technology.
  • The addition
  • Read the rest

Resigned Any Lines Lately? Why?

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Mr. Independent Manufacturers’ Representative, have you ever resigned from a manufacturer’s line?

Based on answers received from reps, this question ought to sit comfortably in the “rhetorical” category; all the reps who were asked that question answered with a resounding, “Yes.”

While the answers were similar if not the same, the reasons for ultimately resigning a line varied a bit. They ran the gamut from poor to lousy contracts, changes in the commission structure, poor product quality and — this was probably the most common — poor return on investment for the effort put into selling a line.

In discussions … Read the rest

Knowing When to Resign a Line

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Only make a move when you know what’s best for you.

When manufacturers’ representatives were interviewed on the subject of resigning a line, a consensus developed about when/how/why to make such a decision. At the top of the list of considerations to take into account before parting company with a manufacturer was the fact the rep has to determine what’s best for him and his business. One of the major tools that can assist in the decision‑making process is the line productivity analysis.

While those who have successfully completed MRERF’s CPMR program are well acquainted with line productivity analysis, it’s … Read the rest

Tips & Tactics

A three-pronged attack on waste….

“Kaizen” is Japanese for “change for the better” or “continual improvement.” That’s exactly what Rick DeFazio, CPMR, had in mind when he described what Brazill Brothers & Assoc., Metuchen, New Jersey, did to eliminate waste and improve processes between themselves and their principals.

DeFazio was describing his agency’s “best practices” during NEMRA’s Annual Conference as a part of a larger presentation covering a study called Eliminating Wasteful Activities in the Representative and Manufacturer Sales and Marketing Channel.

According to DeFazio, “What we did was to employ a combination of high-tech, low-tech and no-tech principles … Read the rest

Don’t Overlook Asset Allocation

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During periods of strong stock performance, many investors over‑weight stocks to take advantage of outstanding returns. Risk often seems minimal during these times as people watch their accounts grow. Bonds — with their limited returns — are largely forgotten. Invariably, though, the party ends and, all of a sudden, economic turmoil and a stock-market downturn create the opposite effect as investors abandon equities and run for the cover of fixed-income investments.

We believe investors’ asset allocations, or the division of assets among stocks, bonds and cash, have been influenced by market extremes in recent years. Now is a good time … Read the rest

Websites in the “RoHS” Age

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In the spirit of the ‘RoHS’ (recycling of hazardous substances) age, let me ask reps the question: “Will your current website meet the expectations of 2008? Before offering an answer, let’s note that reps are creating their own hazards and avoiding end-of-life considerations for their websites by perpetuating rather than replacing sites that are essentially obsolete. It still seems true that many sites seem to be the same ones that were posted at the dawn of the Internet age (although the graphics look more dated than that). Here’s my answer to the question posed at the beginning of this paragraph: … Read the rest

The “Neuroeconomics” of Sales — How Buyers Really Decide

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Research confirms what you’ve probably suspected: Buyers are deeply irrational beings.

A group of scientists from CalTech, Carnegie Mellon and MIT reviewed studies examining how people buy. Most economists — and many sales training programs — assume buyers make logical decisions about what they need and what’s in their best interests.

Most buyers believe their decisions are the end result of a sensible, step-by-step process. But these “neuroeconomic” studies show the automatic, unconscious process that’s really going on:

  • Buyers buy with their hearts first. When money changes hands, the primitive, emotional part of the brain calls the shots.
  • Buyers buy
  • Read the rest

What Your Customers Really Want: The Qualities of Customer Care

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Most people believe that the hardest part of starting and maintaining a successful business is finding the right product or service. In reality, this is hardly ever enough; it is simply the starting point. To be truly successful, you need to see your business through your customer’s eyes. What do they want and need to keep coming back to you time and again?

There are seven qualities of customer care that will take a business from the great product or service to the great company that will keep customers coming back for more. Here’s what it takes to win and … Read the rest

Rep Coaching Pushes Team to the Top

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While Pat Riley, Tony LaRussa and Tony Dungy richly deserve kudos for their coaching accomplishments, it’s high time to direct similar praise at MANA member Nelson & Associates, Santa Fe Springs, California.

If those aforementioned professional coaches have reached the heights in their respective worlds of basketball, baseball and football, so too has the rep firm honed its coaching skills and improved the performance of its professional team.

Nelson’s dedication to the practice of coaching was described in two sessions of NEMRA’s 37th Annual Conference in New Orleans earlier this year. The first was an educational seminar entitled Coaching — Read the rest

The Positive Side of Being “Sucked In”

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There’s no mistaking the resignation in the voice of Michael Corleone in The Godfather when he describes his involvement in the family crime business. In response to a question he says something to the effect of, “No matter how hard you try to get out, it just sucks you back in.”

Ask the same question of Brian Olson, CPMR, CSP, The Tandem Group, Inc., and you get a similar answer, but he’s a lot more positive in his response — and with good reason.

“I began working in the agency as far back as high school. It was just a … Read the rest

“Best Practices” Point to Eliminating Waste

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Two manufacturers took center stage to describe via “best practices” how much they value their marketing partnerships with manufacturers’ representatives at NEMRA’s 37th annual Conference in New Orleans earlier this year. As part of a presentation describing progress that has been made in that association’s ongoing effort to streamline and facilitate the work done between manufacturers and their reps, the manufacturers described their efforts in servicing reps.

Their best practices came to the fore when NEMRA’s Manufacturers Group (NMG) described the next phase in its ongoing project aimed at eliminating wasteful practices in the channel. Consultant Tom O’Connor, The Farmington … Read the rest

Hiring Is Like Looking at the Tip of the Iceberg

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When interviewing a hiring candidate or coaching an employee, it’s helpful to visualize the image of an iceberg with 10 percent visible above the surface, and 90 percent invisible below the surface.

The visible 10 percent is necessary, but limited information:

  • Skills.
  • Experience.
  • Education.

The invisible 90 percent is the essence of the total person and helps to create a good job match:

  • Thinking style.
  • Behavioral traits.
  • Occupational interests.

The difference between what you see and what you need to see can make the difference between hiring a top performer or an under performer.

Companies that use pre-hire and coaching … Read the rest

How Sales Professionals Mess Up Sales Meetings

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Can you relate to this? You’re looking across your desk into the face of a customer who would be perfect for you. You know what you can provide is perfect for them and you’re 99 percent sure they will accept your proposal. Then something goes wrong. They walk, and you don’t know why. Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there, some of us more often than others. Worse, many salespeople will continue to face that situation and not understand what continues to go wrong. The good news is, as disappointing as those situations are, they serve as outstanding learning experiences. They … Read the rest

Hiring Rep Firm Winners

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Rep firm business owners and hiring managers frequently say they can’t find good staff, particularly salespeople, while also keeping their search costs under control. The following are some “easy wins” that will bring excellent candidates to your door at little or no expense.

Make sure job must-haves and nice-to-haves stand out: Too often you read job descriptions that are so vague or convoluted you can’t figure out what skills are needed to succeed in the role. When you are writing up a job description for a new person to join your rep firm, be as clear as possible on the … Read the rest