Editorial…In The Field

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To make field visits more productive, the sales rep and principal must establish the primary reason for the visit, set up tentative dates, and then develop the itinerary.

Reasons for urgent visits to the field include severe quality problems, design changes or flaws, and loss of significant business or significant sales service problems. These visits should be planned as quickly as possible and the itinerary put together on an urgent basis. Other field visits for reasons such as product training, new product introductions, trade shows, vendor conferences and market assessment should be coordinated and planned to make maximum use of … Read the rest

Making Field Sales Calls Work for Both Sides

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When a group of independent manufacturers’ representatives was engaged in a conversation on the subject of wasteful practices they’re forced to engage in, with one voice they agreed that unplanned or poorly planned joint sales calls — with either principals or distributors — were a huge time waster.

Is a follow-up to this conversation, Agency Sales contacted a number of manufacturers’ representatives to get a feel for whether that initial conversation was an aberration or if joint field visits were something they’d rather avoid. While hardly a scientific study, what we found was that reps:

Assorted Info — Some Good, Some Bad

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“E-file will cut many months off the audit process and will allow us to develop sophisticated analytical tools to better select areas of audit inquiry.” — IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson

Would You Like to Pay Your Payroll Tax Deposits — Twice?

Both the IRS and the courts have taken the position (and won) that if you give money to an independent agent to pay an obligation of your business, and they do not do so — you still owe the money! This recent case is not the first one involving payroll tax deposits and outside agents. Outsourcing payroll functions … Read the rest

Tips & Tactics

Finding comfort out of the kitchen….

When Harry Truman was President of the United States, one of his favorite phrases was, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Those words came to mind when a rep reported to us that one of his peers had left the profession and gone back to direct selling for a manufacturer.

According to the rep, “I caught up with my friend just as he was leaving his agency. He told me that working as a rep was so long and hard that he needed a break. Since reps work for … Read the rest

Are You Open to Greater Potential Investment Return?

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Consider a closed-end mutual fund.

If you’re actively saving for your retirement, chances are you may have a few mutual funds working for you. And most likely, they’re the typical open-end mutual funds, as these are the ones which are advertised and marketed the most. But did you know there’s another type of mutual fund available that can also produce competitive returns? It’s called a closed-end mutual fund, and it can offer great opportunities for investors.

Unlike the traditional open-end mutual fund, which issues an unlimited number of shares, a closed-end mutual fund issues only a limited number of shares. … Read the rest

Your Website Bites!

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I have just returned from a relatively random tour of the world — rep sites on the World Wide Web. What a downer! With rare exceptions, the manufacturers’ representative community has failed to harness the potential of the Internet to serve the (varying) interests of individual firms, nor have very many steered visitors to the information about the rep function on the sites of their associations — MANA, NEMRA, ERA, etc., much less “sold the system” on their own sites.

I find the failure of professional field sales organizations to do any meaningful online selling particularly surprising because so many … Read the rest

Technology Lets Sales Agencies Operate Efficiently

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In the Internet age, when everything from opening a bank account to buying products is done online, many manufacturers and their sales agencies still operate in an environment reliant on paper and manual processes to gather and report sales and commission data.

Manual processes create a bottleneck that can halt even the most efficient sales agency. When commission statements, invoices or sales reports are sent through the U.S. mail, the sales numbers are days or weeks old before the agency receives them. Then mounds of paperwork must be sorted through in order to key in hundreds, even thousands of transactions … Read the rest

Family Business Succession — With a Heart

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A seminal event occurred last year that will have a profound impact on business families in the years to come. The first baby-boomer turned age 60, and here’s why it’s such a big deal. Many of these baby-boomers own successful businesses, and they’re seriously thinking about — if they haven’t done it already — reducing their work schedule so they can spend more time doing the things they love. And for those with a son or daughter who’s working in the family business, it’s natural to want to pass the business on to them.

Sometimes this works out great for … Read the rest

One Approach That Works

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What works for one manufacturer doesn’t necessarily work for all, but one manufacturer contacted us to detail his approach when contacting prospective reps.

According to the manufacturer, “We know we’re not going to get any attention at the beginning unless we’re forthcoming with what we expect from reps and provide a description of how we work with other agencies.

“Here’s what we generally do. Before we even have a phone conversation, we’ll let the rep know that our goal is to partner up with a professional agency that is energetic and persistent in following up potential leads. We emphasize the … Read the rest

PTRA Marks 35th Anniversary at Annual Conference

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Attendees at the 35th Annual Power-Motion Technology Representatives Association (PTRA) Conference earlier this year departed the four-day meeting with a wealth of guidance on how to make their selling efforts more successful.

Whether the subject was how to more effectively deal with Six Sigma customers, creatively managing cash or the critical role that U.S. manufacturers play in the global economy, the more than 260 conference registrants departed the Captiva Island, Florida, location much better armed to compete in to-day’s challenging marketplaces.

One of the subjects that was especially applicable to what the reps were interested in was entitled “Manufacturers Competing … Read the rest

Simplifying the Sales Process for the Rep

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This article is reprinted with permission from the January 2007 issue of GHTA Gift Talk, the newsletter of the Gift & Home Trade Association. While the subject matter is directed to members of that association, it’s clear that many of the concerns written here are shared by reps working in all industries.

During my 34 years as a rep in the gift industry, I have found it interesting to listen to manufacturers discuss their relationships with reps. Although manufacturers find reps a necessary evil, I think they find this segment of their business to be the most frustrating! It’s … Read the rest