How up-to-date on technology are you? Have you ever heard anyone say, “I’m utilizing my technology tools — 100%?” I think most of us understand and utilize our tools at a rate less than 50%. There are a few of you that know and use all of the features of your phone and PDA, and are smarter than the help desk for Microsoft Office.

The important thing, however, is that you know and use the technology that makes you do your job better.

We live in a world of rapid technology change, and it’s important to embrace the appropriate tools that make you more efficient at meeting the needs of your customers. You need to upgrade your tools as well as upgrade your knowledge, through education and training on new software, tools and systems.

As reps, you need to become communication experts. You may think you ‘sell products,’ but your real job is to move information between the customer and the factory. The best reps move information rapidly and reliably.

E-this and E-that — E-verything is available on the internet. The internet of yesterday was a place for us to go and find information and/or solve a problem. Today it’s all about participation and collaboration. It’s about social networks and getting information and advice from thousands of user-experts, rather than from just one source.

The important technology and communication tools for reps are fairly simply these:

  • Cell phone
  • Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
  • Computer
  • Your website

Make sure you know them inside and out, and use them to the max. And remember, the internet will never replace face-to-face selling — sales is still a contact sport.

So stop “cerfing” and go sell something!

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face


As I looked through the MANA directory recently, I was very surprised at the number of rep firms that do not have websites.

This is either the case of a rep not updating their directory listing, or that they still do not have a website. I hope it is the first case and not the second.

Do you have business cards? A line card? These are ways you market your firm with the people you come in contact with. A website is the way you market your firm to the world.

I have noticed in the last few years that … Read the rest

Making Dollars and Sense Out of Your Website


Before engaging in any discussion of websites, an independent manufacturers’ rep would benefit from asking themselves (and answering) one very important question: “What are you trying to accomplish?”

In the view of author Lance Loveday, the co-author (with Sandra Niehaus) of Web Design for ROI, asking yourself that question is a great beginning. But he suggests that the answer should also guide reps who are already a fair way down the path with their website experience.

“Too often,” maintains Loveday, “a rep or any other business for that matter, will treat the creation and use of their website as simply … Read the rest

Recipe for Constructing an Effective Web Presence


Replacing the showroom floor of the ‘60s and the towering headquarters building of the ‘80s, a company’s website is now the public face — and initial point of contact — for most businesses. Your website delivers that critical first impression to your customers, and the time that you have to make that impression is minimal at best. Look at most web metrics reports, which track website traffic and how long a visitor paused at each page, and you’ll see that on average the typical user looks at fewer than two pages per site. It’s discouraging to know that you cannot … Read the rest

Avoiding Common Sales Mistakes


Not all sales interactions run smoothly; even the best salespeople inevitably hit a bump in the road. Maybe you’ve hit that bump because you unwittingly mishandled a situation, or because your customer had conflicted feelings about a sale. Either way, if you want to salvage your hard work and make sure the sale goes through, you must learn to deal with these obstacles to meet your customer’s needs.

Here are some common mistakes salespeople make and how to avoid or overcome them:

  • Fearing the Customer’s Reaction

When salespeople are afraid of what a customer might say, they end up losing … Read the rest

Performance Enhancing Tools for Sales Managers


When was the last time you:

  • Received an account update full of glaring generalities?
  • Gave in to a salesperson, lowered the price and still lost the business?
  • Counted on the “superstar” to hit a home run and found out he struck out?

Most of us have experienced these frustrating situations and have had to deal with the consequences. In today’s marketplace of increased complexity, constant pressure is placed on the sales team to deliver the numbers, but too often sales managers are expected to select, shape and coach their team to excellence, with few tools.

As a result, they often … Read the rest

Establishing Law and Order in the Digital World


The blessing and the curse of the digital revolution! With e-mail, instant and text messaging, cell phones, Blackberries and the Internet, we are drowning in data overload. And the constant interruptions cost the U. S. economy an estimated $558 billion annually.

This staggering number does not add in the cost of poorly written e-mails that land companies and employees in hot legal trouble, destroy long-term client relationships, and ruin reputations — just review Mike Brown’s e-mails (former FEMA chief) as Hurricane Katrina raged on and you will understand.

Add to this mix a lack of civility and common sense, and … Read the rest

How to Avoid Being Derailed by Small Details


Every transaction has myriad details that are part of the deal. Many times people seem to get bogged down in small details or get derailed by sensitive issues, and this stalls the process. Every detail will have to be addressed, but you will be surprised at how far you can get by keeping your goal in mind and not getting bogged down by those details.

During the process, some things that were once considered important will become irrelevant, and others that weren’t an issue suddenly become a deal breaker. This is normal and does not have to mean the end … Read the rest

Rep Firm Wins Big With a Unique Approach


While it’s not exactly an example of bringing the mountain to Mohammad, it’s about as close as a manufacturers’ representative is going to come to the real meaning of that time-honored phrase. In this case, it’s a matter of a Florida-based rep taking product presentations to a higher level than he ever has before.

Electrical Marketing Services (EMS), Altamonte Springs, Florida, has complemented its traditional sales calls by putting a mobile showroom on the road. The showroom is outfitted with its principals’ products, catalogs and other sales literature. And, if that’s not enough, they throw in a free lunch to … Read the rest

A Former Manufacturer Shares Tips for Maximizing the Rep Relationship


John Glebas is a management consultant who has enjoyed considerable success during his manufacturing days, working with reps. The following are some of his manufacturer-based thoughts on maximizing the relationship.

Have you ever contracted with a rep expecting a continuous stream of new contacts, inquiries and orders to follow? All manufacturers have the same expectations but few implement a plan to avoid letting the relationship slide into the caretaker scenario.

The focus of my thoughts assumes that you and your rep are a proper fit, but just are not driving new business as expected. You’ve handed over your existing orders … Read the rest

Relationship Farming


How to Deal With the Weeds

Weeds inhibit growth in farming. They grow around your crops and sap energy and life from the growing plant. It is a regular part of farming to eradicate the weeds and in relationship farming you have to apply the same principles to grow your business.

There are what I call “weedy people” out there. You know who I’m talking about. These are the people that try to sap your energy, your time, your money and all the good that you do. Some do it consciously trying to harm you. Most will do it without … Read the rest

Long-Term Care Insurance


Research the Options Before You Buy

The growing interest in long-term care insurance can be attributed largely to the aging of America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age in the United States was 35.9 in 2003 — the highest ever. This demographic shift is due to the 76 million Baby Boomers, the last of which will reach age 65 by 2030.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 40% of people aged 65 or older have at least a 50% lifetime risk of entering a nursing home. At a time when the average … Read the rest

A Milestone for the IRA


One of America’s most important retirement vehicles is now more than 30 years old — the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) — a tax-advantaged retirement vehicle for individual investors.

The IRA was first introduced as part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 and has grown to be one of the most popular retirement vehicles in America.

Over the years the importance of this investment vehicle has increased dramatically. Changes in the business landscape have forced individuals to pick up the reins of their retirement destinies, particularly as fixed-benefit pension plans continue to taper off and individual retirement … Read the rest

Following the Rules of “Netiquette”

Courtesy of PTRA President Joel Casaubon, what follows are some timely thoughts on reps’ effective use of the Internet.

I would like to take this opportunity to address an issue that has become near and dear to my heart, and I suspect this is an issue with many of us in these days of electronic communication. That issue is e-mail etiquette — or, as I like to call it, “netiquette.”

The Internet has brought a whole new meaning to the way we communicate with each other. In a way it is a wonderful thing, because it has made it extremely … Read the rest