Advice?

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No thanks, I don’t need any — I already know everything.

Many people tell me that they have been in business for years, have grown their companies to great success, and then ask me “Why would I attend a conference, or go to a seminar, or network with others, or read a book?”

Advice is a great thing, and I have gotten lots of ideas, recommendations and counsel from many people in the rep industry. Most of it was great, and the worst I ever received was more humor than advice. When I first entered the rep business, my good friend Bill said, “The rep business is easy; it’s (only) about good lines and good people!” I believed him, although I’m not sure he had the word “only” in the sentence. His words are true, but there is much, much more to the business, as we are all now aware.

The best advice ever received was from my dad, Glenn, who said, “Sales is a contact sport.” How true that adage is (and has remained)! You need to continue to work harder to get face-to-face with your customers. In our rep firm, we used to measure the amount of real face time spent with customers; it was usually 20 percent or less. We worked hard to get more face time, especially with key decision-makers at our accounts. Even now, with the internet, customer defragmentation, mergers and acquisitions, it is still about relationships.

Creative Swiping

I firmly believe that the most successful people in business are the ones that always ask for advice and ideas. If you continue to ask and educate yourself, you will certainly learn new things to become a better and more professional salesperson. Most of the really effective sales and marketing tools and techniques that I employed in my rep days came from someone else, and with their permission, I did some creative swiping of some great ideas. Just a few of these golden nuggets were:

  • The Call Organizer: Jack Berman
  • VIP (Visiting Important Principal) Package: Gene Foster
  • Line Profitability Analysis: Dale Montgomery & Scott Lindberg
  • Year-End Letter to Principals: Bob Infanger

So, where do you go to get some good ideas? I’m glad you asked. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Agency Sales magazine: Great thoughts from great people.
  • MANA teleforums, webinars, blogs, special reports, and our website.
  • Educational events and seminars, and especially the CPMR and CSP programs.
  • Rep “no name” groups: Form a group with your rep friends and meet.
  • MANA telephone counseling: Just call us and see.
  • MANAFEST 2009 Conference, Las Vegas: May 31-June 3 of next year (the best place to go for advice!)

So my advice to you is to go get some. Get advice, give advice, creatively swipe and share your good ideas with others. Share and win. Equally important is to do something with the advice you get! It will make you better, make reps more professional, and raise the rep function higher.

Now go get some more face time with your customer — and sell something!

The Best and the Worst (Rep) Advice

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First, the worst advice. The worst rep advice I’ve received was a suggestion to enter into the industrial products markets at the same time everyone else was doing so. It seemed to be the next best thing to venture into. Wrong!

Now, the best advice. The best rep advice I’ve received was for our agency to remain within our own ‘synergistic continuum’. What?!

It basically means to remain within our safety industry and within the scope of the products and services of that specific industry only. It doesn’t mean (as we and others attempted) to venture out into a Read the rest

Gleaning Good Ideas for Greater Success

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is an apt way to describe the wisdom — or the lack thereof — in some of the ”bon mots” that have been shared with these entrepreneurs.

The following two reps have learned the importance of keeping angry customers, or customer complaints, in perspective. As Dave Bartlemay, Bartlemay & Associates, Inc., Richmond, Indiana, says, “My father, who founded the agency fifty years ago, stressed the importance of knowing how to deal with an angry customer. He used to drill into me, ‘Remember, they’re not necessarily mad at you — rather, they’re upset with … Read the rest

Legal Aspects of Buying or Selling a Rep Firm — Part Two

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This second part of a two-part series is intended to provide a summary of the issues, steps, and mechanics involved in the purchase and sale of a sales representative agency. Last month, in the first segment, we discussed the letter of intent, confidentiality, due diligence, structuring a transaction and valuing the business. This second segment deals with the preparation of written agreements, covenants not to compete, consulting arrangements, third-party consents, the closing, and some final tips.

Preparing Written Agreements

Once the business deal has been made, someone has to put it in writing. The sophisticated buyer will usually insist that … Read the rest

7 Service Behaviors to Boost Your Bottom Line

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Kathryn walked into a prospective client’s office with low expectations of winning. In her mind, she knew the chance of her small marketing firm getting the nod for such a lucrative contract over her bigger, more established competitors was low.

When the senior vice president greeted her, Kathryn was pleasant but her enthusiasm and confidence level could be aptly described as “low voltage.” The meeting wasn’t terrible, but Kathryn was correct — it wasn’t going to win her firm a rainmaking contract. And it didn’t. Poor Kathryn.

Question: What do the weather and how old you are have in common?… Read the rest

Sustainability — A Half-Century Long

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When asked how and why his agency has been able to sustain an enviable pattern of growth and success for half a century, Dave Bartlemay is quick to note that Bartlemay & Associates, Inc., is hardly your typical rep agency. “There are a wealth of reasons for our success,” he maintains, “but high on the list is the fact we’re not like other rep firms; rather, we’re account managers and sales engineers. We do much more than just sell and market products and services.”

Bartlemay, who heads the Richmond, Indiana-based firm, notes, “From the very beginning, our business hasn’t been … Read the rest

Strategic Prioritization Pays Off

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It may be a popular advertising slogan — our customers are our number one priority — but as a manager, buying into that strategy will actually reduce your effectiveness and damage your business. I learned it the hard way.

More than 15 years ago, when I started my customer service speaking and training business, I was my only employee. I was doing everything: delivering speeches and seminars, strategic planning, handling suppliers, and of course taking out the trash. When writing my lengthy “to-do” lists, I’d always rank customers as being my number one priority. Unfortunately, it took me five years … Read the rest

Self-Sabotage — the Cause and the Cure

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The many ways in which salespeople sabotage their own efforts range from obvious mistakes, such as blaming customers when their own products and services do not deliver as promised, to very subtle insults hidden in the things that we say to customers.

On the self-sabotage spectrum, it’s easy to recognize the obvious “I should have known better” mistakes that damage relationships with customers. The far more common and harmful situations occur when our words and actions insidiously erode the customer’s trust and personal credibility that we work so hard to establish. In this article, I’ll focus on how to solve … Read the rest

“Tailor-Made” Programs Pay Off

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One manufacturer learned about the pitfalls of offering the same marketing/promotion programs to all of its reps. “Thankfully, we’ve always been pretty good about listening to what our reps tell us. We began to get an earful from several of them when they complained about how we were rolling out some marketing plans. While we had done a great deal of preparation for the program, we didn’t do what we should have in terms of getting their advice.”

“As a result, we shouldn’t have been surprised when we didn’t get the results we were looking for. None of our reps … Read the rest

Developing a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

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“Life is tough. Life is tougher when you’re stupid.” — John Wayne

Well, the Duke said it right, even if it is a bit rough. Life can be very tough. It’s not that “they” are out to get you. Frankly, “they” don’t care about you. Others are interested in their own problems and life. However, if you get in their way, they will do whatever is necessary to see that they succeed.

Relationship marketing encompasses key principles for success, that work. These principles embody helping others meet their needs. That is how true success happens. When you can help others … Read the rest

A Collection of News and Views

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“The best computer is man, and it’s the only one that can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.”

Phony E-mails

The use of e-mails for fraudulent means has increased tremendously. After all, it’s easier to steal personal information while sitting home at your computer than sifting through garbage for credit card slips, stealing credit card applications from your mail, etc. So these crooks don’t just use fake IRS notices to get all your personal information, but every kind of important-looking notice you can imagine! In fact, many of them actually appear to be from credit card companies themselves.

Here are the … Read the rest

Eliminate Debt and Save Money?

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It’s All About Getting a Plan

With widespread concern about the value of homes, rising health care costs and the general outlook for the economy, now more than ever, Americans need to set a new course with regard to managing their household finances.

Debt Facts & Figures

There are two stories of debt in this country. One describes an America that is knee-deep and sinking:

  • Today U.S. consumers are carrying more than $900 billion in credit card balances.1
  • The average credit card debt load is $9,659 per household.2
  • Of cardholders carrying debt, more than one in 10 say
  • Read the rest