The Technology Age

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Refrigerators with TV’s, unbelievable virtual reality games, computers that are the size of a pen, pens that recognize and save your handwritten notes, software that converts your handwriting into your own font… wow!

Entertainment aside, there are some valuable tools that all reps should consider. To be a good road-warrior rep, here’s a short list of hardware technology you should have:

  • PDA-phone that gets e-mail.
  • Laptop.
  • Wireless/remote connection.
  • Personal recorder or device with message-to-self ability.
  • GPS system in your car.
  • Maybe a digital camera.

Taking it to the next level, advanced ideas might include a video camera, travel printer or all in one printer-fax-scanner, radar detector (or a helicopter!).

Important systems and software internal to your rep firm should include CRM software for reporting (remember that data is king). You want an easy method for salespeople to frequently update the database and a module in the database that includes new business opportunity tracking with emphasis on action items. You should also have a sales/commission tracking software with future payment analysis. Be sure to have redundant servers and/or uninterruptible power supplies actively in place.

It is also important to get industry and market data on your territory in order to better analyze trends and provide feedback and ideas to your principals.

Because we are bombarded with new technology and so much information, we must first determine what information is necessary. It is important to convert the information into useful data and then streamline it into valuable knowledge that will help you succeed at your specific mission. Try not to lose focus or get distracted by all the noisy information.

Reps are “communication experts.” And as an expert, you have to be able to easily access the data and information necessary to supply great knowledge — knowledge that is up to the minute, accurate and reliable. Remember to focus on the knowledge that is important to your customers. And remember, it’s still all about communication.

“High Touch” vs. “High Tech”

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Several articles in this issue of Agency Sales advocate the importance for reps to embrace the use of technology in their business and personal lives. However, having just returned from a national conference for association executives, I can’t help but be reminded of the continued benefits of “high touch” over “high tech” when it comes to personal development.

In attending this conference, we were able to more readily identify some of the reasons that in-person professional development forums are so important. They:

  • Provide a venue to network with others in your profession.
  • Communicate what’s new.
  • Reinforce the importance of what
  • Read the rest

Powertools for Profit and Productivity

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As an independent manufacturers’ rep, you need a competitive advantage. Okay, okay — you’ve been in the field for 1,000 years, you know your stuff, your persuasive powers can coax a hungry dog off a meat truck, and you’re good-lookin’ on top of that!  However, to get that extra boost, you need technology. Not just a bunch of gadgets and contraptions but the tools that will help you leverage your ability to increase productivity and profitability.

In an economy that is going through struggles, you want to be able to turn on a dime, change course and operate from anywhere … Read the rest

Buying Time With the Currency of Technology

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This article is reprinted with permission from the Winter 2008 issue of The Partner Channel magazine.

Time — it seems we never have enough of it. In this day of “high tech,” we sell technology but we don’t always use it to make ourselves more effective in our own daily business activities.

About four years ago, I set out to test the notion that I could be more productive using the standard readily available “tools,” including Microsoft Outlook and Office. What I found was a world of difference between how we as businesspeople currently operate our computers and how we … Read the rest

How Motivating Is a Commission Cut?

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I confess. In a past life as general manager of a division of a Fortune 500 company with an outsourced sales force, I was tempted to cut rep commissions in response to global competition and the falling sales of a mature product line. The other bright idea I had was to “save” over $100,000 per year by making two major accounts house accounts. Fortunately, one of our best reps, who would not have been affected by the house account change, talked me out of both decisions. He used the same arguments I use here. If you are a manufacturing executive … Read the rest

Why I Love To Find My Competitor’s House Accounts

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As with many things in our business, house accounts are double-edged swords and thus can cut both ways. While reps dislike having them, personally I like to discover my competitors’ house accounts. To clarify, I’m not referring to the hybrid programs where dedicated direct sales staff and independent manufacturers’ representatives work as a team to capture all levels of available business. To be more precise, I’m referring to the principal that assigns a manufacturers’ representative to a territory, but holds back one or more customers as so-called “house accounts,” or customers that will be managed directly by the principal.

The … Read the rest

The Costs of Poor Rep Selection

Preparation pays off in more ways than one.

Selecting a manufacturers’ representative is just as important as hiring an employee. Say what? You can’t be serious!

An employee starts costing me money the day I hire him.  A rep pays all of his own expenses from day one and doesn’t cost me a dime until he sells something and I send him a commission check. If I make a mistake in hiring an employee it can take me months to find out. Then I have to go through the agony of terminating him or her and recruiting, interviewing, and hiring … Read the rest

Quality of Customer Service Is Key to Rep Firm Survival

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If you read the trade magazines or articles and postings on the Internet, some “experts” believe that reps and other “intermediaries” will become unnecessary in the near future….

Considering the efforts of WalMart and other major buyers, it appears that many people would rather have the rep’s commission as a discount rather than have the rep’s services. And if you study research by academic experts, you know that “everyone” believes that direct salespeople know much more about selling the company’s products than reps do — that buyers would much prefer to have a “factory salesperson” than a rep.

So why Read the rest

How Much of a Rep’s Time is Enough?

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A roundtable discussion made up of manufacturers and reps tackled the subject of synergistic sales calls late this summer. There was no shortage of responses when the question was asked, “Do manufacturers give credence to the theory that every call a rep makes is a relationship call for the manufacturer regardless of whether their line is presented or not?”

One participant offered, “It’s a 50/50 proposition. If the rep doesn’t actually present one of his lines in the course of the call, he’s still in front of the customer, and at the same time he’s gathering information concerning the customer’s … Read the rest

The Importance of Relevance in Relationship Marketing

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Being relevant is one of the most powerful ingredients in building successful business relationships. If you become — here’s that horrible word — boring, you are toast in today’s world. Stay alive. Be relevant for others and find ways to make their lives better.

“Stop it already! I don’t have time for yet another blog, news story, article, podcast, video on the internet, social networking meeting, blah, blah, blah. Yikes! I am inundated with so many choices that it drives me nuts.”  Maybe you can relate.

We’re all swamped with so many things going on. Your customers are in the … Read the rest

Protecting Your Assets

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“The only reason most American families don’t own an elephant, is that they have never been offered an elephant with no down payment and easy monthly payments.”

Your Safe Deposit Box Contents

Over 250 banks had their safe deposit boxes flooded and the contents damaged or lost during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Also, over 1,300 box holders lost their valuables on 9/11/01 when a Chase vault in the World Trade Center was destroyed. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation does not insure the contents of boxes. Unless they are insured under your homeowner’s policy—the contents may not be insured at all! … Read the rest

A Trust for Every Purpose

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As the year draws to a close, many people take time to reflect on their financial circumstances and to plan ahead, making provisions for their future needs and those of their loved ones. As part of your year-end planning exercise, take a moment to consider what would happen to your assets and surviving family if you were no longer able to care for them. Then consider the potential benefits of setting up a trust. Trusts are an effective means of helping protect important assets, providing for beneficiaries and managing taxes. And, contrary to popular belief, trusts are not just for … Read the rest