Happy New Year?


The Best Practices and Best Habits of the Best Reps in These Troubled Times

Let’s face it and start calling it like it is — our economy is in troubled times. The changes slated for the year ahead are uncertain, at best. These concerns reverberated loudly in the results of our recent Five Minute Survey (FMS). “The Economy and Uncertainty” far outranked the others as the biggest challenge for 2009. Upon seeing the responses, I immediately put a call in to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; unfortunately he told me that there is no rep bailout package!

Some salespeople have difficulty handling tough times or bad news. Those people would often rather stick their head in the sand and hope the difficulties will automatically improve or go away. Whether you grab it by the horns or opt for the duck-and-cover, learning how to gracefully handle change is one of the key habits of successful reps. Here’s my list of the best habits and best practices of the best reps. As you read through the list, I hope that you are able to
check off each item as something both you and your rep firm currently practice.

The best reps:

  • Are professional and ethical.
  • Act with integrity even in tough times when others maybe react desperately.
  • Are communications experts.
  • Realize that ‘sales is a contact sport’ and make more sales calls in tough times.
  • Network with lots of other reps.
  • Over-communicate with manufacturers in tough times.
  • Motivate themselves and motivate others.
  • Don’t blame or use excuses, and face the biggest challenges with new ideas.
  • Are not afraid to try something new and different.
  • Are change engaging.
  • Realize that business and industries always have cycles.
  • Accept the fact that they are in the ultimate risk/reward business.
  • Save for a rainy day when times are good.
  • Seek opportunities for their own professional development.
  • Know their industry, their market and especially know all of their accounts.
  • Know what their customers want (ask!).
  • Know their customers’ customer.
  • Invest in education for themselves and their employees.
  • Conduct annual strategic planning.
  • Have a succession plan for their business.

Continuously look for diversification opportunities with new products, new customers, new territories, buy-sell, selling services, becoming a “customer” representative, starting to assemble, and more.

Take a good look — be candid and open. We need to communicate and get the word out: manufacturers’ reps and outsourced professional field sales are still the best way to go to market. We need to promote and protect the function together. Invest in your future, network with reps, and remember that you are not in this alone.

So, go work harder, engage change, look for new and different opportunities, diversify, plan, be creative and look forward. Don’t strive to survive — opt to thrive! Create a reason to celebrate and have a safe, healthy and happy new year!

The Habits of Salespeople


The main focus of this issue is based on “The Habits of Highly Effective People.” I don’t know if the right number of habits is 7, 10, 50 or 1, but what I do know is you have to have some good, consistent habits to be successful.

We often associate habits as negative things — smoking, it’s a habit; being late, a habit I must change, etc. There are good habits as well, and if salespeople find and adopt these, they can be very successful. For the most part, they are simple things, and if we listen to our customers … Read the rest

The Ten Traits of Effective Reps


As planning began for this issue of Agency Sales, a book published a few years ago presented the framework for a series of articles that would address attributes independent manufacturers’ representatives must exhibit if they are to be successful. Admittedly, the book — entitled Ten Traits of Highly Effective Principals: From Good to Great Performance, by Elaine K. McEwan — is not aimed at the rep profession. In fact, its target audience is education. However, the title of the work and the “attributes” that are included provide a perfect fit for a series of articles.

The first two … Read the rest

Maximizing Communication


“More business is lost as a result of poor communication than any other practice.” Those words serve as a sobering introduction to a discussion of the need for the independent manufacturers’ representative to be an effective communication practitioner.

According to Harry Abramson, a rep veteran and regular contributor to Agency Sales magazine, “If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of my career, it’s the need for the rep to be a regular and effective communicator.”

Any talk of communication, according to Abramson, begs the question of whether or not reps are effective communicators. “Without effective communication on our part, … Read the rest

Domination — Going Beyond Recession Survival


People behave in contradictory ways during times of stress — like during a recession. Too many managers in too many companies become paralyzed by fear or indecision. Recessions are part of business cycles, just like growth periods. Thus, managing during a recession is part of a manager’s job — perhaps the most important part.

But what should managers do differently? The answer is “a lot,” but not “everything.” If, as a manager, you have managed through recessions before, you may remember what to do, assuming you did the right things. If not, consider this short story.

A man was walking … Read the rest

Beware of the Multi-Tasking Myth


The Los Angeles-area (September 2008) head-on collision of a passenger train with a freight train that killed 25 people was a horrific event. The first thing that comes to many people’s mind must be, “How can two trains have a head-on collision in this technologically advanced day and age?”

Technology apparently was — and wasn’t — the culprit. The train system technology was working quite well. It unfortunately was competing for mind-share with personal technology — cell phone usage. Accident investigators are honing in on the theory that the engineer of the passenger train was text-messaging his friends and may … Read the rest

Building Business Through Quality Referrals


Keeping the pipeline well stocked with new prospects and opportunities is a critical prerequisite for sales success. For many salespeople, it means spending a substantial amount of time on the phone, cold calling prospects who may not even want to speak to them. For most people, this activity is a necessary evil (at best) and they would gladly trade off for more time spent with their customers.

For a few exceptional sales professionals, a well-stocked pipeline is a reality. They have been able to achieve a continuous, seemingly effortless flow of new prospects and customers, all while investing less time … Read the rest

How to Unleash the Power Within You


Think about how successful you could be if you tapped into the limitless resources that you possess to become innovative, responsive and results-oriented. After 25 years in sales and sales management, I have discovered the forces that work against us originate from within. These restraining forces keep us from excellence. They leave us with excuses and weak justification for subpar performance.

You know what excellence is. You have seen glimpses of it in yourself. How to sustain excellence is the key question. Everything you need is within you. Learn and apply these steps of the “unleashing process” and you will … Read the rest

Feedback — Welcoming Complaints


A manufacturer reports that he knows there are always problems out in the field. However, when he never hears anything about them, he knows he’s got an even bigger problem. That’s why he’s constantly encouraging his reps to bring him a steady flow of problems and complaints. “The reps are my eyes and ears out there. If I’m not hearing anything from them then I know they’re not seeing or hearing what’s going on in the territory. It doesn’t take long for reps to learn that I’m being straight with them because as soon as I hear something isn’t going … Read the rest

Tech Tools to Make the Rep’s Job Easier


Small Recorder Gets Results

Recently I had the opportunity to review the H2 Handy Recorder from Zoom. This diminutive professional recorder is designed for on-the-go professionals who need studio-quality audio. It is used a lot with recording artists and for capturing group singing (think choirs, social gatherings, etc.).

However, this device also has some serious capabilities for mobile professionals who want to tap into the power of the net for relationship marketing. For example, you can record audio of satisfied customers and then post those testimonials to your website. You can also use it to record instructions. (Chances are, you … Read the rest

Tax and Financial News


“All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.”

More Leaky Tax Shelters

You will recall all the troubles that befell the national CPA firm of KPMG, for very aggressively designing and selling “tax shelters” that the IRS later ruled were fraudulent. After paying a fine of well over $400 million, KPMG is still in business. Related to such organizations, were the law firms that gave legal opinions that these tax shelters (“more likely than not”) would be approved by the IRS. WRONG!

Among the more prominent was the … Read the rest