The Great Salespeople

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Do you have them on your team? How do you find them, hire them, train them and keep them?

If you think about it, Rep owners are quick to hire, and long to fire their salespeople. We don’t have a Human Resources Department (or person) to do the search, screening and selecting, and this causes some reps to neglect the very important steps of hiring a new salesperson:

  • Interview an ample amount of candidates. More is sometimes better, just to get you (back) in the groove of conducting a good interview process. Don’t rule out everyone by their resume, especially if it lacks some experience. We put ourselves in a box, and sometimes cause good candidates to not apply if we say, “10 years of proven sales success required.”
  • Interview well and hard. Don’t give the candidates a bunch of softball questions. Find out who they really are, and ask them tough questions and give them difficult hypothetical situations to see how they react. “Heck, don’t you have a bunch of history of tenuous meetings with customers and principals?”
  • Conduct a personality dynamic inventory. They are not expensive. See AxiomOne.com or call Mike Norton, or better yet, come see his presentation at MANAfest! This tool tells you unbelievably accurate information about your final candidates. It makes a solid yes/no recommendation on hiring people.
  • Reference checks are a must. Sometimes we get to this point, and we like the candidate so much, we just hire them. Don’t do this without extensive reference checks, including contacting people who are not on their reference list. If they told you that they called on specific customers or distributors, and you know these accounts — call them. Most people on their list are going to give them glowing reviews, and you might get more honesty from calling a candidate’s mother. Call all of their previous employers which typically are not listed as references.

OK, now you have hired them, what next? In the past, we used to say, “Here are the car keys, here’s your cell phone, here’s a bunch of literature and samples — now go sell a bunch of stuff!” Training is key, and even though it is tough to afford today, I strongly suggest that your salespeople visit all of your top factories. This is for application training, but it is more important that they meet and spend time with the people at that factory. (This is also key!) Take them on lots of sales calls with you and with your other salespeople (if you have others). Constant coaching is a must and you need to give them all of the tools to succeed. Continuous feedback and over communicating is the best.

In the times we face today, it’s tough to motivate even the best salespeople. Everyone in your firm needs to look for diversity and ways to differentiate your offerings and your position with customers. On an extremely positive note, there are lots of really good and talented salespeople looking for jobs today. Yep, I know, “how do you afford to hire them today?” Maybe there are some creative plans that you could work out with them, based on future dollars and successful growth. They are hungry — think about it!

Be open and honest with all of your employees, and be candid about their performance. Be certain that their expectations are clear, to them. Many employee issues are more related to the lack of clear expectations and performance objectives, rather than to them not having the capability and talent to do the job well.

Staying Alive

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The hit song “Staying Alive” keeps playing in my head as I work my way through 2009. As the economy continues its daily challenges and business remains tougher to come by, I know I’m not alone in this feeling.

I and the other reps I know are working harder than ever at communicating with our principals, making sales calls and writing quotes. The results, however, aren’t as rewarding as in the past as many jobs get tabled or otherwise canceled. It’s tough to put the image of spinning our wheels out of my head.

If I’ve learned anything through these … Read the rest

In Search of the Right Salesperson

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As Mike Norton considers how and where rep firms can find, train and retain salespeople for their organizations, he echoes the words of others when he expresses optimism about the future of the rep profession. Norton is a partner in AxiomOne, a company that provides diagnostic and evaluation tools to assist in the hiring process.

According to Norton, “For the next five years at least, I see great opportunities for reps. I believe manufacturers will turn to reps — as they already are in great numbers — because reps are such a flexible sales force. Those numbers turning to reps … Read the rest

1001 Resumes: Finding the “Needle” in a Resume Haystack

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The word on the street is “cutbacks,” but getting sales is still the name of the game. One small business recently needed a new salesperson for a very good territory. The owner placed ads in all of the electronic vehicles, local papers and industry publications, as well as industry websites. The results were overwhelming.

If résumés and inquiries were dollar bills, the company would have found a new stream of revenue. Now the owner and his associates faced a huge challenge; they were thrilled to have choices, but they did not want to choose the wrong person for this important … Read the rest

In “Blank” We Trust Rethinking Trust and Its Role in Business

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With billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money, how much do you trust the leadership of the banks that, after record losses, gave themselves unprecedented raises? How much do you trust the leaders of Wall Street? How much do you trust our government’s ability to manage the money they have given to the banks or the auto industry? How much do you trust the leaders of the auto industry to do the “right thing” with the bailout money?

This growing lack of trust can have serious consequences as we try to reverse the economic meltdown and bring about positive change Read the rest

Failure Wins “Best Teacher” Award

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Remember John Delorean? He was the superstar General Motors executive who started the Delorean Motor Company. When the company began to falter, he was arrested and charged with complicity in a drug deal that some speculated was an attempt to raise money to prop up the company.

All of this was big news in Detroit, where I was living at the time. One particularly insightful article in the Detroit News theorized that he had been supremely successful his whole life, and thus never learned to deal with failure. His development was stunted by a lack of failure in his life. Read the rest

The 10 Traits of Effective Reps, Part V

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In the January issue, we began a series of articles examining the traits needed for an independent manufacturers’ representative to be successful. The traits are borrowed from a book entitled Ten Traits of Highly Effective Principals: From Good to Great Performance, by Elaine K. McEwan.

The Final Phase of Construction

When asked about the need for the independent manufacturers’ representative to serve as an activator, Charley Cohon, CPMR, makes an analogy with the process of mixing epoxy in order to stress the importance of this trait.

“When you mix epoxy,” explains Cohon, President, Prime Devices Corporation, Glenview, Illinois, “you’ve Read the rest

Are We Repeating the Same Errors that Caused the Great Depression?

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It was hardly surprising that independent manufacturers’ representatives in attendance at a conference conducted by the Manufacturers Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), Arvada, Colorado, left the presentation shaking their heads. When William Boyes, Ph.D., was done with his “Scoop on the Economy,” there appeared to be little room for optimism.

Boyes, a professor on the staff of Arizona State University, was one of four speakers earlier this year at a two-day conference at Arizona State, Tempe, Arizona, entitled CPMR 401. The conference was aimed at continuing the training/education that reps receive during MRERF’s Certified Professional Manufacturers Representatives (CPMR) program.

The Read the rest

What Happens in Washington Could Affect Your Bottom Line

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President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress hit the ground running in 2009 with efforts to put the economy back on track. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offered a smorgasbord of tax and spending initiatives and some of them, such as an increase in the direct expensing allowance and the extension of the bonus depreciation, will help manufacturers’ agents that sell machinery to represent their manufacturers.

Now, we expect Congress to settle into a routine of dealing with issues in the “regular order.” For manufacturers’ agents, the remaining public policy agenda presents opportunities and threats.

On the positive side Read the rest

Reestablishing the Inside Connection

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Open Communication With Inside Sales Strengthens the Rep Bond

“We’ve always prided ourselves on the support our company has provided to our network of independent manufacturers representatives — that’s why when we began to hear some complaints, we paid attention.” That’s how one manufacturer was alerted to a weakness in his sales and marketing operation, and once alerted, he took quick action to correct the situation.

For years, according to this manufacturer, “We figured that our inside salespeople were doing all they could to support our outsourced sales network. However, over the course of two rep council meetings, the number … Read the rest

Convenience vs. Burden

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Learning to Break Free From Technology Overload

Technology has been a revolutionary thing over the past few years, allowing us to do many things once thought impossible. We can work from home; we can make phone calls from the grocery store; we can instantly communicate with people on the other side of the globe; we can seek out the latest trends; we can mobilize on issues we care about. It has enabled us to use our household wireless internet connection on our laptop to send emails while we catch up on our favorite TV shows, to conference into a meeting … Read the rest

A Sprinkling of Business and Tax Tidbits

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“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin

Business Loss Prevention Tips (i.e., “Stealing”)

Here is a brief and excellent summary of some basic ways to help prevent business thefts:

  • Right now perform a background check on all employees working in check preparation and signing — and on all new employees in the future.
  • Segregate duties. Ideally, different individuals should perform check preparation; check signing and bank reconciliations.
  • Have someone other than the check preparer open bank statements and review them. (For very small firms we recommend
  • Read the rest