I have talked with and met with thousands of reps over the last three years, and I have asked many times, “What are the biggest challenges facing your rep firm?” I have also asked, “How is your business?” Most have answered “down,” but some in the room say “Up!” Of course, I ask why.
Those reps reply with a common thread of doing things differently, making difficult changes and diversifying their businesses. Most also respond with the two words that have seemed to escape some people: “hard work.” Yes, more sales calls, more cold calls, new accounts, and new directions: also known as “change.” You must change. Some ideas and strategies that MANA has provided (that we know lead to success) are the following:
- Professional development and rep educational opportunities — make yourself better.
- Networking with other reps at MANAFest, at local all-rep meetings, and MANA Professional Development Forums.
- Diversifying your product offerings, focusing on your customers’ wants and needs.
- Representing foreign manufacturers and even buying/selling products.
- Selling services to customers, and/or getting fees for services from manufacturers.
- Over-communicating to all customers, manufacturers, dealers/ distributors and your team.
- Making more sales calls, seeing more people, making more connections.
- Using social media and social networks to enhance relationships in all areas.
- Greatly improving time management by examining all you do and implementing new tools.
- Focusing on performance and results, and planning and visualizing successful outcomes.
I often ask reps a couple more questions: “Do you have a mission statement? Do you conduct strategic planning?” It’s amazing how few do.
This is the perfect time of year to set aside several days and get away from the office, turn off your laptop and cell phone, and even turn off your reactive brain for a moment. Write or re-write your mission statement. Do a S.W.O.T. analysis, and conduct a what should we stop-start-continue exercise.
Conduct line profitability and time analysis of what you and your team do. Look at your sales tools, look at your systems, and look at everything and determine if it’s necessary or just nice. Look at making some change.
It’s OK, and it won’t hurt, I promise. I recall my days as a rep — we are so reactive, and we really don’t get to proactively plan what we are doing. This distracts us from focusing on important, proactive things.
MANA has templates and formats for strategic planning, and we can help. We will be conducting a webinar, “Strategic Planning for Any Size Rep Firm.” Please look for these details.
Remember, MANA is here for you, and we are your unified choice and the voice of the manufacturers’ rep function. Happy holidays and best of luck for planning a successful 2010.