The main ingredient for growing sales is the right relationships; it’s all about having the right partner.
Here at MANA, one of our greatest goals is to help members build strong relationships so they can grow their businesses. After years in the industry, we have developed some key practices for doing just that.
When looking for the right partner, you must treat the search, interview and selection as though you are hiring a key executive for your own company. This ensures that the key values and standards held by your company are present in your new partnership.
Cultivating these new connections is the critical first step. We often recommend several great tactics to get you started, including using the MANA RepFinder database; advertising in Agency Sales; asking other reps, customers and distributors; and building a solid initial list of potential colleagues from which to work.
Next do your research. View their websites and line cards to determine fit, synergies and complementary products. This is your opportunity to gain as much information as possible before you reach out to them.
Now call them! As many of you have experienced, its not likely that a potential new business partner is going to respond to just another email that appears to be no different than the hundreds of others they’ve received this month. Pick up the phone, talk to them, and if they are not interested, ask them, “Do you know someone else that might be a good fit for us?” People know people in the business — manufacturers and reps.
After calling and narrowing your list again, get on an airplane and go visit! You must get eye-to-eye with each candidate; see their people and operations; thoroughly discuss the territory, targets, marketing efforts and expectations; and candidly share information about strengths and weaknesses. Also review your products, policies, people and the terms and conditions of your Principal-Rep Agreement contracts. Know exactly what you’re looking for and go prepared. A second round of interviews in-territory can be of great benefit also. Bring more of your team, or invite the final candidate(s) to visit your headquarters.
Then, make your decision. Now the real work begins for everyone on the team. Keep your new relationship growing and healthy. Lead and motivate; don’t manage and control. Once you have teamed up, set mutual goals and expectations. Develop strategies for breaking down any obstacles to capturing new sales in emerging markets and with new accounts or growing business at your existing accounts. The total focus needs to be on the customer. Be patient, be persistent, but most of all, be fair and reasonable.
In these times of required change, the need for strong, dynamic partnerships is abundant. Be proactive, grow together and keep planning for success. Stay focused on income-generating efforts that help to build a more mutually beneficial enterprise.
Best of success for enhancing and establishing the right relationships and growing sales in 2010.