The Recipe for Growing Sales

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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.

Manufacturers Who “Get It”

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Let’s be clear: “it” refers to going to market using professional independent manufacturers’ representatives and the process of hiring and managing these reps. To illustrate the process, I will discuss a recent personal experience with a manufacturer who “gets it.”

The principal is a European manufacturer of large size, long lead-time, custom engineered and custom tooled products. They have a small business presence among various OEM customers scattered throughout the U.S. Their goal was to hire three experienced reps to service existing customers and expand their business. Following are the steps they took to achieve this goal.

Rep Finds It’s Easy Bein’ Green

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The pressure is on for businesses to “go green.” Manufacturers can choose to sell through reps for a cost and energy-saving sales force, while reps can make simple changes to lessen their own impact on the environment.

More than 30 years ago, Frank Sinatra and Kermit the Frog put a relatively negative spin on being green in their popular renditions of “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Mike Jandacek, however, takes a decidedly positive stance when he considers the benefits of being a green rep.

Jandacek, American Industrial Solutions, Batavia, IL, considered, while en route to visit a customer, the contributions … Read the rest

Getting a Head Start on the Competition

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People are breathing a little easier and the mood is becoming more optimistic. Some “experts” tell us, “The worst is behind us.” Yet, spending time convincing ourselves that the “cup is half full” is both an irresistible and totally useless exercise. It wastes personal and business resources, while not changing a thing, and diverts us from taking positive action.

It you want to get a head start on the competition in the year ahead, here are several tools that will help you make a difference in 2010.

Sleeping Companies Will be Playing Catch Up

If you’re expecting the economic tide … Read the rest

Gathering Information About Your Competitors

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As salespeople, we love to complain about the competition. Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t do us any good. A better approach is to create a system to learn about them. Knowledge of the competition — not only their strengths and weaknesses, but also their patterns and tendencies — will provide you with a distinct advantage and prevent you from being seriously outmaneuvered.

This happened to me. To this day, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach as I remember the day when I lost my largest account to my arch competitor. It was an account that made up 20% of … Read the rest

Reps to the Rescue

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MANA and reps come to the rescue, aiding principals in understanding how to develop mutually beneficial relationships.

We are hearing a lot lately about manufacturers that “get it.” When I had my manufacturers’ rep business, I was fortunate to work with several principals that “got it,” and without exception, they were very successful companies. I began thinking, “What is it about these companies that makes them this way?”

About 15 years ago, I was interviewing a prospective principal that came highly recommended by a fellow rep. He told me it was a great company, one that got it. We reached … Read the rest

What Will 2010 Hold for MANA Members?

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A futurist’s look at what might happen for your business in 2010 — and some questions that could keep you thriving regardless of what happens.

There is no shortage of experts pontificating about the future this year. By now you have heard that the economy will take off like a bullet or will drop like a rock; health-care will pass or it will fail; and cap and trade will save the planet — but global warming is nonexistent. With so many conflicting opinions, who are you to listen to?

The best expert to listen to when it comes to how … Read the rest

Keys to Social Media Marketing Success

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Social Media Marketing (SMM) is the latest buzz in the marketing and public relations realm. And as with any new pub­licity tool, people have a wealth of questions on how to best utilize it.

SMM takes viral marketing to the extreme. Just as you can send friends your favorite jokes via e-mail, with SMM people can spread your message for you, with just the click of a button. It’s a good type of “virus” that you hope your mes­sage gets infected with.

In order to ensure that SMM works for you in a positive way, you need to employ some … Read the rest