Why Have Relationship Reviews?

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One of MANA’s highest priorities is helping manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers develop mutually profitable, interdependent and long-lasting relationships. Part of the process includes relationship reviews — rep and principal should constantly be reviewing each other’s performance with the goal of improving the relationship.

Improving the relationship involves both of you. On our own, we fail to see how others perceive our performance. We think we do okay, but unless someone comments on how we do something, we never know. We may do something we think is fine and it drives the other party nuts. They don’t say anything, and the relationship suffers.

An effective way to start the review process is for both parties to agree that they share the common goal — to improve the relationship. They agree also not to play the blame game.

We improve relationships in many ways. We act in a trustworthy and ethical manner, which certainly helps. Consider others, though. What about communication? Do you exchange useful and pertinent information that really helps the other party? You know where I’m going on this one already, don’t you? If the manufacturer requires call reports, replacing those with the exchange of useful information goes a long way to improve the relationship. An honest and open dialogue on what information is needed and why it’s needed creates a much better way of working with each other.

Other areas where we work with each other are territory visits by the principal. Plan those well and the relationship grows. “Wing it,” and the opposite happens.

As a former manufacturers’ rep, I experienced great relationships with some (not all) of my principals. I know they exist; I also hear this from current MANA members. Yet, when I speak with other members, I sense they believe really great relationships with principals are not possible. Change that belief and attitude. Give it a try; you may be very pleasantly surprised.

The Challenge of Communicating

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Communication between reps and principals can be challenging. Continually practicing good communication interchanges augmented by a well-developed trust relationship are inherent to success when the chips are down.

Let’s look at a common situation.

Principal to Rep: “What’s happening at the ABC Company account? I see sales are declining.”

Rep to Principal: “Lots of good stuff happening there, but my competitor, who is a rep for your biggest competitor, is breathing down my neck due to your price position.The business is in jeopardy ”

Interpretation —

Principal to Rep: “What are you doing for me at ABC Company?”

Rep to Read the rest

The Leadership Challenge Is To Create

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For 28 years I have been an agent for an international firm whose products and services are legendary. The mantra or motto of this firm is “Challenging people to think.” I have conducted sales and leadership workshops for almost every type of business in almost every industry represented by MANA’s membership. We have now arrived at a time that is unprecedented in our business history. The Industrial Age Business Model that has served as the basis of all thinking is burned out.

Think of a star in the heavens that is 50 light years away. If that star burns out, … Read the rest

Penguins Stay Cool As They Execute Change

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Ask any manufacturers’ representative to speak on the subject of
change and inevitably contributions will run along the lines of:

“The only constant is change.”
“I embrace change.”
“If you don’t change, you’ll go the way of the dinosaur.”

Even those who look for/embrace/entertain change will admit, however, that it’s one thing to be willing to alter the way you think and operate, but it’s quite a different thing to actually execute meaningful change.

Taking dead aim at change and the predicament many find themselves in when they attempt to execute change is a book entitled Our Iceberg is MeltingRead the rest

Inhaling Change

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Change is not only present in John Riley’s life, it seems to be omnipresent in every corner of his and his agency’s activities. In short order, here are some of the things where change has and continues to rear its head:

  • Regular informal reviews of the agency’s principals
  • Move to a new office
  • Adapting to a developing technology and the creation of a new website
  • Focus on the environment
  • The hiring of intermediate sales professionals
  • Formal alignment with other like-minded reps

As a result, to say that Riley, CPMR, embraces change is probably an understatement. To describe him and his

Read the rest

Sales Meetings: The Ultimate Rep Management Tool For Smart Manufacturers

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Does your company hold an annual sales meeting with your reps? If so, the meeting should be the focal point of your sales and marketing planning for the year. If you don’t hold a meeting at least every other year, you are missing a huge opportunity to improve your sales results.

The sales meeting provides a broad-based opportunity for a principal to exert influence over the rep team in a number of major areas.

First, the sales meeting is an opportunity to create esprit between the manufacturer’s team and the reps. Creating a bond based on knowing each other is … Read the rest

Where Is The Money? (Psst, The Government Has It!)

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Success in business is all about finding the money. In today’s economy, the private sector is reeling, but governments, both federal and state, seem to have money to spend and the desire to do so. The problem is that being a contractor or vendor to the government is a tough club to join. If you jump through the right hoops, and if you qualify, there are plenty of opportunities, but dealing with the bureaucracy can be a mind blowing experience.

In the fiscal year 2008, the federal government spent $550 billion for contracted goods and services. That’s a lot of … Read the rest

What To Look For In An Assistant Manager

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Great companies are populated by great employees. While a top general manager is necessary, it’s not sufficient for the genuine long-term success of any company or major operating division. Businesses that genuinely succeed and flourish over the long run have general managers who possess the vision, wisdom and courage to identify, attract, hire, and mentor great assistant managers.

Mark is an accomplished and respected general manager who, by and large, does an excellent job for his company. Like many, he also spends too much time on tasks that should be handled by assistant managers. Mark’s claims that he is “just … Read the rest

The Art of Making Sales From Those Who Do It Best

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While it’s certainly possible to teach people how to sell, it’s also possible to learn how to make sales from those who do it every day and do it successfully. Although they are so busy practicing their profession they’ve probably not thought of themselves as teachers, yet, they are the true experts and it’s their real world experiences as practitioners of the art of making sales that makes them so valuable.

Here are four salespeople whose stories clarify what selling is all about, and make it easy to see why they are successful.

Seeing Through the Eyes of the CustomerRead the rest

Selling Really is Simple!

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Now that I’ve punctured some of your misconceptions in previous articles about what sales is, and given you some ideas about what sales is not, it’s time to hone in on the good stuff. Here are a number of different definitions to help you come to grips with what selling really entails.

Selling is the Science of Helping People Get What They Want

If your prospective customer doesn’t want or need what you are offeringif it doesn’t fill some need in the customer — then you have no business engaging in the selling process with him. Now don’t … Read the rest

Can A Rep Be Too Successful?

One piece of baggage that many reps will never get rid of is the feeling that if they’re too successful for their principals, they are doomed to being terminated at some point. The thinking goes this way, according to one rep: “I built the relationships and grew the business that didn’t exist before. Unfortunately, once the manufacturer considered the size of the monthly checks he was sending me, he felt he could save money and serve my territory with a direct salesperson.”

Thankfully, not all manufacturers feel this way. That point was driven home when several manufacturers, who work exclusively … Read the rest

Web-Thinking the Better Way to Win

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Competition. We grew up with it. We were told this is the way things were, are, and will be. But in the last 20 or 30 years, a new business model has emerged which some call “web-thinking.” Like the World Wide Web and the spider web, it’s an image of connection rather than competition. And, like the Internet, many believe it has a better possibility of bringing us success in our business.

Web-thinking grew out of an observed problem which many people noticed as they were entering management and entrepreneurial positions. They saw the problems that a rat race mentality … Read the rest

If It’s Not in the Contract, It’s Not Part of the Deal

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Businesspeople often think that once they’ve discussed and agreed upon the deal with the other side, the written contract is simply a formality. They tell me it’s the relationship that’s key and the contract is for worst-case scenarios.

The contract is often considered “boilerplate.” In fact, how many times have you thought that yourself or heard the following in response to your question/ objection to a clause in your principal’s contract: “Don’t worry about that term; we won’t enforce it, it’s just boilerplate”?

The boilerplate can be very important and may even preclude prior agreements you’ve had with your principal. … Read the rest

When To Begin Taking Social Security Benefits

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When should I start drawing my Social Security benefits?

I’m asked this question more often than any other by my clients who are retiring before Social Security’s normal retirement age. They all want to know if they should begin receiving benefits early with a smaller monthly amount, or wait for a larger monthly payment later they may not receive as long. In answering this question for yourself, you should take the following factors into consideration.

You could consider drawing Social Security benefits early if:

• The financial challenges facing Social Security in the future, which I discuss in more … Read the rest

EAO’s Jill Raymond Honored for Excellence in Rep Support

Lance Scott, president of EAO Switch Corporation, recently presented on behalf of MANA member Pinnacle Marketing, Inc., the Jaime Koroslev Excellence in Rep Support Award for 2010 to their Inside Technical Support Staffer Jill Raymond. This award is given each year by Pinnacle Marketing, a southeast manufacturers’ representative firm, to an employee of one of their principals who they feel has unselfishly supported their sales efforts during the year.

The award is named in honor of the representative firm’s late employee Jaime Koroslev and this marks the 15th year this honor has been given. According to Pinnacle Marketing’s president, Doyle … Read the rest