On Becoming A Consultative Seller


I started my professional career as an engineer at Hills Brothers Coffee. Twelve years later I left and went into sales for a small distributor. My boss sent me to the Dale Carnegie Sales School. Those old enough remember back then it was “features and benefits.” That worked and I made a living.

In 1994, as a manufacturers’ rep, I signed an agreement with a new principal. They required all of their manufacturers’ reps to go through a consultative selling course. Even though they paid my
expenses, I went dragging my heels. I sold for over 20 years, I was a pro, and nobody could teach me how to sell.

Wrong! In four days, I bought into the consultative selling approach, hook, line and sinker. I significantly changed how I worked with customers.
I no longer “sold” them anything. I helped them solve problems. If I successfully solved their problems, I earned commissions. Not only that, but the customers came back to me when they needed my help solving new problems. I earned more commissions.

I felt far more comfortable and confident in this new role as a problem solver. Sales grew significantly. I realized that my line card had to represent companies that enhanced my reputation as a problem solver. I avoided those that turned me into a problem creator. Those principals who enhanced my problem solving reputation worked with their reps as partners. We worked as a team. We trusted each other and our customers trusted us.

Consultative selling requires hard work and dedication but is well worth the effort. You develop a sense of purpose that feels great. That sense of purpose has to be genuine; customers spot a phony a mile away. You earn their trust and you never let them down.

The number of manufacturers’ reps I speak with who never took any formal sales training never ceases to amaze me. Find someone in your area that offers a consultative course and sign up. You will not regret the decision. You are never too old to learn. I thank that principal for making me and their other reps take the course. They invested quite a bit in this program but they reaped a huge return.

Ironically, as I write this editorial, I saw an article on page 10 by Tom Wentz of Corporate Performance Systems, Inc. Turns out, he taught the consultative selling course I attended 16 years ago.

Consultative Selling


BusinessDictionary.com Definition:

Personal selling in which a salesperson plays the role of a consultant. He or she first assists the buyer in identifying his or her needs, and then suggesting products that satisfy those needs.

In his book, Spin Selling, Neil Rackham came to an interesting and somewhat unexpected conclusion. After observing thousands of sales calls he found that the best salespeople were not necessarily the best talkers, they were the best listeners. Rackham found that the best salespeople had a higher listen-to-talk ratio and they used the classic questions, who, what, how, when and whereRead the rest

Different Has Arrived “Visioning”


We ended the article in the March issue of Agency Sales magazine with the question, “What does different look like?” and I suggested that this is a very important question for every manufacturer, rep firm, agent, community, state and our nation. It is the single most important question for every young person today.

Have you ever asked your young son or daughter, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” How many answered, “A manufacturers’ rep?” What an amazing phenomenon that there are thousands of reps/agents like us and no child has ever answered the “Want to Be?” … Read the rest

An Alternate View of Consultative Selling


Introduce the subject of consultative selling to Bob Gerrard and you might get a bit more than you expected. To establish a foundation for a discussion on the subject with the Mooresville, North Carolina, independent manufacturers’ rep, a definition of the practice is offered: “Personal selling in which a salesperson plays the role of a consultant. He or she first assists the buyer in identifying his or her needs, and then suggesting products that satisfy those needs.”

Gerrard, who with his son, Dave, represents leading manufacturers of dry bulk material handling systems and equipment for Gerrard & Associates, maintains that … Read the rest

Making The Family Business Work


If a history of family businesses has ever been written, it’s probably replete with anecdotal evidence that it’s hardly a slam dunk that family members can work together successfully.

Even the most cursory study of the subject will uncover examples of families that have allowed business concerns to split them apart, others that have plowed ahead only with the assistance of some fairly intensive counseling, and still more that have seen retirement plans drastically altered if not cancelled in the face of unsolvable problems.

Consider for a moment the ongoing experiences of Bob and Dave Gerrard, whose consultative selling perspectives … Read the rest

Identifying Needs: An Essential Skill For Successful Salesmanship


Of the various steps in the selling process, the most important is identifying the needs of customers or prospects. No single part of the process deserves more of your attention and study. Your ability to discover and interpret the needs of others is vital to your success. Careful! Don’t brush this off as an elaboration on the obvious. Human needs, complex as they can be, are the motivators of all human behavior. You can’t know too much about this subject. A few minutes of reading here will reveal essentials of the needs mechanisms. This will help you immeasurably in your

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Selected Backselling Opportunities and Good Planning Pay


There is a Tide in the Affairs of Independent Manufacturers’ Reps that Leads to Fortune

Each year every rep firm is presented with numerous backselling opportunities which, if carefully planned and executed can help the firm position itself with its key principals.

The goal of all backselling is to keep principals happy and keep them paying. Nothing is more important to a rep firm than happy principals. Smart reps acknowledge that principals are more important than customers. The principals are really customers.

Here are key opportunities for successful backselling. How does your firm do on a 1-10 scale with 10=perfect … Read the rest

Outrageous Marketing and Sales Ideas That Make Sense


“Outrageous” may seem like an indefensible stretch or, more likely, a deliberate attempt to attract attention. While it may be both, it’s also accurate because it expresses views that fly in the face of the traditional marketing and sales “truths” that are passed on to those who obey them, mostly without question.

If there’s to be progress, however, they deserve a hearty challenge, if for no other reason than to stimulate thinking and to break free from automatically believing that what we’re told is helpful.

At a time when customers are challenging us, we’re best served by questioning the tenets … Read the rest

Get the Decision-Maker on the Phone!


You need more meetings on your calendar and getting the decision‑maker on the phone is harder than ever. This guide offers proven techniques to ensure you connect.

Call Again

It’s an embarrassment to the sales profession that I have to lead with this tip. If I had a nickel for every reasonable, professional voicemail I received from a sales professional that I simply did not have the time to talk to that particular day. Years ago, I returned everyone’s call regardless, but those days are long gone. Why do so many sales professionals call only once? If you try two, … Read the rest

Downsize Your Information How To Do It and Why


Statistics and experience demonstrate that 80 percent of what we have we never use.

In a time when businesses desperately need to reduce costs and increase productivity, keeping “information clutter” makes no sense. Consider these statistics:

• A company that employs 1,000 information workers can expect more than $5 million in annual salary costs to go down the drain because of the time wasted looking for information and not finding it, according to a study by IDC.

• A survey of 1,000 middle managers say they spend two hours a day searching for information and 50 percent of the information … Read the rest

Continued Practice of Consultative Selling

The focus of one of the articles in this issue of Agency Sales is the importance of consultative selling. In consideration of that subject, the following oft-repeated words come to mind: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

A full 10 years ago, Agency Sales magazine reported on a study covering the growing trend among reps to adopt the tenets of consultative selling. According to an article in the magazine, making the transition from product to consultative selling was the most frequent challenge faced by sales professionals — including manufacturers and their reps. Moving from a product

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Innovations Lessons From The Past For Us!


In 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte was posing a major threat to the powers that existed in Europe. The Austrians, the Russians, the British and probably a bunch of others didn’t like this uppity Corsican who had turned the French military into the dominant force. 

Austrian General Karl Mack von Leiberich was determined to stop this pesky little Napoleon and do it the right way. He knew from years of training and battle experience what was right and “proper.” He knew he would stop this menace to his known world with a massive amount of force (combination of the various powers) and Read the rest

Top Ten Reasons Why Reps Don’t Need Lawyers


Many reps would rather get a cavity filled than think about hiring a lawyer. I will explain the top ten reasons why manufacturers’ representatives don’t need lawyers.

I Have A Handshake Deal — That’s Good Enough

“Why bother with a written agreement — I have a handshake agreement with a guy I trust.”

This is one of the best reasons not to hire a lawyer. A deal is a deal, right, even if it is not written down?

Sort of. Sometimes verbal agreements are enforceable, but often they are not — or, if they are, they are subject to shorter … Read the rest

Here’s What You Can Do To Make Your Savings Last Longer Than You Do


Most people know what inflation is, but few truly understand how inflation can hurt them, especially when they’re saving and preparing for retirement. Quite simply, inflation is the measure of how much the things we buy increase in cost each year. During the past 30+ years, the inflation rate in the United States each year has ranged from less than 2% to more than 15%, with an average of more than 3.7% per year, compounded. That means that, with few exceptions, the cost of the things we buy goes up consistently.

Despite this fact, we hear relatively little about … Read the rest

New Jersey Chapter News

Eric Johnson was presented with the MANA award for delegate service to the association for the past years. The award was presented by Greg Bruno, MANA District 2 Director, at the February New Jersey Chapter Meeting.

Johnson served on the MANA Board of Directors, District 2, for two terms: May 2004-April 2010, on the Finance Committee for five years and as the committee chairman from May 2009-April 2010. He served on the Executive Committee from May 2006 through April 2008, the Contract Guidelines Committee from May 2007 to April 2009 and was a MRERF Trustee from May 2009 to April … Read the rest