Making the Field Visit Truly Productive

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“I have scheduled a trip into your territory next week to visit my house accounts, but I have some time left over so you need to fill the gaps in my schedule with some calls on your customers.”

Reps still get this kind of call once in a while, but less frequently now as today’s professional reps drive a trend toward more highly planned and efficient visits from remote principals.

A principal calling to launch a visit to the territory of a professional, efficient rep is going to hear a response like this:

“Great, we’ll look forward to having you here. And to be sure that we make the best possible use of your time, I’ll be forwarding a principal visit form for you to fill out. We’ll be asking you to identify:

  1. The specific goals for your visit so we can be sure we accomplish them,
  2. Any specific customers you’re particularly eager to meet with so we can get the right appointments,
  3. And, the topics you want to cover so those customers will be ready to discuss them.”

“We certainly want to make this a productive visit, so we’ll also ask you to identify a couple of different windows of time at least six weeks out so we can be sure our customers and all the resources you’ll need from our company are available.”

With that form in hand and the visit scheduled, the rep and principal also need to plan who will be doing most of the selling. Will the principal be taking the point position at customer meetings, or will the rep? Without that advance planning, the principal and rep may find themselves talking over each other, or arriving at the call with neither prepared to make the presentation.

It’s a brave new world since the days when the biggest concern during a principal visit was who would get the lunch check, and a more productive world now that planning for  productivity and efficiency trumps the cost of meals. (Although, for the record, a good rule of thumb is that whoever requested the meetings usually picks up most of the meal checks.)

And, in conclusion, to that principal whose visit to the territory was driven by the need to visit house accounts, we offer this reminder: The only good reason to visit a house account is to introduce the rep who is taking it over.

Taking Advantage of the Territory Visit

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While some independent manufacturers’ representatives view the territory visit/joint sales call from the factory as something they just have to “grin and bear,” if planned and executed properly there are plenty of benefits to be accrued from that exercise.

Sure, there are negatives such as the rep having to spend time away from more-pressing matters or the fact the manufacturer may not understand the rep’s need to sell other lines, but consider the potential positives for a moment. The territory visit might just be an ideal opportunity for the rep to:

  • Meet first-hand with senior factory sales personnel and take
  • Read the rest

Make Your SMART Goals WISE Goals

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As a leader, you’re used to setting goals. But are the goals you’re setting really as powerful as they could be?

Goals help us to cut through the clutter of a crowded mind and keep our thoughts on the things that matter most. They help us focus. To be effective, you can’t just set random goals the way many people do — long lists of wishes that pop up at random and eventually fall away. You can be smarter than that with your goals. Wiser. This article shows you how.

In the business world, we’ve been trained to set “SMART” … Read the rest

Share of Mind — Share of Time

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How reps must direct the manufacturers’ thinking by selling the multiple-line selling system.

How many times have you had a sales manager, regional manager or even vice president say “We want a greater share of your time!” That statement is usually followed by comments about the number of lines you have and how their line deserves more time.

Responding with a purpose

What should you say? What do you think the managers you deal with know about multiple-line selling? How often do you remind your principals of the benefits of multiple-line selling? Do you really understand this powerful tool yourself?… Read the rest

Planning for the Principal Territory Visit

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One of the themes in this month’s Agency Sales is principal territory visits to the rep. It is important that representatives are visited by the principal from time to time in order to conduct sales meetings, product training, or just to meet with new employees who have joined the agency. Look at these visits as a positive experience, a learning experience and a way to maintain and strengthen relationships with principals.

A principal’s visit to the territory can be one of the most important events in the selling process. However, in today’s challenging economy principals and reps report such visits … Read the rest

Great Leadership Starts With Leading an Organization of One

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All leadership begins with “self-leadership.”  Before any leader can aspire to lead a thriving enterprise they must first master leading an organization of one.

Tom and Susan are partners in the same firm and produce at a very high level.   Over the past five years Susan has not only outpaced Tom, but many of her senior partners as well.  What is most surprising about Susan’s performance is that her ascent to excellence was slow in coming, and Tom was very reluctant to open the doors of partnership to Susan after her lackluster performance during her initial years in the firm.… Read the rest

Can Your Managers Answer These Critical Questions?

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Would you ask the best violinist in the orchestra to take over conducting without any preparation to be a conductor? Probably not. And if you did, you wouldn’t have very high expectations for the orchestra’s performance. Yet this is exactly what most organizations do. They promote high-performing salespeople into management roles without preparing them to be confident and competent in the critical areas of coaching, motivating, and developing their people.

It’s not that companies don’t recognize the value of the manager’s role. When a group of sales executives was asked what was most important to improving sales performance, 88 percent … Read the rest

Are Today’s Leaders Prepared to Lead from a Distance? Six Things Managers Need to Know

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In a market fraught with uncertainty, many companies have focused on cutting expenses and increasing productivity and efficiency as a way to stem market share losses and reverse downward sales trends. This often means downsizing and reorganizing to reduce labor costs, eliminate redundancy, and better target scarce resources. In the process, offices have been closed, divisions and departments merged, employees dispersed, and leaders challenged to manage wider spans of control — often covering multiple locations. In the changed global business landscape, gaining competitive advantage will depend in part on the ability of business units, divisions, and functional departments to collaborate … Read the rest

Questions & Answers About Sales: The Worst Advice

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Q.  What is the worst single piece of advice to a salesperson you have ever heard?

A.  Wow.  I love this question. I don’t think I have ever been asked it before.

I can’t identify one single piece of advice. I’ll have to opt for two. I’m going to identify them, and then explain why I think they are so damaging. Here they are:

  1. Be yourself.
  2. Learn on your own by trial and error.
  3. Be yourself.

I just read, on one of the LinkedIn groups of which I am a member, a newly self-appointed sales trainer advising salespeople to “just … Read the rest

Looking for Territory Stability

It was a little bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy when one manufacturer described the difficulty he continually faced in filling direct sales positions in a number of his territories. According to the manufacturer, “It seems as if they (factory direct salespeople) can’t wait to get out the door. We just get them trained and attuned to developing relationships in a territory and then they either take another position in our company or leave the company entirely. It’s like being on a merry-go-round that keeps spinning people off.”

This manufacturer is hardly alone in facing this problem. This has long been … Read the rest

Do’s and Don’ts of Using an iPad on a Sales Call

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So you now own an iPad or other type of tablet and you’re wondering if you should use it on a sales call.

Here are some quick rules to consider:

Don’t use it just because you have one.

Who really cares?  Just because you own the newest electronic gadget doesn’t mean the customer you’re seeing doesn’t own one too — or worse yet, despises people who do own them.  It only makes sense to use one on a sales call if you have a purpose for using it.

Do use it if it simplifies your sales call.

Using an iPad … Read the rest

Protecting Your Rights Under the Contract

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It goes with saying you should make certain that your contracts with principals are as clear as possible. Should a dispute end up in court, your contract will be reviewed by a judge who is more familiar with legal concepts than with your business, much less how you and your principal actually dealt with each other. Your contract dispute may turn on how the judge applies what the law calls rules of construction.

You should know what these rules are.  You should consider them when you are negotiating a contract with a principal, considering a contract amendment or dealing with … Read the rest

A Powerful Sales Technique Courtesy of Honest Abe

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If you ask any historian to name the greatest leaders in western civilization, there’s a good chance the 16th president of the United States will make the list. He willed his country to victory in the gut-wrenching Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and facilitated the eventual ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.

A number of traits contributed to Abraham Lincoln’s greatness. He possessed a brilliant intellect. He had an uncommon amount of common sense. He was a thinker, someone who philosophically examined the world and crafted a rationalized set of personal beliefs by which he steadfastly lived.

While … Read the rest

Are Impulse Buys Killing Your Retirement?

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As a registered investment advisor, Steve Orr is used to juggling millions, but he knows those millions started out as pennies.

“It’s the little things,” said Orr, president and owner of the Orr Financial Group. “It’s the dollar here, two dollars there things that we pick up every day that start to add up. The insidious thing is that it still doesn’t add up to so much that we think it could make a difference in our futures, because we only see those expenses in terms of the dollars we spend, but not the dollars — plus the interest — … Read the rest

The End (of 2011) is Near

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We have been in a recession for years. For many years now the government has been trying to help businesses last. The Bush years and the first years of the Obama administration produced many helpful laws. But now the (Congressional) worms have turned. Some members of Congress seem to want to end it all (the tax breaks). Some want the tax breaks to continue. Some don’t seem to know what they want. Their ability to act seems hopeless. But what we have before us are sunsets. Not the pretty kind. When these helpful laws were passed, they all had time … Read the rest