The Rep of the Future
(Sorry, Still No Jet Packs!)


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So, what skill sets will the rep of the future need to guarantee personal success and the continued success of the rep profession? How about the ability to communicate the added value reps bring to a transaction, and prove that reps are the most cost-efficient of all the possible alternatives manufacturers have to bring their products to market.

In today’s economic environment, everyone involved in a transaction is increasingly called upon to prove they add value and that they are the most cost-effective means to accomplish a task. So the rep of the future will increasingly be called upon not just to sell products and services, but also to sell the rep business model as the single most-effective way to take products and services to market.

For current and prospective principals, the rep of the future will skillfully sell the advantages of the rep business model as the only system that allows multiple manufacturers to cost-effectively share a sales force with complementary, non-competing lines. And the successful rep of the future will recognize and capitalize on this unique capability by giving even more attention to line card management and promoting to prospective principals the pull-through sales benefits of becoming part of a carefully managed, meticulously groomed, synergistic line card.

For current or prospective customers, the rep of the future will sell not only products and services, but also the benefits of conducting business with multiple manufacturers during a single meeting with a single manufacturers’ rep who has longevity in the territory and extensive knowledge of that customer’s technical and commercial requirements.

The rep of the future faces a harsh economy and tough challenges from principals and customers demanding proof of the rep’s value. To meet those challenges the rep of the future must be savvy about products, thoroughly schooled in the rep business model, and be able to offer compelling proof that any other way of taking a product to market squanders both the principal’s and the customer’s time and money.

The Rep of the Future


When contacted to write this editorial from the field, and upon learning the subject, my weird imagination visualized a space-suited rep with briefcase in hand climbing into his winged car to go on the “road” to perform sales calls. After putting that flight of fantasy to rest and seriously thinking about the subject, a more realistic image of the rep of the future emerged.

To be sure, the rep will be affected by future technological developments. Looking at advancements in communication tools over the last 10 years provides us an indication of likely developments in the next decade. The cellular … Read the rest

Reps Peer Into The Future


Predicting the future is at best an uncertain art. We have to look no further than meteorologists, economic forecasters or football prognosticators to appreciate the truth of that statement.

There’s another statement, however, that bears some attention as reps consider what might await them in the years to come: The best predictor of future behavior is that which has happened in the past.

It would appear that reps — at least those who have been interviewed for this article — take those words to heart as they look down the road a bit.

Don Elfstrom, CPMR, CSP, Kacey Enterprises Inc., … Read the rest

How to Repair a Damaged Relationship


Conflict is a normal part of two people with different needs, interests, and motivations coming together. It’s how conflict is handled that determines the quality and ultimate success of a relationship.

Researchers at the University of Washington (the same researchers who can predict the future success of a relationship with 93 percent accuracy) have discovered that successful relationships address conflict using a single technique — one that’s so effective at addressing conflict that it’s called a repair.


A repair is a gesture that shows respect and concern for the other despite disagreement. Repairs take on many forms, but all … Read the rest

Go Ahead and Fire Your Customer


We all have at least one — a customer with whom we just don’t like working.  Before you get too excited thinking I’mgoing to say it’s okay to fire any customer — regardless of the reason — guess again.

What I am talking about are customers we don’t like because after we do everything we do for them, we simply are not making any money from them.  Not making any money off of a customer goes beyond your commission or bonus. It’s the bottom-line profit your company is not making because of the customer. No salesperson is going to intentionally … Read the rest

The CATA List for Taking Effective Action


What distinguishes the mediocre leader with so-so results from the effective leader who makes an impact every time? The answer is the ability to take effective action.

There’s a big difference between taking action and taking effective action. Most leaders are fairly good at taking action. They make lists and check items off those lists everyday. To be truly effective, you’ve got to be more strategic about the items that go on that list. Instead of just putting down every small action that will move you to your vision step by step, you’ve got to choose one or two high-impact … Read the rest

Keys to Masterful Deal Making


Whether in your business or personal life, making deals — from the biggest ones that take months to finalize and involve teams of lawyers to the nominal ones that are sealed with a handshake after a 10-minute chat — is an art. Deal making is a craft that, when done well, requires a skillful, visionary and inspired application of key principles and methods to create a desirable end result. When you’ve mastered this art, you will successfully negotiate deals in which all parties involved walk away with a win.

Also, don’t underestimate the small deals, which can help you gain … Read the rest

The Incredible Power of an Elevator Speech


“Why should someone spend time with you?” That was the question I asked the six salespeople who were the subjects of an intense, week-long training session.

The response? Blank stares. Some uncomfortable fidgeting. Nothing anywhere close to a coherent, persuasive response.

That experience made me realize the need for what I call a “value-added proposition,” and what many people refer to as an “elevator speech.” It is a well-thought-out, meticulously prepared, and memorized set of ideas that ultimately answer the question above. It should exist in several different versions:

1. There should be a one-page (250 words or so) description … Read the rest

Should You Be a Big Fish in Two Ponds?


On a dark and stormy night…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. No serious writer would start his article with such a tired old cliché. You probably think I’m some boorish amateur.

But seriously, it is a dark and stormy night. And kind of lonely too. And other than the thunder, it’s awfully quiet.

It’s late Wednesday night, and I’m sitting by myself inside a barbeque joint in Kansas City, Missouri. There’s nothing like driving rain to keep people away from late-night pork ribs and baked beans, so essentially, I have the place to myself. In fact, I’m kind of … Read the rest

The Emergence of “A”


Before the chairman left on an international trip, he sent an e-mail asking me to meet with four sales managers from four of his companies. They were going to be at a sales conference in Chicago. His final comment in the e-mail was, “They’ll test you; they take ‘gimme’s.’”

Steve was from Michigan and seemed to be the coordinator for the group. He confirmed that they had a two-hour break in the afternoon of the second day and because it was a command performance by the chairman, they agreed to meet with me for an hour.

The tension at the … Read the rest

Manufacturer Values Time Spent As Rep

Spend time speaking with manufacturer sales managers and independent manufacturers’ reps and chances are it will be a common occurrence when you run into a rep who was once a manufacturer and vice versa. For manufacturer sales managers especially, their time spent as a rep can prove valuable in their dealings with their rep networks.

One manufacturer notes, “Since my reps know that I was once a rep, I come to the table armed with a great deal more credibility than someone else might have.” He goes on to say that many reps go out of their way to seek … Read the rest

What Cloud Computing Really Means

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In an article (“Disasters — Always Prepare for the Worst”) that appeared last month in Agency Sales magazine, several reps described what they were or were not doing to prepare their businesses for survival following a natural or man-made disaster. In a number of conversations with reps, the subject of Cloud computing was raised as a logical step to take to protect agencies. The following article, which originally appeared in InfoWorld (, provides a primer on that subject.

Cloud computing is all the rage. “It’s become the phrase du jour,” says Gartner senior analyst Ben Pring, echoing many of his … Read the rest

Arbitration or Litigation: Which Is Best?


Many of our sales representative clients give very little consideration to the perceived “boiler-plate” clauses that appear near the end of their principals’ “standard” sales representative agreements. Their focus is on the granted territory, the commission rate, designation of house accounts and similar provisions which all reps deem of most importance. However, one such typical “boiler-plate” clause seeks from the representative an agreement to waive an important constitutional right — the right to a trial by jury in order to resolve any dispute between the representative and the principal. When present, such a clause typically requires the parties to submit Read the rest

The Silver Bullet of Investment Success


You know that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you receive your investment statement in the mailbox. You worry that it might contain disturbing news. You anxiously let the package rest on the counter wishing it would just vanish. Finally you rip the envelope open and there it is in black and white. “Statement-shock!”

Instead of that monthly statement shock, wouldn’t it be great to discover a “silver bullet” — that one piece of information that can help you improve the performance of your investment and retirement portfolios?

I’m happy to share with you that … Read the rest