Adding ABR to ABC

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Congratulations! Your representative company has achieved sustainable, profitable growth, and now you’re ready to add a salesperson to feed and service the sales funnel.

This issue of Agency Sales magazine looks at best practices for representative companies that are ready to add salespeople. And while this issue reviews that topic in detail, I’d like to address two commonly asked questions representatives have about adding salespeople.

When should I start recruiting?

Immediately. Even if you don’t have a sales opening at your company right now. You’ve heard the expression ABC, Always Be Closing. Add this one: ABR, Always Be Recruiting.

Why? Because much of the sales talent you will want to hire someday won’t be searching for a new job at the time you want to hire them. They won’t be reading help-wanted ads, so you will have to actively recruit them.

To build your list of candidates that you someday will actively recruit, start by networking at industry events and chatting up the salespeople you meet in your customers’ lobbies. And then connect with those candidates on LinkedIn for these three reasons:

  • Some candidates may change jobs before you are ready to reach out to them. A LinkedIn connection gives you a much better chance of finding them than the business card you collected from them last year.
  • Through your LinkedIn updates and theirs you will build some rapport so they will be more likely to take your call when you need them.
  • Their LinkedIn profile is a résumé that is always available, so you can view it before you even start active recruiting.

What is the most important question I forgot to ask?

It’s a question that you need to ask yourself, not the prospective salesperson: “Could this person run my company someday?” Representative firm owners almost always get so wrapped up in selling their products that they forget to prepare for the largest and most lucrative sale of their careers: Selling their own companies.

Hiring a salesperson who is good enough to sell your products but who would never be a candidate to take over your business is a missed opportunity. It can easily take a decade to groom a successor, agree on terms, transition management of your representative company to that person, and collect your final payment.

How high are the stakes? The next hire you make could be the difference between a comfortable retirement and no retirement at all. With stakes that high, a little extra attention to methodical planning and execution does not seem to be an undue burden.

To learn more enjoy this issue of Agency Sales magazine and visit the member area of MANAonline.org.

Make Your Own Rep Council

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Goal for 2014: Organize/Attend a
Rep Council
Council of Reps

If you want to stir up the conversation amongst a group of representatives, ask their opinion as to whether Rep Councils are worth the time investment. Opinions on Rep Councils will vary from swearing by them to cursing at them — and everything in-between. With the intention of Rep Councils being to increase communication between the representative and their principal, how can this be?

The traditional setup of a Rep Council is as an in-person event between a principal and some subset of their current reps. There is an agenda … Read the rest

Hiring the Right People to Grow Your Business

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If an independent manufacturers’ representative decides to expand business by buying another agency, he’ll do much more than just look at the new agency’s front door, decide he likes the looks of it, and goes ahead to buy the agency. Instead, a good deal of time, money and energy will be expended over the course of conducting due diligence in order to determine whether it’s the right fit or not.

So too is it when the task at hand is that of hiring salespeople that will help the agency grow its business. There are no hard-and-fast rules and certainly there … Read the rest

How to Hire Top Sales Reps

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With all the advances in every area of life, you’d think hiring the right salespeople would be an exact science at this point. It isn’t. Hiring the right people is a combination of science and philosophy and you have to use both effectively in order to hire someone who ultimately “makes it.” Here are the aspects to “employ” in order to employ the right salespeople.

Keys to Hiring Top Sales Reps

Hiring tip #1: Only hire employed winners.

An unemployed salesperson out looking for a job is a major red flag. Unless someone’s company just blew up, or there is … Read the rest

Evaluating the Manufacturer-Agent Relationship

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The following article is reprinted with permission from MAFSI Matters Newsletter.

Do your reps suffer from not having a plan? 
Do they fail to communicate with their partners on a proactive basis? 
Are they failing to arouse their customer base? 
Does their performance suffer at the time you need it most?

Hmmmmmmm! Let MAFSI (Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry) take a look and see if we can diagnose and prescribe the right approach to an appropriate treatment for this serious issue.

The obvious standout when evaluating these questions is ultimately communication and, of course, how good or bad … Read the rest

Positives of Rep Councils Outweigh Any Negatives

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To be fair, when considering the subject of manufacturer rep councils, there’s a positive and a negative side. In speaking with manufacturers, independent representatives and consultants, however, the positives of such councils far outweigh the negatives.

Considering some of the negatives, here are some of the more commonly voiced objections to rep councils. First, from agents:

  • The meetings and responsibilities of agents serving on councils take away precious face time across the desk from customers.
  • Manufacturers don’t listen to what their representatives have to say during these meetings.
  • There’s little or no follow-up after council meetings — nothing gets done.
  • Read the rest

Listen While You Work

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I believe that the earning potential for a salesperson is directly linked to the quality of his or her active listening skills. To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of selling. An ancient Chinese proverb reminds us: “To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.” While everyone can benefit from this sage advice, these words of wisdom are particularly appropriate for professional salespeople. No independent sales representative has ever listened himself out of a sale.

Would you consider yourself to be a good … Read the rest

Publicity Spreads the Word of Your Business

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Long-time friend of MANA Bob Reiss has graciously allowed Agency Sales magazine to serialize his book Bootstrapping 101: Tips to Build Your Business with Limited Cash and Free Outside Help, available now on Amazon.com. The book looks at surprisingly effective low-cost and no-cost ways to acquire the resources you need to run your company. Whether your company is an existing enterprise or a start up, a manufacturers’ representative company or a manufacturer, this book will introduce you to innovative ways to cut your costs and drive more of your income into bottom line profits.

Last month we covered the … Read the rest

Go Against the Tide to Move Forward in Sales

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Salespeople are often known for their “can do” attitude when it comes to getting an order. They don’t let anything get in their way. Yet, the road to closing sales is getting rougher, with more obstacles, hairpin turns and fewer straight-aways. Customers are more discerning, demanding and cautious. They expect guarantees, free enhancements, incredible support and, of course, a “white knuckles” price and beyond. They’re not satisfied with reducing risk; they want to eliminate it.

All this drives salespeople to search for more inventive ways to get the job done — everything from finding appropriate prospects to nailing down appointments … Read the rest

Manufacturers Hear About Retainers

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As more and more independent manufacturers’ representatives introduce the subject of shared territorial development fees or retainers in their initial conversations with prospective principals, manufacturers have contacted Agency Sales asking for information concerning such payments. One of those manufacturers referred to a recent conversation on the subject that appeared in the MANA LinkedIn discussion group.

That discussion hit many of the major talking points on this subject and the manufacturer thought it might be enlightening for his peers. The conversation began when an agent explained that he was in the beginning stages of negotiating with a new principal and the … Read the rest

Social Networking, Open Source and Your Business Success

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Social networking is a logical extension of Relationship Marketing or what I call R-Commerce. It is the desire for people to connect with others who share similar interests, values, ideas and can help each other. It is also a symptom of how marketing has changed.

In the old days (not that long ago), marketers would craft their message and push it out to the masses. Vehicles used included television and radio advertising, newspapers and other tools. These were good for taking your message and sending it to the masses.

Today things are different.

The old model has been turned upside-down. … Read the rest

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Said

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Many independent sales representatives have shared this experience: after negotiating an agreement with a principal that gives the sales representative a right to commissions on sales to certain customers or within a certain geographical territory, the principal announces to the rep that he is converting a customer into a house account or taking away a territory that is clearly identified in the contract. Although this situation may be common, it can present a difficult challenge to the rep. What should he do?

The sales representative has a number of options, including:

  • He can continue representing the principal on the remaining
  • Read the rest

The Times They Are A-Changin’ the Case for a “Structural Bull Market”

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As we roll into 2014, our theme for the U.S. Equity market is we are in a “Structural Bull Market.” This is a change from the past 12½ years. Since early 2001, I believed we were in a “Structural Fair Market.” In a Structural Fair Market there could be several periods where the stock market can run up 20% and several periods where the stock market can drop 20%. And when the dust settles — you’re usually right back where you started. And that’s essentially what happened. Now we believe we have entered a Structural Bull Market. The last Structural … Read the rest