ABCBy Charles Cohon
Editor’s Note: In the February 2015 issue of Agency Sales we described MANA’s continuing outreach to the academic community through MANA President and CEO Charles Cohon’s service as a judge for Professor Craig Wortmann’s “The Hard Sell” case-based sales presentation contest at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. MANA’s outreach continues this month by discussing manufacturers’ representatives with Professor Eric Baron’s “Entrepreneurial Selling” class at New York’s Columbia Business School.
“ABC” is not “Always Be Closing,” Professor Eric Baron tells his Columbia University Business School “Entrepreneurial Selling” class. That kind of high-pressure, manipulative sales technique is a relic left over from the 1992 film, Glengarry Glen Ross. The correct “ABC” is “Always Be Collecting” information about your customers’ needs. Do that so you can provide consultative solutions, says Baron, who also recommends that his students build credibility and rapport by occasionally identifying and offering solutions for customer problems for which the salesperson’s company is not the solution provider.
Baron also sees the value in making sure his students know all they can about outsourcing the sales function. That’s why this spring he invited MANA’s Cohon to spend an hour discussing manufacturers’ reps with his students.
“To run a business you need to understand law, but you don’t have to be a lawyer. You need to understand accounting, but you don’t need to be an accountant,” explained Cohon. “You need to understand sales through courses like Professor Baron’s,” Cohon continued, “but once you understand sales, you don’t necessarily need to be your company’s sales force. You can outsource the sales function just like you outsource legal and accounting needs.”
Cohon used MANA member Bill Yorston of Yorston Associates, Hellertown, Pennsylvania, as an example of how a representative’s line card of complementary, non-competing products adds value. The example was especially compelling because it was close to home for these New York City students as Cohon described how Yorston’s sales of one of his principals’ lamps for the Marriott Marquis Times Square’s new sign led to orders for two of his other principals.
If this comment from one student is any indication, MANA’s goal of positioning manufacturers’ representatives “front of mind” with students and academia was successful: “I like this new business sales model of outsourcing, which previously I never thought of.” She continued by expressing interest in learning more about manufacturers’ representatives: “It would be great to have it in more detail.”