A week of snorkeling and kayaking in the Florida Keys reminded me of one of the reasons there will always be manufacturers’ reps.
Everywhere the Atlantic met the shore, I saw mangrove trees, and only mangrove trees, thriving in the shallow ocean water.
Why only mangrove trees? Because mangrove trees adapted to thrive in environments that would kill any other tree. Ocean water salty enough to kill any other tree. Ocean tides that would drown any other tree. Waterlogged soil so barren of oxygen it would choke any other tree.
And not only do they thrive in toxic environments, mangrove trees gradually actually make the environment around them better because their massive in-the-water roots slow tidal water just enough to let sediment settle and build soil up around the tree.
Why did mangroves remind me of manufacturers’ reps?
Because savvy salespeople around the world look at their local markets and say: “There may not be enough business here for a factory to base a full-time salesperson locally, or even for a salesperson to stop here very often. But there are definitely orders to be written here.
“A salesperson trying to live off the orders from one factory’s products would starve here, but if I could find 10 or 12 manufacturers who need local sales coverage, I could thrive here.”
So, mangroves and reps both adapt and thrive in environments too harsh for their competition. Too salty, too drastic tides, too little oxygen in the soil for trees that would compete with mangroves. Orders too sparse and too dispersed for direct salespeople who would compete with reps.
That is why there will always be reps. Because while some look at a market and say, “nothing could grow here,” reps look at the same market and see opportunity.
Cold calling — It can seem like an old fashioned and inefficient task. I would imagine that most salespeople enjoy other contact points more than this one. So why do it? When it is used as one of the many methods to interact with customers, I find that there is value in cold calling. I have defined five steps that have helped me over the years put it to good use.
Like all sales tools, you apply it when it can show value in getting you to a specific result. Defining your goal should be your first step; lay out … Read the rest
It’s not unheard of to have a rep maintain that cold calls are, if not a thing of the past, certainly a practice not nearly as common as they used to be. Everything from the ability of potential customers to hide behind their voice and e‑mail and overly efficient gatekeepers have combined to make the traditional cold call more challenging than ever before.
That’s why the endorsement by one rep for this vestige of years ago — the time-honored cold call — was somewhat surprising. Over the course of a lengthy lunch a veteran rep salesman voiced his enthusiasm and … Read the rest
Looking for an independent manufacturers’ rep firm that possesses the attributes that manufacturers look for and MANA touts? Look no further than Keller Industrial Products, Inc., of Clarence, New York. The agency, now in its eighty‑second year — and counting — can boast of deep roots in the territory it serves, not to mention a lengthy record of firm relationships with its principals that average more than 25 years of service. Buried in that average is the fact that Keller can trace its relationship with one principal back more than 50 years to 1966.
According to Greg Matthews, a partner … Read the rest
Thousands of salespeople work in conditions that are stacked against their success. Even though it’s 2019, the belief persists that “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Repeated so often, no one challenges them.
Yet, those six words help explain why salespeople are given “special treatment” by management and barely “tolerated” by others. Salespeople are frequently viewed both as separate and more than equal. When co-workers complain about the sales department, someone says, “Hey, they bring us the business, so suck it up and smile.” This dismal view has long passed its expiration date. Even so, it’s disturbing since so much … Read the rest
Tell your customers and your principals how your business works.
The rep business is very different from other service businesses. Yes, reps are looking for orders. Yes, reps call on different types of customers. Yes, reps are in the middle between the customer and the manufacturer.
The problem is that there is very little information disseminated to the public or in business schools about reps. Somehow reps seem to slip through the cracks. They are lumped in with “salespeople.”
Also, the selling “process” is neither widely understood nor appreciated.
The idea of multiple lines being “represented” by one … Read the rest
Partner selling is a very logical approach to selling in today’s electronically connected world. We all like to do business with people we know and trust. This simply makes a buyer more confident in their purchase. If you sell from the perspective of serving customers as a partner, rather than an opponent, your rewards will certainly follow.
To become a trusted partner with your prospects and customers, first care enough to see their needs through their eyes. Their perception is their reality. Seeing things through their eyes will help you to position yourself as their caring and trusted partner … Read the rest
By far the biggest reason salespeople fail is that they don’t make enough calls to talk to enough people to get enough prospects in order to make the necessary sales. There are two causes for this: one, not putting in the hours necessary and two, call reluctance.
While the first one is a problem and needs to be addressed, I find that the latter far outweighs the former. If you watch your average salesperson during the day, even when they are “working” they avoid making calls. They do paperwork, clean their desk, check e-mail, service accounts, do research, and find … Read the rest
This is the ninth in a number of articles serializing The Sales Force — Working With Reps by Charles Cohon, MANA’s president and CEO. The entire book may be found in the member area of MANA’s website.
“I’m swirling in the bowl,” thought Jim as he drove home that night.
“I spent a bunch of time with Harold working on distributor council issues, which means when Ernie goes through the salespeople’s call reports he’s going to see that for the last two months I’ve made the fewest sales calls of any Bigglie salesperson. Plus I just gave a presentation that … Read the rest
You’re not going to succeed through manufacturing, distribution or information power — those have all been commoditized. If you want to succeed, roll up your sleeves and do the work of building your customer experience. Don’t become irrelevant to your customers, which is what will happen if you don’t take action.
There is a direct connection between customer service, or lack thereof, and money made and lost. Do not lose money because you did not invest in developing superior customer service skills for your entire workforce and building a customer-driven organization. You cannot just sit around and hope the next … Read the rest
When a manufacturer that was considering switching from a direct to an outsourced sales team voiced misgivings about making the move for two major reasons, another manufacturer seated at the roundtable discussion was quick to jump in.
According to the first manufacturer, “I have some serious reservations about whether any rep firm is technically savvy enough to sell my products. On top of that, I’m used to exerting complete control over my direct salespeople. If I make the switch, I’m not going to have that same level of control and I believe that’s going to adversely affect our sales efforts.”… Read the rest
In today’s workplace employees spend less time talking and more time e-mailing, texting, and engaging on social media. Ever consider how those messages are perceived by your customers, coworkers, and even by your employer? To ensure your electronic image reflects your best self, take this mini quiz.
1. There’s a big difference in what you officially write at work, vs. comments you post online on your own time.
Answer: b). While theoretically there may be some anonymity in what you post “privately,” in reality your online presence makes no distinction between your personal and professional image. … Read the rest
This article provides the highlights of the MANA special report on valuing your rep firm. You are in the best position to understand the factors impacting the value of your rep firm through your day-to-day management and operation of your agency. Where you and your agency stand on a number of valuation drivers will have a major impact on the cash flow and eventual value of your agency should you ever decide to sell it.
Having good relationships with multiple customers can significantly enhance the value of your agency. A simple phone call may provide you with the … Read the rest
The Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives, Inc. (AIM/R) held a new educational offering called AIM/R Rep Advantage (March 7-8, 2019) in Rosemont, Illinois. In comparison to the AIM/R Annual Conference, the program was a condensed 1.5-day, content-filled, and rep-only event.
More than 40 participants seeking training and networking in a rep-on-rep environment in a centralized, smaller venue attended the very first offering. Faculty included members of AIM/R leadership — past and present — and Dirk Beveridge of UnleashWD (www.unleashwd.com) as the opening keynote.
Topics addressed included the following: innovation, buyouts/mergers, warehousing and turns, apps to better run your business, managing … Read the rest