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Charlie Ingram, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Eriez Manufacturing, just shared with me his insights about how having a rep sales force is helping his company get through the COVID‑19 crisis.
Here’s what he had to say:
- “Effective immediately, our home office employees have travel restrictions, so we can’t get our product and market sales managers into the field. Thank goodness we have a rep sales force to take care of our customers while our sales managers are grounded.”
- “Customers are restricting sales visits, and at best those customers will be distracted. And while they’re distracted those customers will instinctively reach out to trusted resources with whom they have strong relationships. Those trusted sales resources are our manufacturers’ reps.”
- “Even though visits to customers’ plants and offices are restricted, our reps will be in contact with customers by Skype, phone, email and texts. Nobody has enough regional managers to handle that volume of communication unless they have reps in the point position.”
- “Because our reps represent multiple complementary non-competing lines they know what other manufacturers in our industry are doing and can consult with us on how the best practices from their other principals can be adopted by our company. We are in uncharted waters, and the things we are learning through our reps is invaluable.”
- “And thank goodness for our rep council. At our request, each rep council member reached out to a group of our reps to gather real-time data about how customers are reacting, how customer needs are changing, and the trends developing throughout North America. We knew more and knew it faster than anyone fielding a direct sales force could have accomplished.”
Most of us knew all the arguments why reps are the most effective way to take products to market in normal circumstances. Now we know why reps are the best resource for manufacturers to have at their disposal during a crisis.
Words that should never be spoken by the president, CFO, national sales manager, VP of sales, owner or decision-maker from one of a rep’s top-paying lines.
In reality, though, senior management from one of a rep’s top-paying lines sometimes will question whether or not an outsourced sales force firm really deserves that four- or five-figure monthly check.
Sometimes having a principal question the size of your check is unavoidable. But in other cases, it is an unforced error on the rep’s part for failing to preemptively educate the manufacturer on the value the rep brings to the principal.
For example, … Read the rest
The March issue of Agency Sales magazine featured a profile of a MANA-member agency (The Integral Corp, Conroe, Texas) where the practice of a solution sales approach has paid dividends.
The timing of that article is perfect for a follow-up describing how several years ago another MANA member went way more than the extra mile to anticipate and more than meet the needs of one of its customers.
According to Dan Walsh, National Technology Sales Engine (NTSE), Chicago, Illinois, here’s what transpired and here’s what he and his agency needed to do to ensure that they strengthened relationships with a … Read the rest
MANA-member Erik Wandrie explains that before he made the move to open the doors to his own agency in 2017, he was fairly well acquainted with what it took to be a rep. “However, when that time actually came, it was more than a little scary.”
According to Wandrie, Material Resource Group, LLC, “Being a rep and having my own agency was something that interested me for some time. My timeline, however, would have normally been four or five years from when I actually made the move.”
Early in his career he spent time in purchasing positions. “On a day-to-day … Read the rest
When the contractor didn’t deliver the proposal as promised, the homeowner called to find out when to expect it.
“Sorry about that,” was the reply. “You’ll have it later today or tomorrow.” When it arrived, what passed for a proposal was a “cost estimate” and a hand-drawn layout lacking specifics. It appeared to have been dashed off on the way over. The contractor came recommended, but the homeowner chose another company due to a lack of trust.
Hands down, customer experience is today’s #1 marketing hot issue — and for good reason. Up to 82 percent of customers who leave … Read the rest
It’s simple and not many companies practice the magic of service recovery.
The magic in service recovery occurs when a frontline employee solves a customer’s problem and does so in 60 seconds or less. Acting quickly, taking responsibility, making an empowered decision, and compensating the customer will result in customer loyalty that will increase your sales and profits and help to ensure your success in an increasingly competitive world.
In today’s fast-paced world we are needing service recovery almost everywhere we go from the grocery store, to our banks (everyone has had a problem here), to our cable (very frustrating), … Read the rest
This is the 19th 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.
“Fred, I have to admit there are some attractive features you may be able to offer your employees that we can’t at the factory. Anything else before you let me buy you some lunch?”
“Just one thing,” said Fred, who had warmed to the topic of promoting the rep system. He pulled out a legal pad and made a quick sketch.
“I think … Read the rest
Steps to sales greatness.
Do What the Top Salespeople Do
This is arguably the most obvious, most basic, and most important step to becoming a top salesperson. It’s simple: If you take the same actions as the top salespeople, you will eventually also be a top salesperson. If you do the same things as a mediocre salesperson, you will be a mediocre salesperson. Find the top salespeople in your company and pick their brains. In addition to top salespeople in your company, get advice from top salespeople in other industries.
Learn Everything You Possibly Can About the Subject of Selling… Read the rest
Have you ever heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt?”
It’s an old English proverb that traces its roots back many centuries. Chaucer wrote those words in 1386 in the “Tale of Melibee.” According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, “Long experience of someone or something can make one so aware of the faults as to be scornful.”
It’s not just a saying — familiarity can indeed breed contempt (unless you work hard to avoid it). I hear it all the time when I work with sales professionals, some of whom dangerously take their clients for granted: “That customer is … Read the rest
How can failure be good?
Remember John DeLorean? He was the superstar General Motors executive who started the DeLorean Motor Company. When the company began to falter, he was arrested and charged with complicity in a drug deal that some speculated was an attempt to raise money to prop up the company.
All of this was big news in Detroit, where I was living at the time. One particularly insightful article in the Detroit News theorized that he had been supremely successful his whole life, and thus never learned to deal with failure. His development was stunted by a lack … Read the rest
Oversharing blunders that annoy customers and limit careers.
“I wish some of my team members would think more before they speak.” This was the comment made by a senior HR manager of a construction company where I was brought in to conduct training. She continued, “They inadvertently share more than our customers need to hear.” In today’s world of social media where people post their opinions and details of their lives for the entire world to scrutinize, we’re finding oversharing is a growing problem. Not only does it jeopardize customer loyalty; it also limits career advancement. See if you or … Read the rest
Many manufacturers will freely admit that there’s an easily followed temptation to populate their rep councils with their top-performing reps. One manufacturer, however, is contemplating a different approach.
According to the manufacturer, “We’ve made excellent use of our rep council for more than 20 years. The participation and input we receive from our reps is outstanding. Our past rep councils have been composed mostly of a spectrum of the reps that we work with, but by and large the participants that give us the best input are usually our top performers. We’ve actually given some thought, however, to putting together … Read the rest
Have you noticed that the best marketers and salespeople regularly seem to do what others don’t? They are willing to pay the price to get ahead.
In my seminars I talk about what works and how to achieve success with Relationship Farming. Here are some traits I’ve found by studying for those seminars that top professionals practice regardless of their industry. These advanced-level strategies will give you a decisive advantage in achieving your goals.
Study the Market
This is critical for relationship farming. Know what is working today, where pain exists and how you can best implement solutions. Don’t assume. … Read the rest
A perfect complement to Terry Brock’s words of wisdom on the importance of using social media appeared in one of MANA’s very popular MANA/SalesWise teleforums last fall. Speaking on the topic of “Connecting With Customers in the Digital Age,” Rhonda Sher, a successful author, speaker, entrepreneur and LinkedIn trainer, emphasized how important LinkedIn can be for an agency’s marketing efforts.
According to Sher, “One of the keys to successfully navigate in the digital age is to have a strong LinkedIn presence. Keep in mind that every second two new professionals join LinkedIn.” That’s why it’s so important to keep several … Read the rest
California has recently enacted a number of new laws that can affect businesses throughout the country, including manufacturers and sales representatives. This multi-part article focuses on two of them: California Assembly Bill 5 (“AB5”), which provides a test to determine if a worker/service provider is an independent contractor or employee, and “Proposition 65,” which addresses environmental and health-related concerns about products sold in California.
Why should I be concerned about these statutes if my company is not located in California, you ask? It’s a good question. Well, whether your company is in San Diego, San Antonio, Saint Augustine or points … Read the rest
MANA’s Board of Directors welcomes three new rep members who were elected to two‑year terms, starting May 1, 2020.
Keynae Agnew, Agnew Pacific Enterprises, LLC, California
From the beginning of my career as an independent representative, MANA has been a significant resource for education and training. As an agency owner, I understand the benefits and importance of being connected to a trade association like MANA. I am not only passionate about achieving success for my own agency, but also have a desire to assist others in achieving professionalism and success in their careers. I believe serving on the Board of … Read the rest