Flextime

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You have heard it from MANA, from manufacturers, and from reps. In the new normal, manufacturers that sell through reps have significant advantages over manufacturers with a captive sales force:

  • In uncertain times, customers don’t take risks with untested vendors. They turn to trusted, proven resources for the products they need to keep their companies running. And, more likely than not, those trusted resources are manufacturers’ reps who may have a decade or two of history with their customers.
  • When customers’ buyers and engineers abruptly had to pull up stakes and work from home, regular communication channels often were disrupted. Only trusted, proven resources like manufacturers’ reps were entrusted with customers’ personal cellphone numbers and permitted to text as needed to keep customers up-to-date with information about mission-critical products they need to keep their companies running.
  • Face-to-face video chat appointments are granted only to those same trusted, proven resources. A stranger’s request has a slim-to-none chance of getting a video chat appointment. So if your product needs face-to-face demonstrations, but you don’t have trusted, proven rep resources as your salesforce, you are out of luck.

But there is another aspect of the new customers-working-from-home normal that has not gotten much attention. It’s flextime.

Let me explain.

Customers who work from home have discovered that their jobs are to get their work done. But not necessarily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

What does having customers working unconventional times of day mean to reps? I rarely see a rep who doesn’t check emails outside conventional office hours. Reps are there when customers working flexible hours need answers. When there is an emergency, customers know that reps reply faster than manufacturers, who will likely respond during the next business day.

Reps, go ahead and strut your customer-first attitude. It’s flextime.

The Importance of a Contract

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A fellow sales representative on the West Coast, who happens to sell for the same principal that I do, recently phoned to let me know that the company management wanted to know from her, why I did not want to renew my contract. My initial response to her was “Why are they asking you, and not me?” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised this took place given everything that has happened over the past two years.

This exchange occurred after my best principal — the one who inquired about the contract, and the one I made the most money … Read the rest

Line Profitability Remains Key to Rep Success

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The February issue of Agency Sales magazine profiled a MANA-member firm that at its beginning was willing to take on any line it could secure. Once the agency turned the corner to profitability, however, the agency owner explained, “Now we keep our product focus narrow and limited so we can effectively serve the objectives of the manufacturer, designer, builder and distributor.”

And elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales, we describe how at its inception one agency took on 60 lines of products to represent. Now that agency has whittled its representation to a dozen because there’s no way … Read the rest

The Time‑Honored Practice of Evaluating Lines

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The practice and the accompanying benefits of line productivity analysis are hardly new.

Consider the description of the process and the advice offered on the subject earlier this year by MANA’s Charles Cohon during the MANAchat described elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales.

In addition, the subject was discussed and analyzed in depth in the Operations Manual for Manufacturers’ Representatives Firms, a lengthy publication produced with MANA’s assistance in 2006. In that manual the following endorsement for line productivity analysis was offered: “Regardless of the size of your representative firm, knowing and understanding each line’s profitability is … Read the rest

Keeping Focus on the Business

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It’s been more than two decades since Agency Sales magazine visited with Maureen Ingram, owner of The M&M Sales Company, and while over the years change has remained a constant for her agency, there are three things that haven’t changed:

  • Her adherence to the power of focus.
  • Her belief that strong relationships serve as the foundation for her agency’s success.
  • And finally, the maintenance of one of the agency’s core beliefs to provide POS (Positively Outrageous Service).

The Columbus, Ohio-based agency represents a variety of manufacturers that sell products to gift shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, hospital gift shops, major chains … Read the rest

The Game Has Changed: What Do Customers Expect From Salespeople?

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We all know what we expect from customers — or at least we think we do.

We want them to give us their attention, give us a fair hearing, be open to our recommendations, and pay what they owe us. Some customers live up to this standard and some don’t make the cut. Just about everyone in sales also works at making sure customers like them, the cornerstone of a good relationship.

That’s not all. They also expect customers to be frank and open, even though some have an agenda they keep well hidden, leaving us guessing and suspicious.

Whether … Read the rest

Getting Motivated to Prospect

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Recently I was in a sales meeting in which the owner of the company passed out an article on habits.

We discussed good sales habits, how to acquire them, and what kind of habits it ultimately takes to be successful in sales. What was interesting was that we didn’t have any “ah-ha” moments or unearth anything new. Everyone had a pretty good idea of what it takes to be successful and yet, most weren’t doing those things.

Something I’ve noticed over the years is that most people who aren’t doing what they need to do blame it on a lack … Read the rest

Letter to the Editor

“Thank you for the assistance provided to our agency as we explored the topic of liability insurance.”

photo of John AdamiAs a small, relatively young, specialized firm supporting North American heavy duty truck OEMs, we went over 10 years without considering the issue of liability insurance. The topic came up negotiating with a new supplier, so we began looking for a broker and getting quotes. We soon learned that our business model was outside the norm for their industry, and as a result, some of the quotes we received were staggeringly high!

As a sanity check, we reached out to MANA. Charles Cohon … Read the rest

Momentum Is Our Greatest Power in Sales

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“Sandbagging kills our momentum and our belief in ourself and our future success!”

Momentum Is Power

If you watch any sports, you can see the effects of momentum. How many games have you watched where a team is losing, and one play changes the momentum so much so that the losing team comes back and wins the game? The only thing that changed was the momentum of the game. This is also true for us in business and sales. The key is to learn how to generate and keep the momentum.

So often in sales we have good intentions, but … Read the rest

How to Have an Effective Demo Call

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Let’s talk in detail about how to have an effective demo call. I’ve broken it down into 10 things you can do to get better results.

1. Clear Outcomes

Make sure the customer is clear as to what the outcomes are at the end of the demo call. That means you have to be clear.

If you need to have a second demo call, then have a second demo call.

I commonly find salespeople going, “Well I’m just going to see where this goes.” No. I want you to have clear expectations because it’s going to help you stay focused.… Read the rest

Make It Easy for Someone to Conduct Business With You

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Customer service is not very hard, but I think very few firms really try. There are four doors you need to use for effective customer service.

Door One — Physical Location

Your physical location is the most expensive. Your business needs to have hours convenient to the customer. Few firms do. Most banks are open hours and days convenient to the owner of the business. We call this banker’s hours. There are many people that prefer to go to a place of business and see people face to face. If your employees are rude and indifferent, it is the kiss … Read the rest

Three Ways a Professional Manufacturers’ Rep Can Advance a Procurement Manager’s Career

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Although it first emerged in Mexico in the 1950s, outsourcing — the business practice of hiring a party outside a company to perform services and create goods that traditionally were performed in-house by the company’s employees and staff — was first recognized as a mainstream business strategy in Mexico in 1989 and became an integral part of business economics in Mexico throughout the 1990s.

MANA started in 1947 and outsourcing in the United States was well-established in the late 1940s.

As it developed, many companies employed outsourcing as a cost-cutting measure. It can affect a wide range of jobs, ranging … Read the rest

Making the Move — Properly

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It’s hardly uncommon for sales and marketing executives to move to new companies every couple of years. Some do it because the road to the top in their company is blocked. Others do it because they are unhappy with their present jobs. And some do it simply because they become bored very easily once they accomplish what they set out to do.

Whatever the reason, when marketing people who manage a team of agents leave, they often cause chaos in the field without knowing it. Being an agent is living life on the edge of uncertainty. Commission checks are often … Read the rest

Using Social Media to Drive Sales

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Without the opportunity to maintain in-person relationships with clients or prospects, businesses have realized that it is now more vital than ever to have a strong online presence. An online presence can help to build credibility, and in turn, generate leads.

People are willing to engage with brands and companies they know on social media if they are getting meaningful social interaction and a sense of community out of it.

To help you and your business use social media to build a community around your brand or product, we’ve compiled a list of “do’s and don’ts” to guide you when … Read the rest

Key Considerations in Assessing Potential Litigation for Independent Sales Reps

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Whenever a sales rep contacts our firm about a sales commission dispute, we evaluate several initial factors before deciding whether or not to proceed with a case:

  • What are the known or estimated damages under the contract?
  • Which states’ sales commission protection laws might apply to the dispute?
  • What is the best our client can do, monetarily?
  • What is the worst our client can do, monetarily?

What Are the Known or Estimated Damages?

This can sometimes be difficult to assess because usually customers’ commercial relationships and ordering processes are with the principal, not with the rep. Most often, orders are … Read the rest

What Savings Alternatives Are Available?

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As an investor, you know it’s important to have a portion of your holdings in savings. Opinions differ, but most financial professionals agree that adequate savings should form the basis of any sound investment strategy. There are a number of savings alternatives that could help you accumulate adequate savings and earn a reasonable rate of return.

Certificates of Deposit

Certificates of deposit are really just short-term loans to a bank, credit union, or savings and loan. They offer a moderate rate of return and relative safety because they are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000 per depositor, per … Read the rest