We Knew It Couldn’t Be Done

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Until We Had to Do It

Experts tell us that after 18 months of quarantines and pandemic, “The New Normal” is coming.

new normal

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Part of that “new normal” will be that things we “knew” could not be done, pre-pandemic, actually could be done. Quarantines and a pandemic have forced us to accept that some of the things we thought we couldn’t do were really just things we didn’t choose to do.

Let’s consider the example of a prospective customer inviting a rep to visit and present one of their principal’s products, pre-pandemic. What would have happened if the rep had suggested a Zoom video chat instead of a personal visit?

The prospect would have been highly insulted. “What, so I am not important enough to visit?”

The rep probably would have lost that opportunity right away. And if the prospect complained to the rep’s principal, the line could even have been in jeopardy.

Pre-pandemic, we knew that presentations had to be done in-person. That was that way we always had done it, so that was the way it had to be done.

We knew that presentations had to be done in person until we couldn’t have face-to-face meetings anymore, and then reps found creative, non-contact ways to take care of customers and principals.

Another example of the things we thought we couldn’t do that were really just things we didn’t choose to do was many employers’ mandates that employees “had” to work from employers’ physical offices. “You need to be here for meetings. If you worked from home, I couldn’t keep an eye on you. We need the staff together to build camaraderie.”

Until the day that those employers announced, “Everybody grab your laptops, go home, and figure out how to make this work.” Home offices not only worked, they often actually improved productivity.

As the “new normal” approaches, one of our lessons learned from the past 18 months is to look hard at things that we “know” can’t be done, and remember how many other things looked like they couldn’t be done right up until we did them.

Direct Sales Employees vs. Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives

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Manufacturers have a choice when it comes to selling their products or services. They can hire direct (W2) sales employees or outsource the sales function to independent manufacturers’ representatives (1099 Independent Contractors). Which makes the most sense?

Some people use economics to make the choice. Which alternative costs more?

When you hire a sales employee, you cover their basic compensation (salary, bonus), their health insurance plus all the withholding associated with the compensation (Social Security contributions, Medicare, etc.).

When you outsource the sales function to an independent manufacturers’ representative, you only pay them a commission when they book orders for … Read the rest

To Plan or Not to Plan

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MANA and Agency Sales magazine have long advocated for independent manufacturers’ reps to have a business plan for their agencies — and not only have the plan, to but update it regularly. The adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” comes to mind as reps are constantly reminded of the importance of updating and communicating the existence of their business plans to principals.

Even the quickest review of articles that have appeared in the association’s monthly magazine over the years will reveal a constant reference to the importance of business plans. Then there’s the contents of innumerable … Read the rest

Thoughts From An Old School Rep

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When he’s asked to describe himself, Marc Carver maintains he’s simply “…an old-fashioned rep. If anything, I am old school. I want to see my customers eye-to-eye, face-to-face. I am just a people person and I love what I do. I think my personality is perfect for being a rep, as I like to be self-employed and have no one to answer to except myself along with my customers and vendors’ greatest needs.”

Today, with more than 35 years under his belt as an independent manufacturers’ rep, Carver heads Carver & Associates, LLC, located near Portland, in Lake Oswego, Oregon. … Read the rest

Are Salespeople Coin-Operated?

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A quick and convenient answer to that question would be a firm “yes.” However, upon closer examination, this common refrain hides some revealing observations. We suggest here that these relevant factors, once considered, will lead compensation designers to craft better sales compensation plans.

What Does “Coin-Operated” Mean?

The expression “coin-operated” suggests that salespeople respond only to pay incentives, offered by sales management to manipulate sales personnel actions. It also implies the sales force is somewhat immune to other forms of managerial oversight. “Unless it’s in the pay plan, it won’t get done.” Further, it suggests a negative view about sales … Read the rest

Following Up With Prospects

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Eighty-one percent of sales and appointments are made after the fourth contact. Eighty percent of salespeople never make it to the fourth contact.

Most salespeople give up way too quickly. And, it’s usually with a plethora of excuses and stories they make up about why someone isn’t getting back to them:

  • “They probably don’t want to hear from me.”
  • “They probably already bought it from someone else.”
  • “They’re probably too busy.”
  • “They probably think I’m a pest.”

Whatever excuse you come up with, or reason why you think they aren’t getting back to you, you’re wrong 95 percent of the … Read the rest

Selling Styles: “I Have My Own Style of Selling”

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On a fairly regular basis, I run into a belief that limits a salesperson’s behavior. These often sound reasonable and are embraced without question. Looking a bit closer at them, however, uncovers how they limit a salesperson’s performance.

One of the most common of these negative and limiting beliefs is this: I have my own style of selling. This is one of the most pernicious of them all because it excuses the salesperson from any responsibility to improve. More salespeople have remained plateaued far below their potential because of this limiting belief than any other.

Let me explain.

Like so … Read the rest

Win New Business Via Referrals

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You want to know the quickest path to winning new clients?
Use referrals.

It’s getting harder and harder to cut through the clutter and reach influential decision makers. That’s why referrals have never been more valuable than they are today.

In an era when buyers are jealously protective of their time, a referral from a trusted source is your ticket to the show. The more senior a prospect is in a company; the more important referrals are.

Reaching busy decision makers is not the only reason you should ask past and current clients for referrals. By asking for business leads, … Read the rest

Ten Ways to Make Prospecting Work

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Let’s not kid ourselves: Prospecting is tough. It is hard. I wrote the books High‑Profit Prospecting and A Mind for Sales because in order to prospect right, you have to have a mind for sales.

I want to walk you through 10 ways how you can make prospecting work.

1. Identify Your ICP

You will never be able to do effective prospecting if you are just spraying and praying.

You need to know who your ICP, or ideal customer profile, is. Get tight and get specific.

The tighter you are, the more specific you are. As a result, you are … Read the rest

Hire Fast, Fire Faster

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At first glance “Hire fast, fire faster” might sound harsh, but it is the exact opposite. It is about being clear and transparent to those we hire and those we currently lead. As leaders we make bad hires more often than most of us would like to admit. I believe that a bad hire does not mean they are a bad person, it means it’s just not the right fit for the person or the team.

One of the most common reasons leaders keep a person that is not a good fit is we would rather keep the bad hire … Read the rest

Getting Your Team to Care About Customers

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Strategies for Creating a Customer Service Culture

One of the most common challenges I hear from managers and business owners is how to get staff to want to provide better service. After having trained literally hundreds of customer service teams for more than 25 years, I’ve observed that the organizations who nurture the best service behaviors use the following five strategies.

1. Educate Towards Empathy

It’s easier to get employees to care about customers by putting them in the place of customers. That’s why when clients bring me in to conduct customer service training seminars for their teams, I ask … Read the rest

Conducting Effective Sales Meetings

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Earlier this year, MANA addressed the subject of conducting more effective sales meetings for its manufacturer members.

At the outset of a MANAchat moderated by MANA President and CEO Charley Cohon, it was emphasized how an effective sales meeting can go a long way in creating an environment where a rep will truly want to work with a manufacturer and devote more time to a line than might be justified by the commission paid.

“What it comes down to,” according to one chat participant, “is that you’re competing for your rep’s mind share, and effective sales meetings can help you … Read the rest

Toying With Rep Over Post‑Termination Commissions Ends in Game Over for Opportunistic Principal

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Tech 4 Kids, Inc., makes toys, but was unable to play to U.S. retailers.

So T4K reached an oral agreement with Northern Group, Inc., an independent sales representative with offices in the Midwest, to promote its toy products. With no T4K market share, the parties understood that Northern would have to enter “pioneering mode” because it would take years to generate sales.

The Parties Reach an Agreement and Northern Sets Out Creating Demand

The oral agreement, reached in 2008, provided that Northern would receive a five percent commission on sales it procured for T4K. Not surprisingly, the parties never discussed … Read the rest

How Long Will It Take to Double My Money?

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Before making any investment decision, one of the key elements you face is working out the real rate of return on your investment.

Compound interest is critical to investment growth. Whether your financial portfolio consists solely of a deposit account at your local bank or a series of highly leveraged investments, your rate of return is dramatically improved by the compounding factor.

With simple interest, interest is paid just on the principal. With compound interest, the return that you receive on your initial investment is automatically reinvested. In other words, you receive interest on the interest.

But just how quickly … Read the rest

Registration Is Open for AIM/R’s 49th Annual Conference in San Diego

AIM/R 49th Annual ConferenceThe Association of Independent Manufacturers’/Representatives, Inc. (AIM/R) is pleased to announce that registration for the AIM/R 49th Annual Conference is open! If last year was about pivoting, it’s all about resilience this year. We have moved through a time of deep change. Yet, our industry has proven itself to be resilient and battle tested.

We are looking for a few good men and women to partake in face-to-face training in San Diego. Might you be one of them?

Reconnect and recharge with your colleagues in 2021. Commit to being in San Diego for the AIM/R 49th Annual Conference. Manufacturers attend … Read the rest