Adapt or Die: Which Way is Your Agency Headed


What follows is a sequel to an article that appeared in Agency Sales in 2004.

The first MANA seminar I attended was in 1986 in Anaheim, California. There were about 200 independent reps who paid $180 for an all-day program. If you charged reps $180 for an all-day program today, you will not get 200 attendees. Needless to say, the rep world needs to adapt or die, because the status quo operating mode does not bode well for survival — let alone success.

When I worked with three-time Indy 500 Winner Bobby Unser on the book Winners Are Driven, … Read the rest

Outcomes-Based Training


For most organizations, training — if they do it at all — is a task. Do it, check it off, done. After being crammed in a room for three days, salespeople start bouncing off the walls. Then the following Monday, the fire drills start, the training manuals go on the shelf, and everything returns to the crisis-driven state it was in before the training. But the training was implemented for a reason — some performance parameter was not measuring up. One week after the training, management looks at the lousy numbers and says, “Hey, the training didn’t work!” Even if

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Line Card Strategic Leverage: How to Really Earn a Rep’s Mind-Share


When a manufacturer’s sales executive visits a territory, the rules of engagement are to set up key calls for the exec’s product line. It’s a bit challenging because a rep is probably selling or promoting more than one line at most of the key accounts. The advantage of the rep’s line card synergy is lost. Adding to the challenge is the scheduling coordination efforts with multiple salespeople involved in the visit. However, I did have one principal that made it much easier for us. While he wanted us to make calls at key accounts for his products, he wanted us … Read the rest

Why I Always Gave My Principals Lots of Information


This is the second in a series of articles that Agency Sales is presenting that will examine the subject of Transformational Change — for both independent manufacturers’ representatives and their principals.

Last month we examined how two rep firms changed the way they conducted business. This month the subject is the need to perform mutual action planning. In subsequent issues, a number of other subjects including consultative selling, training and communication will be presented.

Reps hate it when I admit I provided information to my principals. I took notes during a call because we were in the motion control and … Read the rest

Surviving or Thriving — Is There an Option?

By and

The Pease Group, on behalf of MANA, has been conducting workshops addressing the need for member and non-member manufacturers’ representative network training. This was the eighth year providing this invaluable service and, in many ways, the most challenging. The main purpose for conducting these seminars is to promote a fluid measurement structure within industrial and commercial rep sales force teams, and to create mutual accountability for driving sustainable bottom line results. No doubt the challenge this year was to create the right business plan not just to survive, but to actually thrive in this tumultuous environment.

With the worst economic … Read the rest

Characteristics of Great Salespeople


When it comes to understanding the role of sales and how to maximize sales performance, not too many business executives “get it.”

Hint: Managing sales is not about dictating control. If your salespeople are totally controllable by you, then what are they like when negotiating on your behalf? Worse yet, if you have total control over them, then do they have to wait for you to tell them to do something before they do it? Two major characteristics of great salespeople are the strength to negotiate value in the face of a buyer’s price pressure and the self-discipline to get … Read the rest

Beware of the Multi-Tasking Myth


The Los Angeles-area (September 2008) head-on collision of a passenger train with a freight train that killed 25 people was a horrific event. The first thing that comes to many people’s mind must be, “How can two trains have a head-on collision in this technologically advanced day and age?”

Technology apparently was — and wasn’t — the culprit. The train system technology was working quite well. It unfortunately was competing for mind-share with personal technology — cell phone usage. Accident investigators are honing in on the theory that the engineer of the passenger train was text-messaging his friends and may … Read the rest

Busy, Busy, Busy


Everybody’s busy. No time to get anything done. Is that actually true? Or are we just psychologically busy?

There are people who are basically overwhelmed when they get out of bed. They sit there at breakfast, wringing their hands, rubbing their eyes and fidgeting in their chair about the dreaded workload that awaits them. They slump their shoulders, drag their feet and move at a pace that would make a snail yawn. Slogging their way through traffic, they make it to work — even more tired than when they woke up. Eight trips to the break room for coffee, and … Read the rest

Where Are All the Salespeople?


The following quote from the Harvard Business Review may have a familiar ring to it:

“More than 35 years ago, the insurance industry embarked on an intensive program to solve the problem of costly, wasteful turnover among its agents. After spending millions of dollars and 35 years of research, the turnover in the insurance industry remains just as high. And what accounts for this expensive inefficiency? Basically this: Companies have simply not known what makes one person sell and another not.”

This quote is from an article entitled “What Makes a Good Salesman,” by David Mayer and Herbert M. Greenberg, … Read the rest

Mutual Action Planning


Mutual action planning is a way to pro-actively and strategically grow a sales territory through a team effort of the field sales personnel and the home office.

Managing the sales force through mutual action planning not only creates a document for engaging the home office with the field sales force, but it reduces the friction of negative relationships by defining objectives, accountabilities and milestones instead of waiting for crises to erupt, slowly eroding relationships to disappear, and incessant finger-pointing when things go wrong. It is also the nexus to which all other aspects of successful sales management connect.

The key … Read the rest

Forecasts or Honest Information?


The predictability of future business through the eyes of the field sales force is critical to effective decision-making on the part of any executive.

What is the trend? What is changing? What’s over the horizon? Knowing this can help the executive make the necessary strategic decisions that keep a company in step with the changing marketplace and ahead of the competition. The problem is most organizations use an outdated business school approach to getting this information: sales forecasts.

Every December, Business Week solicits the expert predictions of 54 of the top economists in the country. In 2000, their predictions for … Read the rest

Successfully Managing a Rep‑Principal Business Relationship


About 15 years ago, a manufacturers’ representative and his top principal were arguing vehemently during lunch. They went at it for 15 minutes, each determined to keep their respective ground in the argument — neither giving an inch. What was amazing about this argument was that if either one of them had paused for 10 seconds to listen, they would have discovered that they were actually in agreement. Somewhat reminiscent of the line in Pulp Fiction: “Are you listening to me or just waiting [for your opportunity] to talk?”

The problem wasn’t just limited to their egos “waiting to talk.” … Read the rest