Launching an Independent Manufacturers’ Rep Agency

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My rep agency was founded in 1975. Communicating with customers and manufacturers was by telephone and “snail mail.” There were no internet connections, emails, or cell phones.

During my high school and college years, I worked for my father’s construction subcontracting business each summer. My father had business friends who were independent manufacturers’ representatives. They each earned excellent incomes and enjoyed the freedom of owning their businesses. Since my father owned his company, I thought I would also like to own my business. The independent manufacturers’ rep business intrigued me.

After graduating from Lehigh University with a degree in industrial … Read the rest

When Is the Right Time to Retire?

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As a person approaches 65 the question naturally comes up, “When should I retire?”

The answer to that question involves an individual decision. We are all different. Important to the decision are a person’s physical and mental health and whether their retirement nest egg is sufficient to support their retirement. This article explores my path to retirement and suggests retirement planning guidelines.

There is no magic age. In the 20th century, 65 was considered the appropriate retirement age. Most of our parents retired about that age. Social Security payments began. Life expectancy for a man was mid to late seventies. … Read the rest

Manage Your Agency With Systems

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How do you manage your rep agency? Do you focus on profit and sales goals, or do you manage with systems?

Setting performance goals is common, but goals have disadvantages. Goals focus on a particular result. Normally goals are not modified to reflect rapidly changing operating and economic conditions. It is discouraging not to reach goals. You might question the reason for setting goals in the first place. I found “targets,” which are not as definitive as goals, worked better with my systems.

Systems are the procedures, processes and methods used to achieve certain results. One well known business guru … Read the rest

Selecting the Right Stable of Manufacturers to Represent

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For the startup of an independent manufacturers’ representative firm, selection of manufacturers the agency decides to represent is critical. For an established agency, seeking the right manufacturers to add to existing lines is important for continued success.

Decide on an Industry

For a single-person rep agency, it is important to select manufacturers from the same industry. For a multiple-person agency, adding manufacturers from more than one industry is fine, but each salesperson should focus on one industry alone. A successful independent manufacturers’ rep must clearly establish in each customer’s mind the best rep to call for technical assistance, service and … Read the rest

Attitudes for Success: Be Optimistic — Maintain a Positive Outlook on Life

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When faced with challenges are you more likely to see the glass as “half full” or as “half empty”? What does this mean if you are operating an independent manufacturers’ representative business?

One of the first manufacturers I represented when I started my rep agency in 1975 was a European manufacturer of PVC, single-ply roofing membrane. This manufacturer was one of the first single-ply membrane manufacturers to gain a foothold in the U.S. market. For 100 years commercial roofing subcontractors installed only built-up asphalt or coal tar pitch roofing systems. Single-ply roofing material was beginning to shake the roofing industry … Read the rest

Keys for Success Selling Products to Architects and Engineers

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What defines success for a manufacturer’s product representative who is selling to architects and engineers? Success is when a product representative is accepted as a trusted consultant and his manufacturer’s products are included in the specification as the standard of design.

Architects and their consulting engineers are important members of the team that is hired by a building owner to complete a project to meet a specific set of needs. Although architects do not write purchase orders, manufacturers of construction products must call on them to be sure their products are included in the building specifications. Here are key concepts … Read the rest

Be the Best You Can Be

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Selling products to a specific industry is a business-to-business (B2B) type of selling, not retail selling. Although some of the principles of B2B selling are similar to retail selling, most are very different.

Principles Common to Both B2B and Retail Selling

  1. Satisfying your customers’ needs
  2. Treating your customers with respect
  3. Knowing your products’ features and benefits
  4. Being a good listener
  5. Following corporate guidelines

Key Differentiators for B2B Selling

  1. A sales rep must be a consultant and problem solver. More than being knowledgeable about your products is required. You must listen to customers’ needs, then show how your products and services
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Steps for Managing Customers to Maximize Sales Success

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The professional sales representative is continually seeking better ways to manage his customers to maximize sales. How do you know which customers to call on, when and how often? How do you stay organized amid your phone calls, sales visits, paperwork and planning? Managing your customers is not complicated. It takes organizing and time management skills to develop a plan suitable to meet your sales goals. Finally, it requires a focus, and personal commitment to follow the plan.

Have you ensured your pathway to maximize sales success? Here are 10 proven ideas to manage customers and maximize sales.

1. Organizing Read the rest

Becoming a Preferred Product Representative

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A significant challenge for an independent manufacturers’ representative is satisfying the needs of many different customers. Your objective is to become a preferred product representative for each of them.

These customers include architects and engineers who specify your products; general contractors, construction managers and subcontractors who purchase your products; and your manufacturers’ marketing and customer service departments that provide you with sales support. We will look at how you can work effectively with each of these customer groups to become preferred.

Architects and Engineers (A/E)

Although every customer is important, one group, for example, requires the most attention and service … Read the rest

Strong Personal Relationships Are Key to Closing More Sales

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A strong personal relationship is one in which the customer fully trusts and likes the architectural sales representative (ASR), whether they are a direct hire employee or an independent manufacturers’ representative.

The customer is interested in a partnership that is equally valuable to him and to the manufacturer the ASR represents. For any product or group of products, the customer is willing to give most or all his business to that manufacturer.

There is a perception today among many in the commercial architectural products marketplace that personal relationships in selling are less important today than in years past. Information is … Read the rest

Increase Sales by Classifying Customers

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The primary goal of any sales organization is to continually increase sales. Every customer, no matter how large or small, is important and must be properly serviced, but not all customers are equal. How do you use your sales time most efficiently? One way is by classifying customers.

In most cases, 80 percent of your sales are generated from 20 percent of your customers. To properly classify customers, the sales potential for every customer must be evaluated. Customer classification should be done every year because a customer’s volume and their potential to grow is not constant. Customers can move from … Read the rest

Building Positive Relationships With Rep Principals

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Part II: Building for the Long Term

An independent manufacturers’ representative must maintain strong relationships with the principals they represent to be successful and profitable. Part one covered the first four tactics a rep should always remember: Agree on a fair contract, maintain regular communication, the rep‑principal relationship, and treat the customer service group as a customer. This article will cover the remaining four.

Follow Company Procedures

This concept can present a challenge for a rep, particularly if some company procedures are out of line with the procedures and principles of the rep’s organization. Following company procedures is part of … Read the rest

Building Positive Relationships With Rep Principals

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Part I: Tactics to Bring You Closer

An independent manufacturers’ representative must maintain strong relationships with the principals they represent to be successful and profitable. This relationship is critically important with primary principals whose product sales represent a large share of a rep’s business, yet it is also important to build relationships with those secondary, smaller manufacturers, whose products are complementary to the primary principals.

A strategy for building these principal relationships needs to be developed and maintained.

To be smart, any independent manufacturers’ representative should always remember the following tactics:

  • Agree on a fair contract.
  • Maintain regular communication.
  • Rep-principal
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A Successful Sales Representative Must Manage Time

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A successful sales representative must be an efficient manager of time, whether they are a direct hire or an independent manufacturers’ representative. Time is a sales representative’s major asset, so they must optimize their time to be a sales leader. Efficient time management requires planning.

An efficient time management system begins with an Annual Marketing Plan that includes broad objectives that are in tune and coordinated with a corporate plan. Using this broad plan, the time management system then incorporates prioritized daily, weekly and monthly planning lists. Each list has a similar format with the daily list having the most … Read the rest

Should Sales Teams Use Email, Telephone, or Personal Visits?

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Emailing Customers

In the construction industry, it seems more and more communications are by email, whether conversations are interoffice, between companies, or by sales teams with customers. Using primarily email communication may seem to make us more efficient, but that assumption may not hold water.

Our inboxes are swamped. One study indicated that the average person across all industries receives an average of 115 emails per day. The study indicated that 57 percent of people do not even read all their emails! Many are simply trashed. How efficient is that?

The use of primarily email communication is led by millennials, … Read the rest