“I Am Not Daniel Boone, I Can’t Do Pioneering,” Says Manufacturers’ Rep

By Charles Cohon

“Well, that’s what I used to say about pioneering lines,” says Ralph, a manufacturers’ rep. “I have a well-established line card and I just couldn’t justify taking time away from those lines to promote a product that wasn’t bringing in any income. But a manufacturer who really wanted me to rep his line came up with a very creative program that changed my mind.”

How did the manufacturer change the rep’s mind? With a joint territory development fee.

“My company is a powerhouse in the Eastern U.S.,” says Jim, the manufacturer, “but we have no existing business in California, which made recruiting a California rep for our product a huge challenge. And when I started my conversation with Ralph ‘no existing income’ was pretty much a deal breaker for him too. I did find reps who would take on my line with no existing income, but they didn’t operate at the same high level of professionalism as Ralph’s firm, so I really pushed for a program that could justify having Ralph add my company to his line card.”

Ralph agreed, adding “When I call on a customer they are usually pretty open to having me present three or four of my product lines. So when I do my mental calculus and choose to present products V, W, X, and Y to that customer but leave out product Z, it’s based on maximizing my income from that call. And if I have a line on my line card that produces zero income, it’s just not going to make the cut and get included in my sales calls.”

Until Jim learned about joint territory development fees, his conversation with Ralph would have ended abruptly when he revealed that the territory he was recruiting for had no existing business. But now, thanks to innovative thinking in the manufacturers’ rep industry, Ralph and Jim were able to strike a win-win agreement that made sense for both of their companies.

“It was pretty simple once we each watched MANA’s Developing New Markets With Professional Manufacturers’ Representatives video,” Jim said. “Bottom line, we put together a joint plan that estimated Ralph’s cost of having Ralph launch our line in his territory, agreed on reasonable reports so I’d know where my money was going, and we split the cost 50/50, with my company sending Ralph a monthly check for our half for one year.”

Sharing the launch costs 50/50 meant both Ralph and Jim had “skin in the game” and that the launch cost would not be 100% at Ralph’s expense, and by the second year Ralph had Jim’s line well established in his territory. For both companies, it was time and money very well spent.

 

 

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Charles Cohon is CEO and President of the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association (MANA), a non-for-profit trade association that provides educational materials to agents and principals to help them find great partners and work together as professional partners in profits. He can be reached at ccohon@manaonline.org. MANA’s web site is www.manaonline.org.


Tips for Getting An Appointment to Sell Something

It is important to have a good state of mind when attempting to get appointments with busy, important people. First, do not take rejection (non-answering of your calls and correspondence) personally. Your target may literally get 50 plus requests a day for an appointment. This is in addition to their regular extreme workload. Your challenge is to cut through this clutter. Stay upbeat. Never get angry. Follow up, be persistent, be creative. Be patient. Be confident. Be energetic. Smile. (Yes, you can sense a smile on the phone or through the written word.) Don’t let Fear of Failure stop you from pursuing these hard to get appointments. A failure to secure the appointment can be a learning experience for your next attempt. Keep in mind the person you are trying to get an appointment with needs, wants, and even craves new ideas and innovative products and opportunities. You just have to get their attention for the opportunity to demonstrate you are the one to satisfy one of their needs.

The following are a random list of specific tips that may be helpful to you.

Part 1

  1. Write a short, concise, not longer than one page letter. The shorter, the better. Describe yourself or your company and why you are credible. State how the recipient of your letter will benefit from meeting with you. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t assume you’ll never get a reply.
  2. Send follow-up letter if no response. Think of sending via mail, fax, and email.
  3. Email is the primary communications tool for many people. An advantage it offers is that the recipient usually reads it himself/herself and, thus, the gatekeeper is bypassed. When sending email, give thought to your subject line. It will be short and needs to grab the reader’s attention. State a benefit for the reader from meeting you, your service or product. A good subject line can prevent a delete.
  4. Networking can be the most effective way to get an appointment with that busy, important person. Find a friend or business acquaintance of your target who you know and who will vouch for you. You almost certainly will get the target to take your call (which is a major part of the battle.) Always keep your network referrer abreast of the outcome of their introduction. Always call or send a thank you note.
  5. When you don’t know who to contact in a company you want to do business with, writing to the president can be effective. Often, they will push the letter down to the proper person or immediate subordinates for handling. This person will often give you an appointment or contact you. They always follow up on their president’s request as they are not sure if you are friendly with him/her. Sometimes the president will send you back your letter with a handwritten note on it to contact so and so in their company. You can then call that person and say the president of the company suggested you call them. They will take your call.
  6. Phone for appointment. Many times you will have to get by the secretary or assistant. Try to start building a relationship with these gatekeepers. They may have more influence than you think. Try to find out a target’s cell phone number.
  7. Do your homework before attempting to get an appointment. Knowledge is power. Learn about the company (annual report, Internet, other vendors, trade magazines, etc.) the individual, the industry. This knowledge can help shape your approach, presentation, and ideas. It will also impress your target. People want to do business with smart people and with those who are prepared.
  8. In your initial phone conversation for appointment, state concisely who you are and the purpose of the call. Try to listen carefully. You want to pick up problems the target has. Be ready with some key questions to get them talking. Solving problems gets you appointments and sales.
  9. When you get your target on the phone, says Howard Hansen, a top insurance salesman, a good opening line might be: “Am I calling you at a bad time?” If person says, yes, he/she will suggest a better time. They will be more receptive to you then, appreciate your consideration, and the gatekeeper will more likely put the second call through, as you will say, “Mr. ___ asked me to call him today.” If your target says no, this is a good time to talk, they will be more receptive to you as they will appreciate your concern for their needs, and they will invite you to continue. Remember, trying to persuade somebody when they are occupied with something else is stacking the deck against yourself.

More tips in our next post.

Source: Bob Reiss’ book Bootstrapping 101-Tips to Build Your Business with Limited Cash and Free Outside Help.

Bob Reiss was a national manufacturers’ representative for 14 years before changing his business model and becoming a manufacturer who sold through manufacturers’ reps. He has been involved in 16 start-ups and one of his companies was named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies for three years in a row. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Business School. An army veteran, he is the author of Bootstrapping 101 — Tips to Build Your Business With Limited Cash and Free Outside Help and Sales Reps, both available now on Amazon.com. His website contains a large free blog archive of issues that confront Entrepreneurs.  www.bootstrapping101.com

Can’t Find a Rep In A Territory?

Here’s A New Way To Get It Done

When we were a dominant supplier to Department and Gift stores in the stationary department, we utilized 17 Sales Rep groups to cover the country. We prided ourselves on the quality of our Reps.

A number of times we had to hire new ones and after exhausting our usual selection options, we couldn’t find one to our liking. It was time to be creative in our search.
Many of our major customers had young, bright, ambitious buyers, who by other industry standards, were underpaid. We quietly broached one on the subject, and he was interested in making the move, but it was a commission only job, and he had a wife and two children to support and worried how long it would take to get his earnings up to at least his current salary. My partner, Sales Manager, and I huddled the next day and came up with what we thought was a win-win solution.

We tried to get one or two other non-competing successful suppliers to team up with us to offer the buyer our lines on a commission basis and were successful in getting two. We did the math, which showed that the existing accounts he would inherit would give him at least commissions equal to the salary he was currently receiving. The result was he quit his job, became a Rep, and was wildly successful. We and the other suppliers had major sales increases in the territory and had a very loyal and productive Rep for many years. We tried the same approaches in a few other instances, with the same success.

Bob Reiss

Bob Reiss was a national manufacturers’ representative for 14 years before changing his business model and becoming a manufacturer who sold through manufacturers’ reps. He has been involved in 16 start-ups and one of his companies was named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies for three years in a row. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Business School. An army veteran, he is the author of Bootstrapping 101 — Tips to Build Your Business With Limited Cash and Free Outside Help and Sales Reps, both available now on Amazon.com. His website contains a large free blog archive of issues that confront Entrepreneurs.  www.bootstrapping101.com

Sell Faster to Sell More: Maximizing Your Time On the Road

In sales, time is money. When your livelihood depends completely on your sales commissions as an independent rep, it’s crucial to be constantly finding ways to improve and streamline your sales process.

We’ve seen thousands of internal and external sales reps use digital tools like sales order management software to save time and work faster, transforming their businesses and ultimately making more sales. After digitizing many of their formerly manual processes, they see more customers in a day, sell more product, and end up providing better customer service.

Here are some ways to make the most out of each day on the road:

Set specific goals for each customer interaction.

Before going into a meeting with a buyer, set goals for what you’d like to get out of the visit. What are the easy re-orders that you know you can get out of the way quickly? What new products do you want to push? What are the products you think they’d be most likely to add to their assortment? Having a game plan will allow you to steer the conversation effectively.
Much of this has to do with coming prepared with certain information–namely, the customer’s past order history. Knowing in advance what kinds of products your retailers normally buy opens up the opportunity for you to quickly and efficiently suggest a list of products that they’d be likely to add to their order, rather than spending time flipping through your product catalogs and lingering unnecessarily over items that don’t fit into their assortment.

Look for tools that will help you organize this information. Great sales order management software tools like Handshake will allow you to use a digital catalog and store customer information (including past order history, most frequently ordered items, etc.) in an easy-to-navigate mobile database.

Plan your route in advance.

This is another important piece of prep work. Efficient route planning can save you a lot of time in a day. When making your sales appointments, try to schedule them so that you’re not wasting too much time en route from place to place. There are easy, quick ways to do this, with travel applications and mapping software like TripIt and Sales Navigator.

Digitize your product catalog.

With several software options available to help digitize your product catalog, you should no longer have to be hindered by cumbersome product samples and paper catalogs. These are troublesome both to carry into sales appointments and to actually sell from.

Digital catalogs allow you to stop searching for page numbers and squinting at SKUs in tiny text on a page, and instead scroll through a visually rich, easily navigable product database. This is the most efficient way to present products to a buyer, and you’ll end up putting more product in front of them than you would have with the paper catalog and sample method.

Eliminate complicated order entry processes.

This is probably the biggest time waster of all. Though every independent rep’s order entry process varies–whether it involves a fax machine, excel sheet, phone calls, emails, and/or a backend database–they are usually drawn out by delays, causing product to get shipped out later. The work involved in submitting these orders also translates to less time in which you, the sales rep, can make sales.

Take control of this process to speed up fulfillment times and stamp out unnecessary busy work. Sales order management software applications can make a huge difference, allowing you to send out an order to the retailer and your brand immediately after it’s been written. You can move on to your next store visit without having to worry about entering that order for fulfillment later.

Increasing your sales numbers can be a struggle in today’s hyper-competitive market. In order to capture more customers and retain your old ones, streamlining your sales process isn’t just preferred–it’s necessary.

By moving faster, you’ll waste less time and allocate those hours to the things that’ll actually have an impact on your commission–making more appointments, having more meaningful conversations with customers, and selling products for your manufacturers.

Author Bio:

Sarah Leung is Content Marketing Specialist at Handshake, where she creates high-impact sales, marketing, and technology-related content for wholesale brands. When she’s not writing, she’s talking with sales reps, sales managers, and other industry professionals to source new topics of interest and further understand how Handshake has helped them increase sales and build their businesses.

Using Meetup as a Sales Rep

Social networking in many ways has made us more attached to our computers and phones, but there is one social network that lays its emphasis on getting people out and about in the real world. That network is Meetup. Meetup was launched in 2002 and currently boasts over 9.5 million members. Having recently completed a second round of funding, Meetup looks poised to raise its profile and continue to be a powerful tool for people wishing to organize in real life.

For independent sales reps in particular, Meetup presents a number of opportunities to make contacts with potential leads across many industries. Below are some tips on using Meetup to improve your professional skills and expand your list of leads.

Attending Existing Meetups

Signing up with Meetup is free. Create your profile and start looking for Meetups in your city or in any city you are visiting for work. Meetup will tell you how many Meetups are planned near your location. Use the search feature and find Meetups that are relevant to you. Search by your industry, your particular business or career interest, or even search for sales rep oriented Meetups to get together and talk shop with your fellow manufacturers reps or independent sales reps. It can be a great opportunity to network outside of your normal social circles.

Before you start joining Meetups willy-nilly, make sure you have goals in mind for what you want to get out of each event. Make a list of who you want to meet and what you want to accomplish. Meetups don’t necessarily have to be business oriented, and can be a great way to socialize and meet new people in general. If you know you have a common interest with someone who could be a great prospect, why not join the local Frisbee or craft brew Meetup and start a conversation?

Organizing Your Own Meetup

If you already network a great deal or have a large local network of contacts, organizing your own Meetup may be a great tactic to use to meet new people and make yourself a hub for local business interests. Meetup does charge a monthly fee for organizing groups of your own (between $9.99 – $14.99/mo, depending on your choice of plan), but if you can get a few leads out of your group, it’s a small price to pay. It will also help other Meetup members find you and help establish your reputation. If you already host networking events, Meetup can be a good way to improve attendance numbers. You’ll be able to organize attendees and RSVPs better, and the visibility of Meetup in Google is an added marketing bonus.

If you are an independent sales rep who uses Meetup, let us know in the comments. We’d love to know about your experiences with Meetup and any tips you are willing to share!

Life & Health Insurance for Sales Reps & Principals

Insurance is one of the most valuable benefits any job can provide and with the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, obtaining quality health insurance has never been more important. For independent sales reps, getting health insurance or any kind of insurance can be more difficult than it is in other professions, yet health insurance for sales reps is just as vital as it is for any other type of professional.
Fortunately, with the help of RepHunter and MetLife, independent sales reps now have access to a variety of medical and life insurance choices that can provide unprecedented security and options. Learn more about the RepHunter benefits programs and rep insurance below.

Life Insurance

As a RepHunter member, you now have access to new life insurance policy options that are simpler and more affordable than ever. Accidental Death Insurance can be obtained without a medical exam and has a very simple application. Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance can help sales reps who juggle paying for this important benefit with the financing of other obligations, like tuition and a mortgage. Guaranteed Issue Whole Life Insurance is a great choice for RepHunter members between the ages of 45-75, offering fixed rates and ensuring reps cannot be turned down for medical reasons.

Medical Insurance & Prescription Drug Benefit

Our health is the most valuable asset that we possess as individuals and as professionals. RepHunter’s appreciation of this has led us to put together medical benefits from MetLife for our members as part of an industry leading small business and rep insurance program. CancerWise is a supplemental insurance policy that can help you pay for any expense in relation to the disease. This supplemental cancer insurance policy provides additional insurance coverage when you need it most. The Accident Companion policy covers you and your loved ones to help with emergencies. In addition to these policies, you can also obtain a Prescription Discount Card that will help you find major savings at major pharmacies like Walgreens, Target, and more.

Identity Protection with Identity Theft Insurance

If you have experienced identity theft, you know how destructive it can be to your finances and your life in general. The MetLife Defender plan offers up to $5 million in coverage for identity theft related damages, with around the clock customer support.

How to Enroll

To access these benefits, all you need to do is be a member of RepHunter, an A+ BBB rated business going on our 14th year. Not only will you have access to fantastic professional opportunities as a rep or company looking for reps, you also will now have access to the savings inherent in a group insurance plan. Contact us today to learn more about our Principal insurance plans and outside sales rep insurance plans or to sign up with RepHunter as an independent sales rep or sign up with RepHunter to find sales reps.

5 Ways Sales Reps can Get Busywork Done Automatically with the iPhone or iPad

 

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5 Ways Sales Reps can Get Busywork Done Automatically with the iPhone or iPad

Everyone knows Salespeople have one of the hardest jobs around. But its not just how they act in front of customers and how good they are at closing a deal that makes a Salesperson great at their job. Salespeople need to crank through a mountain of busy work everyday so that they can actually spend time selling. What a lot of Salespeople don’t know is that the iPhone or iPad can automate a ton of the busywork.

Here are 5 of the worst time-wasters that Salespeople could outsource to their iPhone or iPad:

  1. Juggle 4 different systems to schedule their day. Reps have to go between their calendar, customer notes, and CRM system while referencing a map to figure out where their customers are in relationship to one another. This is a huge time killer, because reps either spend a ton of time up front trying to figure out efficient routes to visit their customers or they waste time zig-zagging across town with inefficient routes.
  2. The need to use their laptop on the road instead of having access to the information they need right from their iPhone or iPad. For example, many reps are not able to update their CRM from their mobile device.
  3. Respond quickly to schedule changes. Everyone has had customers make last minute changes or cancel meetings; with the right tools, reps can adjust plans in real-time to avoid wasting time waiting for their next appointment.
  4. Not being able to organize your sales route to minimize drive time. When reps are driving across town or across the state, they want to maximize the number of customers they can meet with along the way filling in as much time as possible between meetings. If reps can see and work with all their customer data on their phone, kind of like the way they can already use Yelp or Google Maps but with their customer data, they will save a ton of time and effort.
  5. Not having the data to focus on the best accounts. Instead of wasting time on low value accounts, reps can use apps that leverage data to guide them to the best accounts in their territory

It turns out there is an app that attacks these time wasters for outside sales reps, the Badger Map. They offer a free trial, so its worth checking out to see if it could help save you time. Also, for every friend or colleague that you refer who subscribes, Badger will send you $50. Click here to get your free trial.

About the Author: Steven Benson

For over fifteen years, Steve Benson has been professionally active in sales – as an inside sales person, an outside sales rep, and as a sales manager. Steve Benson is a founder and runs Sales and Marketing for Badger Maps, Inc., a software application for sales people to build a schedule and automatically route their calendar on their iPhone or iPad.

About Badger Maps, Inc.

Badger is a software company focused on providing the tools and applications for sales reps to be more efficient and effective in the field. Badger has a unique application, the Badger Map, which enables the sales team to manage their territory by combining Google Maps, data from the CRM, schedule planning, route optimization, and lead generation on the sales person’s mobile device. Badger offers the best software mapping solution to map customer accounts and sales routes.

The Badger blog contains discussions of topics of interest to Sales Reps who are interested in sales map software and route optimization.

Useful blog for Sales Reps

Anyone working with or as an independent sales rep can benefit from the wisdom of Bob Reiss. You can find a lot of his writings on his blog at the Bootstrapping101 website, at http://www.bootstrapping101.com/blog/.

We also recommend his book Bootstrapping101.  You can also buy Bob Reiss’ book on Amazon.

Software Sales Tips: Making the Sale

The software landscape changes all the time. Start-ups innovate and new software models, such as Software as a Service (SaaS), emerge to change the way even the largest businesses do business. Despite this rapidly changing landscape, enterprise IT sales still operate on many of the same fundamental principles they always have. In fact, all of the changes in software may even reinforce traditional ways of doing b2b software sales. Check out our software sales tips below to stay up to date with how enterprise IT sales are done today.

  1. Appeal to Conservative Customers

In Enterprise IT sales things move far more slowly than they do in B2C. Members of IT departments or operations don’t always need the flashy new thing on the market – in fact, getting too caught up in fads might make them look bad. They need to be reassured that your software is a sound decision, that it will meet all their needs and that they will receive sufficient support in installation and beyond. You are selling to someone who will likely have to train up a staff to use the software. Reassuring them that their job responsibilities will get easier, not harder, and that they won’t get fired is very important!

  1. Emphasize Utility

As much as some people enjoy being early adopters in their lives as consumers, businesses rarely can afford that kind of luxury. Selling enterprise software requires emphasizing functionality, usability, and security. Extra bells and whistles are just that.

  1. Patience

Replacing enterprise level software can take a long time, and involve the input of a number of decision-makers. As a B2B software sales rep, you must learn the nature of the food chain at businesses you are targeting, and make sure you get the right materials in front of the right people on that chain. One of the most important software sales tips is “don’t give up easily, but don’t lose touch.” Different members of an organization will find different parts of a software compelling. Even giant companies like Salesforce have sales reps getting in front of customers, and the reason is, it still works.

If you are looking for new B2B software sales job opportunities, or B2B sales reps that can help catapult your business to the next level, check out RepHunter today!

Eco-Friendly Lighting News: LED Lighting

The LED lighting industry in the United States is already quite large and new innovations on the market promise to only expand its reach. The market not only offers great opportunities for LED sales reps, it also saves energy and helps the environment.

Eco-friendly lighting is an important aspect of any environmental movement due to how much energy it is able to conserve. Saving a watt of energy is generally more efficient than creating a watt of clean energy. LED lighting is a very practical solution for businesses that want to reduce their footprint. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 461 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) were used by commercial and residential buildings in 2011. Cutting into a number that large by significant percentages makes a huge difference, and is a significant advantage that LED lighting adoption offers.

One of the newest innovations in the LED lighting field are LED-based T8 tube lights. They offer 30% energy savings instantly, putting far less stress on the environment and creating less pollution. Perhaps their greatest advantage is their eco-friendly lighting design. They are designed to replace the overhead tube lights you closely associate with office environments. Traditional tube lighting has a dull quality that LED lighting significantly upgrades for a more pleasing experience. This in and of itself is motivation to convert to LED. When you consider that almost half of lighting electricity is used for the commercial sector, and a little under half of that is consumed by fluorescent tubes, applying the energy savings of LED lighting could have a huge impact on our office experiences and the environment at large.

LED lighting has other advantages that extend its lifespan and add to its eco-friendliness. The lights are highly durable and less likely than conventional bulbs to break. They are resistant to vibrations and shock, and hardy enough to last through exposure to bad weather or public use. They can also handle extreme cold and heat well. This makes them a great choice for eco-friendly lighting of outdoor spaces. They have almost no UV emissions, which makes them ideal for indoor lighting on sensitive materials in museums and art galleries, too. An additional advantage to these lights is that they do not contain mercury, like fluorescent bulbs do.

As long as LED lighting is taking such effective aim at the lighting market, LED lighting jobs should continue to grow. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in this exciting industry next.