A series of Business Tips from the book:
Pushing the Envelope
by Rob Fortier and Meryl Hooker
It is really important that you do not try to go around your rep on lead follow up. They will find out, so don’t try to be sneaky about it. It undermines the rep and gives the message that you either don’t have faith in your sales force or rally just want stores to order direct.
— Rob Fortier
I featured this book about a year ago, but there are SO MANY good tips listed in Rob & Meryl’s book, that I am quoting some new ideas from it for this series.
Oh, how many times I wish I could have made the point above, in the quote, clearer to my vendors when I was a road rep!
When you hire a rep, they become your sales and marketing partner! Don’t treat them as competition by sneaking around them to save the commission.
What too many producers and manufacturer’s don’t realize is that the rep is the one who develops the relationship with store buyer. If you go around them, you greatly undermine your rep, your rep’s relationship with you and the store, and basically, your relationship with your rep.
Stay tuned for more of tips on working with reps…
I pick up new companies on a one-year trail basis and write that into the Letter of Agreement. If the line is not a good fit for either my customer base or me, or the manufacturer decides to purue other distributions venues, it is an easy out; just do not extend the agreement. Of course, the decision to terminate an agreement should not come as a surprise to either party. If there is a problem, you owe it to each other to discuss it and troublehoot well in advance.
— Meryl Hooker
I like Meryl’s suggestion(s).
First, as a producer/manufacture, a sales rep should be given a years trial before decided whether or not the relationship will work. Depending on when you hire your reps, they may not get a sales for several weeks or months until the buying season begins.
Also, communicating with your rep is very important. Reps are very busy people — every minute they are engaged in any activity that does not include selling, is wasted time (in their opinion!). Don’t expect a rep to check in with you, but it is helpful to them to let them know of any issues when they arrise.
I worked with a company that, out of nowhere, turned over a major part of my territory without a word of conversation with me. Needless to say, I terminated our agreement immediately. If she was not able to let me know she was unhappy with my performance in a certain section of the territory, I wasn’t interested in repping her in the balance of the area!
While you are concerned about how the rep is performing, the rep may have concerns about how the line is performing. Remember, there are always two sides to every story.
— Rob Fortier
This is so very true! Things are not always as they appear!
Sales reps are in business to make money. If your line is not performing as well as you would like don’t assume the rep is not doing their job. Often the rep doing everything they can at every step of the way to getting your line in a store.
I remember times when I worked my behind off trying to get a line into a particular store. One of my best customers, in fact, was considering the line after I approached her about it several times. It was a perfect fit, but she was draging her feet about making the committment.
A few months later, I ran into the customer at a trade show (I was not exhibiting there at the time). “Oh, I took your advice”, she said, “and orders line XYZ here at the show. I hope you are okay with that.”
Well, I was NOT really okay with it, as I had done all the work, and a different rep gotten the commission for it! But this is a perfect example of ‘the other side of the story.’
Most reps, myself included, do not take sales criticism very well, especially from someone who is not pounding the pavement day in and day out. This isn’t to say you should not raise questions or concerns. It just means you should take some time to really think about what you are going to say and how. And do not be surprised if you are met with some resistance or even defensiveness.
–– Meryl Hooker
Road or show room sales can be hard. Dealing with this buyer and that buyer wanting special terms or just special treatment can be trying at times.
Then to have the producer call up and ‘wonder’ why your sales do not met their expectations, can be frustrating — if not down right maddening!
As a producer, be gentle with your reps. They work hard for you!
I would suggest contacting them via email so you have time to craft your concerns appropriately …. and maybe sleep on it before you hit the send button.
Hard as a rep tries to be fair, I can guarentee that the vendors that treat them good will get the best sales efforts.
I have seen a dramatic increase in the frequency and size of reorders from territories in which I now have reps. Even dormant accounts have stated ordering again! My email blasts and direct phone calls did not yield those kinds of results.
— Rob Fortier
Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting with a buyer — which is one of the main reasons why hiring a sales rep is a good choice if you want to grow and expand your business.
I have taken over several accounts in the past that were good products, but their sales were dying. Visiting with the store buyers, I was able to convince them to start ordering again and increase sales for these vendors significantly!
I remember one vendor who road repped his own products — and then he got too ill to travel. When I picked up his line, his cash reserved had dried up and he asked for prepayment on first time orders to help get his business up and going again. Because I knew most of my store buyers well enough, I could get prepayment for him. Along with that, I resurrected many of his old accounts!
If you do not have a sales rep, but are interested in pursuing this direction for your business, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of my best selling eguide: How to Find, Recruit and Manage Independent Sales Reps