Archive for June, 2016

Re-Evaluating Your Rep Team

Do you feel you are getting everything out of your rep team that you should be? Do you have a full network of sales reps, reps all over the country yet you are just not getting much out of them? How about these problems? Try these on for size:

  • You keep hiring new reps but you never get anything out of them, making you wonder why they even signed up with you in the first place.
  • You use to have a great relationship with your reps but now, well not so much, they seem to only focus on a few accounts they brought in years ago and you just cannot get them to go out there and find you some new business.
  • You can never get them on the phone.
  • You get a lot of quotes from them but they are all from stuff you don’t want or cannot build.
  • It just seems that things are stagnating and you are not sure what to do.
  • You keep asking yourself what happened, why can’t I get these guys engaged?

Do these fit? Is your next move is to fire all your reps and start over. At least that’s what you’d like to do right? But you hate the idea of starting over, you hate the idea of losing all of that time not to mention money you have invested in your rep team.

You’re stuck and you feel that there is no way out right?

Bu wait there is, there is something you can do. You can talk to them. No, not argue with them, not whine at them, not kick them in the butt…I mean really talk to them find out what the matter is and start working with them to see if the relationship can be salvaged; or if it’s time to move on. Look you have worked with them for this long you can spend a few more days with them seeing if the relationship can be fixed or not.

Here is a list of questions you need to ask your reps. you can do this over the phone but I must say it would be a lot better if you went out to their area and met with them face to face. There is nothing better for revitalizing relationships than face to face meetings.

  1. Do you want to keep representing my company? (That’s right cut right to the chase, there is no point going on if they don’t want to work with you any longer. But also if they say no then ask them why. You might not save that relationship but you could learn something valuable.)
  2. What do you think of our company?
  3. Do you feel you are being treated fairly?
  4. Do you feel we are doing everything we can to support you?
  5. If not what could we do better?
  6. How about our products?
  7. How about our service?
  8. How do you feel about our technology?
  9. How do you feel about our pricing? Is it competitive?
  10. Do you feel like we are your partner?
  11. If there is anything we can do to improve our relationship what would that be?
  12. Tell me about your firm. How are things going for you?
  13. Is your firm healthy?
  14. Is there anything we can do to help you be successful?
  15. How can we work more effectively in the future?
  16. Would you be willing to work with us to make s plan to success?
  17. Would you be willing to give this relationship another try?
  18. What are your ideas on how we can proceed with such a plan?
  19. Okay are you ready to reset our partnership, carve out some new parameters, set some new goals and get to work?

See it’s not that difficult and most of the time it will work. If, that is the two of you really do communicate. This is key and with any kind of insight on your part, (just the fact that you are interested enough to be asking these questions shows initiative on your part) you’ll be able to gain a lot of understanding from this conversation. Now you have to look for the spark in your reps. If the reps is only semi-engaged in the conversation; if you feel that he or she is only being polite you’ll be able to figure that out. In on the other hand this conversation does what it’s supposed to do and re-sparks the flame of compatibility, cooperation I mean a true new spirit of cooperation between the two of you, you will have succeeded.

Now all you’ll have to do is follow through. Set up that plan. Hold regularly scheduled meetings with the rep. Visit his territory and your customers in that territory on a regular basis. In short pay attention to your relationship, value your relationship and finally always, always treat your rep with a great deal of respect and things will get better. I promise

I once worked with a very wise man who had a clause in all of his rep contracts that went something like: I always thought that was a great idea and of course it was only common sense.

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Yes, You Have To Visit Customers

It’s Only Common Sense by Dan Beaulieu

6/27/16

Managers have to visit customers

Yes, sales managers have to visit customers. In fact General Managers and Presidents and Quality Managers and yes even owners need to visit customers whenever they get the opportunity. Why are we happy to just sit back and have our sales people do customer translations for us? Why are we happy or often unhappy with the information that our sales people bring back from our customers? Why are we okay with settling for communicating through our sales people?

Now don’t get me wrong sales people are very important, they are the face of your company, the front line if you will and yes it is vital that they act as the messenger between the customer and the management team. But that is not enough.

It’s not that the sales people don’t tell the truth about their customers because I believe that 99.9% of the time they do represent the customer in a clear and honest light. But often when their honest message is not to our liking we tend to shoot them they are after all the proverbial messenger. We tend to want to blame the sales person if she tells us that her customer is not happy or if she has to deliver some bad news from the customer. And by the way the biggest problem is that if the sales person is the only one to visit and talk to her customers they become exactly that, her customers. But as we all know they are not her customers or his customers, they are our customers and it is our duty as managers to have a good face to face relationship with our customers.

It is just too easy for a General Manager to rant about how unreasonable a customer is being for complaining that the boards got there a day late. It is just too easy for a Quality Manager to berate a sales person telling them that if they could sell they could get their customer to buy these perfectly usable boards even if they don’t exactly look great. It is just too easy for a company President to push his sales people into telling the customer he is going to raise the price even if the sales person tries to tell him that he will lose the business at this new price. It is just too easy for all of these “non-sales” people to live in a vacuum of customer ignorance and just push the sales people to get things done that well just are impossible to do.

But the most important reason for company leaders to get out and visit customers is to get to know them on a personal and first name basis. I love it when I talk to a company owner who has just come from visiting a customer for the first time; I am always amused to hear him suddenly become such a stalwart customer advocate. He comes away from that meeting enlightened and with a much better understanding of what customer is like, and what her specific needs are He goes back to the rest of his management team and uses his authority (authority that the front line sales people don’t have by the way) to make sure that the customer gets treated right, gets treated the way she needs to be treated.

The same applies to a GM or a Quality Manager for example. After even just one customers visit, the customers goes from being a hypothetical to a real life being. They learn what the customer actually needs and most importantly why he needs it that way. Once they have a better understanding of one another the relationship thickens and broadens and a long-term customer relationship is established.

All it takes is a little effort, a little time and a little patience to make sure you as managers develop a good understanding of your customers to the point of establishing a customer-vendor partner that will last a lifetime.

So Mr. President, Mr. GM, Mr. QA manager get out there. Hop in the car with your sales people and head out to your largest customer this afternoon and ask them what they need from you company and from you specifically. You’ll be amazed how that simple little act will improve everything between you and your customers.

And you know what? You’ll also have more respect for your sales people and the kind of issues they face out there on a regular basis. You get to know first-hand what your customers really think about your company, the good and the bad and yes the ugly. Remember what Bill Gates said, “You can learn a lot more from an unhappy customer than you can from a happy one.”

By visiting a customer you will also show him that you care about him. That you wanted to come in and meet her. That you took time out of your busy day to come to his office, sit down with him and ask him how you can help him. That is a very big deal. You’ll also be showing your sales person that you support her, that you respect him and that in the future you will have a better understanding of the support he needs from you and from the company, and that’s a good thing. It’s only common sense.

 

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Book Recommendation – Sales Manager Survival Guide: Lessons from Sales’ Front Lines

 

A Book Recommendation From Dan Beaulieu

June 21, 2016

Sales Manager Survival Guide: Lessons from Sales’ Front Lines

By David Brock

Copyright 2016 David Brock

Price $14.95 Kindle edition

The perfect handbook for a sales manager

This is a perfect book for a new sales manager. It is also important for those of us who have been in sales for many years. The reason? It has everything you need to become a great sales manager. Truth be known it is the most comprehensive book on sales management I have every read.  This books is not filled with tips it is filled rather with actual guidelines on how to do things. It is more of an instructional book than a guide book.

Do you want to know how to find and hire the perfect sales person? The answer is in this book.

Do you want to work on performance improvement with someone on your team who is not performing up to snuff? The way to do it is in this book.

Do you want to set fair and equitable compensation packages? This is the book to use

Do you want to know how to coach your team?  The instructions are right here?

How about firing someone? Or managing your manager? Or gaining listening skills? Or doing a successful ride along with your sales person? Or how to successfully deliver effective performance reviews? Or developing sales tactics? Or measuring your sales team’s performance? Or planning your future in sales management? This book shows you how to do all of these things and more. Like say how to manage the top performers, not an easy task that. It is all here in this interesting, provocative and easy to understand and follow book.

I especially like the authors approach to the hard subjects like talking to your sales people about increasing their sales efficiency and helping them with their time management.

This guy gets it and he is very good at helping us to get it; like when he points out that a good CRM tool is for the sales person; it is to help her be more effective and efficient in her work not just a tool that she uses to let you her manager know what she is doing. Then making sure that the CRM works well with your sales persons’ ways of doing things so that it is a great tool rather than a time wasting hindrance.

As I consultant whose job is to help sales managers become great sales managers, this is the most important tool I have come across in a long time. I have recommended this book to all of my clients and will continue to do so in the future. If you are in sales management I urge you to read this book, In fact if you are a sales person and are serious about your career path I forbid you to go another day without reading this book.

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It’s Time To Rethink The Whole Rep Thing

For years now I have been working with reps acting as the liaison between them and the circuit board shops I work with. During that time I have seen the interest the reps have in working with board shops diminish as quickly as the market for fax machines. Most reps seem to have lost it for our shops. They seem to want to work in other markets and sell connectors, or IC’s or sheet metal or cables or anything that is not a circuit board.

I have spent the past few months thinking about this; mulling over this dilemma and trying to figure out what to do about it. Look, the fact of the matter is that we need good reps now more than ever. Yes we can use direct people, actually that is my preferred method of developing a sales force, but alas direct sales people are expensive, especially when you are trying to cover the entire country. So in the end we always turn towards the reps as a good solution for at least expanding our sales coverage.

But now a days this is much easier said than done. There are a lot more veteran reps out there than there are newbies, and the vets for the most part have all had it with board shops, they are tired of being treated like third class citizens, they are sick of being the last person paid at the end of the month if they are paid at all. Heck I personally know companies who owe reps tens of thousands of dollars in back commissions and whose reps are actually being held hostage by them because they know if they resign they will never get their money.

In the past year I along with some of my partners have been working diligently looking for new reps for our customers and to tell the truth we might as well be standing on the corner signing “To Dream an Impossible Dream” for the all the good it has done us.

So what do we do about this? How can we turn things around? How can we develop a package that is going to be so appealing to independent sales reps that they will be calling us up to see if we are willing to take them on. That would be a welcome change wouldn’t it? The last time a rep called a circuit board shop to see if he could represent he used a rotary dial phone.

So here are my ideas for changing things, turning things around and developing an offer that a good rep will not be able to pass up.

  1. No house accounts. It’s as simple as that, no exceptions. If you are already doing business with a major account in his territory then work it out at reduced commissions until he can grow that account past the annual average bookings number and then take him to full commissions.
  2. Pay the rep, yes pay the rep. His is the most important payment you should be making. A happy rep means a strong sales effort. And here is one that is going to curl your hair, pay him weekly. Yes you hear me. Send him his money the next payroll after you have received payment from the customer.
  3. Provide all of the right paper work, all the backup that should go with that commission check. Also provide the rep with copies of the quotes and orders and invoices. In this electronic age this is easier than ever,
  4. Treat the rep like a member of the family. Treat her exactly like one of your direct sales people. This means access to your company information. Being copied on pertinent reports and included in pertinent company meetings and phone calls.
  5. Let the rep share in all of your marketing efforts, and yes you need to have marketing, sorry it is all part of the sales game. Market for the rep in her territory. Include her in all your marketing. If you send out newsletters create a special edition for each territory. Work side by side with your rep to develop the business in her territory. It will be a win/win.
  6. Offer special incentives for the type of business you want. This can be a special incentive for new customers, or new technology, or a new service. Whatever, pay the rep extra for him to be specifically focused on selling the products, technologies and services you most want to sell.
  7. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Hold a one on one update call with each of your sales rep firms every two weeks and then a general call at least once a month with the entire sales force. Do this religiously and track the progress. Do it and yes there will be progress!
  8. Invite them to your annual sales meeting, and yes have an annual sales meeting. It’s customary for you them to pay to get there and you to pay the rest of their expenses. This will go a long way towards making them part of the family…it will be money well spent I promise you.
  9. Treat them with respect. Respect your reps as you would want to be respected, it’s as simple as that.
  10. And finally make sure your product works. Make sure that your reps have a great product to sell. They can’t your light bulbs if the light bulbs don’t work. You want your reps out there selling…not apologizing.

So there you have it. Here are ten ways that will work to make reps want to come and work with your company. But there have to be others. Oh yes there is at least one more:

  1. Listen to your reps, talk to them; ask them what they want to see from you. Ask them who they consider a great principal. Work with them to develop a good working environment one that both of you want to exist in.

It’s only common sense

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The Power Of Tenacity

 

It’s amazing how much can get down when you decide to stick with it

Another year another strategic plan…or worse yet another month another strategic plan. Does this sound familiar to you? Well it does to me. The most difficult thing to do when you’re a strategic consultant like I am is to make sure your clients stay focused, that they keep their eye on the ball.

My philosophy is very simple a good plan implemented and followed to fruition is always better than a great plan abandoned before its time.

A good plan has to be given time to work. A good plan is only as good as the commitment and dedication that people are willing to give it.

During all my time in business I have seen good, even great plans abandoned way before they had time to work. I have seen great plans stall when a company leader loses interest in the plan laid out for his company. A plan I must say that he had put a great deal of time and effort in. In one particular case the owner was known for jumping from one project to another leaving a trail of unfinished projects in his wake. Which as you can image created a ground hog day environment in his company. That is some kind of leadership isn’t it?

I think to some people there is something so much more appealing in starting a new plan from scratch than in persevering with the current plan that many companies have been hurt by its” leader’s new plan addiction. Yes, business like life is a marathon not a sprint. There are no quick fixes because yes, even the quickest of fixes takes a certain amount of time to gain traction.

Here is the way it works. A team comes together and puts a plan together. That plan must begin with a clear and complete understanding of where the company wants to be in one year…in three years…in five years. Then this team has to work backwards to today, to present time in order to establish the steps they’ll have to take to make this plan come to life. They have to be fully aware of when the plan will start producing the results they are seeking. These steps should be marked with dated milestones so that the team will know exactly where they should be in the plan and on what date. Done correctly this method will provide a good visionary and yes somewhat patient team with a good idea of where they should be and when they should be there. Without a strong implementation roadmap most plans will fail.

When you set out on a car trip you have to know exactly where you are going, how far it is and when you can expect to get there. You wouldn’t dream of starting out on a cross country trip from say New York City to Los Angeles without first of all knowing how far Los Angeles is from New York City, how many hours it is going to take and yes where you are going to stop on the way for the night. Think of how discouraging it would be if you just set out in a general western direction without any insight of how far you were going or when you were going to get there, and when you were going to have to take breaks. Well now think about your strategic plan as only stating the ultimate goal without any steps on how to achieve those goals. Get the picture?

They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step and of course that’s true but then it takes another step and another step and another one and so on. Without that understanding without the patience to take all those steps the journey will never be completed.

If this sounds basic and obvious it is because it is and it’s pretty simple as well but for some reason people especially business owners have a very difficult time getting it. I think it’s that entrepreneur thing. They are always looking for the next new thing and have a hard time focusing on the thing that is right in front of them. I have also found that this lack of focus and attention has led to the downfall of many companies that would and could have made it if the owners had just had the patience and tenacity to diligently follow the plan as it was laid out originally.

If you are an owner or a company leader and you see yourself in this column, then all I can say is change. Figure out how to have the tenacity, patience and yes courage because it does take courage to follow a plan when it reaches the darkness before the light stage, the courage to stick to the plan and drive it all the way to its successful destination. Its only common sense.

 

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Book Recommendation – The Crowdfunding Handbook: Raise Money for your Small Business or Start-ups with Equity Funding Portals

A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu: 

The Crowdfunding Handbook: Raise Money for your Small Business or Start-ups with Equity Funding Portals

By Cliff Ennico

Copyright 2016 Amacom Books

Price: $19.95: 265 pages with appendix and index

Finally a great guidebook for crowdfunding!

This books by Cliff Ennico who is an attorney by the way provides us with everything we need to know about crowdfunding. Sure we’ve all heard the stories…have a great idea? Put it on the Kickstarter web site and money will start pouring in! It’s as easy as that. No big deal works every time. Well like everything else that sounds too good to be true it is. Sure these stories are real, certainly this can happen. But alas nothing is that simple. There is much more to crowdfunding than just that.

First of all there are a number of different crowdfunding sites all of them a bit different from the other. So you have to choose, you have to decide which one is best for you. Then there are the rules to each of these sites. Then what are the best ways to write up your product or service description, then there are all of the finite details that you have to understand before you, well before you just dive in.

Let me give you some advice. Before you do anything read this book because it is without a doubt your personal GPS getting you entrance and passage into the world of crowdfunding.

Author Ennico not only advises from the point of view of the person seeking capital from investors but also takes you to the other side of being an investor. From explaining exactly what crowdfunding is; then the history of crowdfunding to how to choose the right source, how to write your offer announcement coping with your new partners (yes this means you will have partners) to filing progress reports with the SEC ( yes you have to do that…does that sound like amateur hour?).

You get my point? There is a lot more to this way of getting investors than meets the eye and if you’re serious about getting involved in this new (old way) of getting to people to invest in your company then do not take another step without getting a hold of a copy of this book.

Oh and by the way this book has an appendix that is loaded with all of the tools you are going to need in your new venture from yes that scary SEC form to an LCC operating agreement to a term sheet for crowdfunding offering to debt securities. In short everything you need but did not know enough to know you were going to need.

WARNING do not enter these crowdfunding waters without this book!

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It gets lonely out there: Hints on how to manage sales people who are located all over the country

One of the things I do in my business is work with sales managers helping them to manage, measure and motivate their sales people. This is not an easy thing to do when you consider that sales people are actually a very different breed from other people in a company. They are often, driven, motivated, and ambitious at some times and depressed and down at other times. The job of a good sales manager is to know when to drive his sales people to their own success level, encouraging them when they are on the way up and then picking them off the floor when they are on the way down. The motivational part of being a sales manager is probably the most important aspect, not to mention trickiest part of the job.

Sales people are often mavericks. The reason they wanted to be sales people in the first place was so that they could have their independence. They want to work on their own; make their own hours and come and go as they wish. Often they are hundreds even thousands of miles from the home office so they do have all the freedom they want. But of course it is the job of the sales manager to make sure they are at work as much as they need to be to get the job done. This means she has to institute a reporting system that will make sure that the sales person is always accountable. This system should consist of weekly status reports, as well as daily check-ins with the office. And what this all means is a heck of a lot of communications.

There is also another factor that a sales manager has to make sure of and that is that his sales people all feel that they part of a team. Those of us who have been out there know full well that it can get pretty lonely. The good news at times is that as a sales person you have freedom because you are on your own; but that can also be the bad news. It gets lonely out there on your own. You can start to feel isolated. You’re not in the middle of the office gossip and you can start to feel left out. It is the sales manager’s job to make sure that this doesn’t happen. He has to make sure that his sales people wherever they are located feel that they are part of the company, an integral part of the company. She has to come up with ways to make sure her sales people are included in the company’s daily and weekly happenings. One of the best ways to do this is to have a weekly sales call putting all the sales people on the phone as well as the sales manager and other members of the management team. In this way at least once a week the sales people get to talk with the management team and with each other, so that they can communicate with everyone, The GM can talk about what is going on in the shop as can the Quality and engineering managers. This gives everyone an excellent opportunity to communicate.

I often invite the sales people to have their own conference calls as well so that they can discuss some of the challenges they are having in getting business. They can exchange ideas and give each other tips and hints on how to win more business. They can also talk about what is going on at some of their large multi-location customers and develop corporate strategies for handling those accounts. And of course they can give each other leads. This kind of meeting is key to developing a true sales team.

Finally, I cannot recommend enough that you bring the sales people into the company at least once a year to have a sales meeting. I mean a real working sales meeting consisting of reviewing what the company did in the past year and where it is going in the coming year. The sales people should come in fully prepared to discuss their territory strategies including account plans and forecasts. The Sales Manager should be prepared to discuss the sales strategy and tactics for the coming year. The President should be prepared to discuss the company’s overall financial health as well as direction, the GM should be prepared to report in the company’s performance in terms and delivery, the Quality manager should be prepared to talk about yield performance, RMAs, ISO registration and audits and the Engineering manager should be prepared to talk about any new technologies that the company is investing in.

Although there should be some bonding time, a few dinners and maybe a sporting event the entire group attends together this meeting should be brief (just three days at most) and all business-like. Gone are the days of week-long sales meetings with skits and events and golfing. Those days are over, sales meetings costs a lot of money and the time invested in these meetings should be used wisely.

The most important thing is for people to get together and feel like they are all a part of the same team. This is critical for the entire team and vital to those sales guys who tend to get lonely out there.

Its only common sense.

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