Determining the “Ideal” Match

by Craig Lindsay, CPMR, CSP, Pacesetter Sales & Associates

We faced a conundrum in our business a few years ago. We were on pace to have a record-setting year when we began thinking about our planning for the next year and beyond. With puffed chests and pride in ourselves based on past accomplishments, we began the process. As the books advise, we began with a SWOT analysis of our business which included a principal review and a “risk assessment” (truly a gut feel) of where we felt the long term was going with each of our principals. This caused us to recognize that we really had no set criteria to measure them, so we set out to establish criteria that we felt portrayed the “Ideal Principal.”

Everyone in our business was involved as we completed this exercise at a sales meeting where we could break into groups and develop the criteria. Interestingly enough, but perhaps not that surprising, each group developed its list, and they were almost identical. This led us to conclude that we had the right criteria now, so we went back into groups and applied the criteria to existing principals.

When the groups reconvened, the results of the matches of criteria with existing principals provided a watershed moment for our business. What became quite evident was that more than 60 percent of our business was at serious risk as our largest current principals fell well short of meeting criteria that caused them to be considered as “Ideal.” YIKES — puffed chests suddenly fell to sunken hearts!

The remainder of that meeting set the tone for change within our business. Over the next five years we changed our high-risk principals to a more “Ideal” selection. In other words, we took control of our own destiny rather than allow bad things to happen without a plan.

Today, we use our criteria chart as a precursor to entering any agreement with a new principal. We review the criteria annually to ensure we still believe the elements within it are correct and we have a scoring system that allows us to gauge the probability of success. If the criteria chart comes back with less than a 75 percent score, we think long and hard about entering any agreement. We are no longer blinded by a big name or existing sales as the only criteria. Our list comprises 16 items as it became evident that selection on one or two was impossible.

Our lesson in this was to learn what the “Ideal” was for our agency. Other independent manufacturers’ reps may run a similar risk to that we faced of having too much of their revenue coming from sources that are simply not a good match for their business. The criteria may change from agency to agency as well, so a great exercise is to define them first. Know what you are trying to accomplish in advance and your decision process should become simple.

Craig Lindsay founded Pacesetter Sales & Associates in 1992. Now, 20 years later, Pacesetter has representation from coast to coast in Canada with providing both safety and industrial products. A MANA member from the beginning and past District Director, Lindsay also serves on the Board of Directors for CPSA (Canadian Professional Sales Association). A past president of SEMAA and former board member for NIRA, Lindsay holds both his CPMR and CSP designations.