by Jerry Leth, Vice-President and General Manager, MANA
There is no doubt that how salespeople interact with customers differs now than just a few years ago. Not just due to the COVID‑19 pandemic — it changed even before that. Technology and younger generation customers with different values impacted salesperson/customer relationships. Meeting with customers in‑person became a greater challenge.
Obviously, to remain successful in the new environment, you must adapt and make changes. Here are some thoughts to help guide you to the new “New.”
First, believe that we live in an abundant world and we have choices. Are all your principals collaborating with you as “Partners in Profits” in a manner that helps you adapt to this unique environment? Now is a good time to conduct a line profitability analysis and replace the ones that do not. Check out step number 7, “Analyze Your Lines for Profitability” of the “Steps to Rep Professionalism” program in the member area of the website. Use the LineFinder® directory to connect with principals who subscribe to the “Partners in Profits” philosophy looking to partner with manufacturers’ representatives.
One major element in the sales process remains the same: your sense of purpose. Is your purpose to get orders or help your customers solve their problems? Which of these do you think creates the greatest number of orders? And how do you communicate your purpose to prospective customers? When I had my manufacturers’ representative business, a new principal I just signed up required I attend a consultative selling course (which they paid for). When I walked into that class, my attitude was, “I’ve been selling for 20 years, no one can teach me anything I don’t already know.” Was I wrong! What I learned in that course significantly impacted my sales success in a highly positive way. If you have not taken a sales course in a while, enroll in one now and get a significant return on the investment. Make sure the course you take focuses on what’s new on how you communicate with customers.
You also need to make sure you act proactively and not reactively. You need to act, not just wait for something different to happen. I have said this before — the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length of the hole. Do something different!
Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice-president and general manager, started as membership manager in August 2000. Previously, he owned and operated Letco Tech Sales, Inc., a MANA member, multi-line professional outsourced sales agency he founded in 1989. Before starting his own agency, he managed a network of manufacturers’ reps as vice-president of sales and marketing for torque and tension equipment. Leth graduated from Stanford with a mechanical engineering degree. He started his career at Hills Brothers Coffee in San Francisco in engineering and production before embarking on a sales career.