by Jerry Leth, Vice-President and General Manager, MANA
Sales are about relationships. Take any sales course today and you learn your purpose is not to get purchase orders but to help customers solve problems. If the customer senses that, they start to trust you and they go on to buy from you.
MANA strongly supports the concept that professional manufacturers’ representatives need to also treat the manufacturers they represent as customers. The relationship you create with your principals needs to be high-trust. When your principal trusts you, you work together as partners. The result? You increase orders, a benefit for both of you.
The same holds true for the manufacturers. Treat your manufacturers’ representatives as customers and the trust level goes up. You become “Emotional Favorites” and the manufacturers’ representatives spend more time helping customers with what you supply, less time if you don’t.
These high-trust relationships provide many benefits. For example, they create open communication, a key to helping customers. The more you help the customers, the more they buy from you. Open communication allows both of you a clearer vision of the customer’s current reality and desired outcome. When you both understand the customer’s needs, you put yourself in a better position to help them.
High trust produces another benefit, collaboration. Manufacturers and manufacturers’ representatives, like everyone else, have strengths and weaknesses. When you collaborate, you use your strengths to overcome their weaknesses and they use their strengths to overcome your weaknesses. The result? A stronger effort to help customers.
The ultimate benefit of high-trust relationships? Relationships that last a really long time because they work well for both of you.
Do you have high-trust relationships with each other? If yes, congratulations, you understand what this is about. If not, what steps do you take to get on the path to high trust?
Meet with each other and try and learn what you can do to help the other side. Following the meeting, feed back to the other side what you learned about their needs. Let them know you understand their situation and desired outcome. Check with them to make sure your understanding is correct, then let them know what you plan to do differently to help them. Hopefully, as a result of the action you took, they reciprocate. If not, make recommendations as to what they should change to help you.
Doing this puts you on the path to a higher trust relationship that ultimately works better for both of you and lasts a lot longer.
Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice-president and general manager, started as membership manager in August 2000. Previously, Jerry 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. Jerry 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.