Summer 2017 Feature Article
by Liz Beerman
Liz Beerman is executive director of MRERF/IPA – Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation.
Liz’s background includes extensive terms as director of operations for CQG, Inc., corporate marketing manager for Arrow Electronics and global training in consultative sales and marketing, for Hewlett-Packard. A graduate in psychology and education from California State University in Los Angeles, she received her Masters Degree at the University of Northern Colorado. You can call Liz Beerman at 303-463-1801 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rep of the future shifts, focuses and creates a versatile and value-driven role as a specialized solution provider.
What does the future look like? Whatever the answer, it is in front of you — ready or not!
What does “being ready” mean? Anyone can believe it, and scurry to get ready once IT arrives and they can see it. Consider that “being ready” means believing in your ability to craft a future that stands every chance of being the way you want it to be. Believe it to see it.
So, are you ready … is your firm ready to BE the rep of the future?
Both the Electronics Representatives Association (ERA) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), among others, recently crafted surveys, interviews, reports and white papers that serve as the baseline for the question, “What is the rep of the future?” Unfortunately, many of these suggestions, as valid as they are, are a continual remix and reblending of once tried and true, but now questioned tactics. So, who is the rep of the future? YOU ARE.
The rep of the future shifts, focuses and creates a versatile and value-driven role as a specialized solution provider. We are not talking about a complete reconstruction or reinvention of yourself or your firm. We bet you are already using solution positioning and selling with some manufacturers, partners and customers. Now is the time to take it up a level.
Looking into the future, what do you believe will be the biggest challenge you face? Is it digital sales and business capabilities; specialization: technology, product and application; or multi-generational issues?
Digital sales and business capabilities mean:
- A fully responsive website. This is your digital footprint that allows customers to see who you are and how you are responding to market needs.
- Fully responsive technology sales tools that are mobile ready. This includes CRM, marketing, line card, competitive information and analysis, territory information, white papers and case studies.
- Active conversation stream with current customers, prospects and referrals.
- Data science to drive sales (see www.buzzboard.com).
Specialization: technology, product and application mean:
- Times, technology and people are changing daily. You can’t afford to stay put!
- Represent products and processes that customers will need first and fast when they are in trouble.
- Make it easy for customers to contact you first and fast when they are knee-deep in crisis. Move beyond phone and email. Be known for your dependable crisis management.
Multi-generational issues mean:
- Hire right and develop deliberately. By now, you have read all kinds of articles and listened to a constant barrage about the difficulties of attracting and hiring younger generations. We bet you have stories of your own. However, are you deliberately doing the following?
- Sell well, leave well. Have your departing boomers mentor younger employees. Grab and transfer that intellectual property your retirees spent years accruing.
- SWOT your sales teams. Have young and experienced salespeople call on your buyers. You know what happens when experienced salespeople call on experienced buyers, and you know the challenge of young salespeople calling on those same buyers. Show your entire sales team what to do when they are in unfamiliar multi-generational situations.
- Maximize technical focus, bottom line profitability knowledge, communication expertise and goal-oriented vision in your sales team. These are the values specialized sellers deliver.
- NOW, develop deliberately. Provide opportunities for your team to acquire the skills they need. Create collaborative opportunities to share the information and grow sales.
How do YOU BELIEVE reps will sell in the future? Here are three insights that may help answer this question.
- New game, new rules — differentiate;
- Technology above relationships; and
- Specialized system/solution sellers.
New game, new rules — differentiate
Do you prefer chess or poker? Are you a strategist, anticipating two or three moves ahead of where you are now, or do you play your cards close to the vest? Regardless of how you choose to play in the future, the only way you can fully control your business is by “owning” the rules. Differentiate yourself by identifying how you bring the greatest value to your customers; then prove it with every interaction.
Technology above relationships
None of us wants to believe that key relationships will take a backseat to technology and not be as valuable in the future as they are today. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, know that everyone has become an instant information addict.
- Collect, sort, quantify, measure and analyze information. Use the analysis to bring value to your customers. Offer them trends and insight into what is in the R&D pipeline and competitive info.
- Use new and valuable resources to continually up your game.
- Lastly, be sure to read “Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success” by Shane Snow.
Specialized system/solution sellers
- Stronger reps get stronger. Few barriers-to-entry exist for an energetic new rep. Market research shows that a specialized system/solution seller will thrive.
- Specialized reps do more than promote application opportunities for their synergistic products. Use every available tool to create demand and make it easy for your customers to implement it. Provide analysis to support the new solution.
- Move beyond your current purchasing role contacts. Find the engineer, contractor, owner or end-user to frame the opportunity; provide the specifications; and open the platform for your specialty and your ability to provide and deliver.
- Provide more than what your customers can find online with a simple search.
Unless you have a crystal ball, becoming a successful rep of the future requires hard work, deliberate action, strategy and dedication to your profession. We are eager to see how you use the suggestions mentioned in this article. Regardless of what you see as your biggest challenge, or how you define your key differentiators, there is no question that the rep of the future will respond to the market as a specialized solution provider. Believe it to see it … and BE it!