Vol. XV

Dear Manager,

All sales driven organizations thrive with the anticipation of continued growth and the rewards that follow. It is the single driving force of all managers and entrepreneurs. When things are going well it is easy to assume that current levels of success and good fortune will sustain themselves, and will increase at a similar or greater rate in the future. We are on a roll in the marketplace. Each decision that is made only seems to enhance our position. In the good times, marketing departments often take more than their share of the credit for the developmental aspect of their presentation. In essence, anyone could sell this line.

In more challenging times, very little is taken for granted. All expenditures are reviewed and must be justified. Each marketing decision is fully analyzed to determine its current value. Management becomes more conservative in their decision making process. The pressures of cost controls become a part of their daily lives. In these instances, it is common for the sales force to be given more than their share of the responsibility. In effect, is anyone working out there?


For all manufacturers to survive in the market place they must develop a product or concept that creates need or value to the consumer. This initial focus and success is generally what establishes most entrepreneurs, for without it they will not survive. It is very easy for a newly successful manufacturer to not fully understand and appreciate what got them there. A false sense of confidence from one product can lead to a perception of automatic future success. As we are all aware, this is rarely true.

A number of years ago I was working with a manufacturer whose central product was one of the most innovative I had worked with. This company was very creative, and was in on the ground floor of the product’s life cycle. With their early success came complacency, and an expansion into categories that had little or no relationship to their initial success.

Not only had they taken their eye off their initial success, leaving it vulnerable, but they had also devoted critical resources to a series of unproved product categories. New product introductions require substantial attention to detail, while providing very limited initial reward. Within a short period of time they were very nearly out of business.

Management realized the dilemma, and re-focused all their efforts on what had brought them their initial success. They committed to being the very best and most aggressive producer in their category. The organization once again took an innovative and creative posture, bringing genuine excitement to the market place. Do not lose touch with your position of strength in the marketplace.

With this re-focus, the company became not only the leader, but also a formidable opponent in their product area. Due to their creativity, the competition was consistently in a “catch up” position. With time, and as resources and staffing became available, they were able to expand into obvious second-generation product categories. Today, they continue to be a leader in their field.

Manufacturers can ill afford to loose the creative edge that established them in their market. Once your product is established, always consider your options for second-generation development. This can often be done in the process of your first generation planning. Second generation implies its obvious ties or relationship to the original product or service. The risks are substantially reduced in this type of expansion, as it is built upon your currently developed position of strength. Hanging on too long to an established product will only bring disappointment … Dinosaurs are born every day!

There are just as many companies that become stale and fail for lack of creativity, as there are companies that fail for over extending resources and by taking their eyes off the cash cow! Those who seem to succeed have a strong sense of awareness of their current position in the marketplace. They are creative and able to invest in obvious second-generation products that bring an ongoing freshness and vitality to their first generation presentation. Timing and resources are the two key elements to any expansion.

Rarely are marketing departments or sales forces solely responsible for the good times, or the not-so-good times. This relationship is like a marriage; fingers can be pointed, but success is only achieved through harmony.


The number of manufacturers that many sales agencies ask their sales associates to represent amazes me. In earlier times, it was very common for a sales associate to represent thirty or more manufacturers in a sales region. In all honesty, they may have needed this number in order to survive. Today it’s a very different marketplace, yet I still see this approach to sales. I always ask myself how any single individual can effectively service the needs of this many “masters.” In analyzing this situation, many of these agencies would determine that in excess of 80% of their sales were generated by less than 50% of their manufacturers. In earlier times there was a sense of security in spreading one’s exposure by representing more manufacturers than could possibly be handled. For the professional sales agency, these times no longer exist.

A sales agency can create security through their own value to their manufacturers. Always become more than a sales vehicle to those you represent. Provide them with timely and candid field level information. Make it painful for them to consider a change in representation, in the good times or the more difficult. By providing increased exposure and becoming one of their most successful agencies, your security is assured. Certainly there are rare instances of loosing a manufacturer regardless of one’s success, but there are many more instances of a missed opportunity for lack of available focus, exposure and resources.

Sales associates have limited time and capacity to fulfill their obligations. How many have walked out of a sales call after a very successful appointment only to feel the frustration of having sold only five of their twenty-five manufacturers? How much of their sales time and ability to bring a focus has been spent on line organization, updating, and difficult conversations with a manufacturer over poor sales, and feeling the guilt of only performing for a few? All of this energy has been expended for a group of manufacturers that may represent less than 20% of their sales! Consider the value of these efforts had they been directed toward the associate’s most valuable manufacturers. We only have a limited amount of mind space; it cannot be wasted.

Today’s market conditions require a very realistic approach to one’s capacity. Sales agencies cannot lose sight of their priority manufacturers. They deserve our devoted and uncluttered attention. None of us has the time to waste in needless conversation with manufacturers who provide limited opportunity or future growth potential for our organizations. In addition, we are doing a disservice to these manufacturers due to our inability to bring a reasonable focus to their presentation. If you cannot realistically support them, encourage them to find someone who can.

As manufacturers or sales agencies, we must keep our eye on the ball. Similar to the fish in the sea, some priorities are whales and some are minnows. Remember, every allocation of time is at the expense of time that could be devoted to a higher priority.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2008. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM