Archive for March, 2009


Management Strategies, Marketing Glitz No Comments »


Dear Manager,

Do you remember walking into an office for the first time for an important meeting? How important was that first impression to you? My guess is that in a flash you knew immediately if this was a company with which you wanted to do business. First impressions speak in a language all their own. Just how important are your visibility and image to your success in the marketplace? Could yours be dated – is it time for a review? Our presentation is critical to our current and future success. It’s our savings account!

With time, our image can often be taken for granted. What would someone surmise in the first thirty seconds if they were to walk into your office right now? Do you find yourself pushing hard to do a last-minute clean up in anticipation of visitors? Does your place of work suggest you simply don’t care? Walk in with fresh eyes. Would you be impressed?

There are individuals who obviously thrive in the world of making an overstated impression. While this approach is beyond my comfort zone, I have to admit that their sense of theatrics has certainly gotten my attention! A reasonable portion of our overall budget should be devoted to our image and visibility. How can we put our best foot forward?

Let’s step beyond our personal office and focus on other areas of high visibility that may need an update. Is your reception area neat and pleasant, or is it cluttered with several days worth of UPS deliveries? Does your receptionist fully understand his or her value to your organization? Is their personality uplifting and enthusiastic, or is it a downer? Do first-time callers and long-term customers receive the same warm greeting?

Receptionists are our gatekeepers. While they are often skilled in
diverting unnecessary and nuisance calls, we cannot expect them to be mind readers. Have your receptionist take a name and message from each and every caller, regardless of its nature. Without knowing all circumstances of each call, how many opportunities have been lost due to our desire to avoid gate crashers?


Do you have a receptionist at all? A pleasant, confident greeting establishes the tone and level of professionalism for you and your office. The value of using automated answering systems has been highly exaggerated. Consider maintaining a specific line open for your customers’ use that provides an immediate and helpful human voice.

Regarding telephone voice, I will never forget hiring a receptionist who had recently moved to the Pacific Northwest from an area of the country with a different accent. I soon began receiving calls from my sales associates and customers, pointing out that “the person who answers the phone can’t pronounce your name.” This individual was the only scenario worse than an automated attendant!!


I’ve found that every five to seven years it’s time to give your image an update. Why not begin with a new and exciting approach to your logo? Times change, tastes change; there can be nothing more revitalizing than a timely, well-planned face lift. (We all know we’re going to need one of those sooner or later!)

Find a designer(s) who can “get into your head” and convey the true feel of your company. Ask to be provided with a number of options and logo variations. The right image can be a very powerful reflection of your organization. Relatively reasonable in cost, this single makeover can dramatically impact your image. Incorporate your new look into all your stationery, signage, brochures and trade show promotion.

If there is an area in which to consider an overstatement of your image, it should be at trade shows. Your greatest opportunity to impact a client’s perception is in “your home.” Keep in mind that your sales people and your trade show presentation will comprise 75% of your customers’ perception of your organization. I have always believed that (within reason) a trade show is your greatest opportunity to present yourself as the most dominant player in your category.

This can be done with a very reasonable (well, maybe semi-reasonable) budget. Find individuals within your organization who have a flare for design, merchandising and the ability to create the unexpected. Invest in affordable creative and effective props. Remember, your objective is to promote innovation and excitement, not just eat up footage with two-story monoliths.

Manufacturers, more than anyone else, need to assume high image visibility through name recognition. Where better to begin than with your current end-user? How is it that the average consumer will know one manufacturer by name and search it out, while others seem to go completely unnoticed?

Don’t let the use of point-of-purchase advertising be an afterthought! If it works for the “big guys” it can certainly work for you. Your signage and point-of-purchase materials are the most effective means of getting your name in front of the customer. Make them innovative and eye-catching, as they reflect the enthusiasm and flair of your product. Provide them at no cost, and with every purchase.

With the instant and global opportunities available on the internet many new options are now available. The most effective use I’ve seen has been in the promotion of products in conjunction with a listing of locations, by city, where these products can be purchased. How better to have a heightened role in your customer’s success, as well as your own? “We can put you on the ‘net!” can be a great selling tool in the field.

Sales agencies also have specific and substantial reasons to maintain their image and visibility. For example, I was actually asked to represent a major new manufacturer a number of years ago simply because their current sales team chose not to stop by the manufacturer’s booth at a national trade show! Extreme, but true.

Trade shows are obviously a great opportunity for manufacturers and sales agents to get to know one another. They are also an excellent environment in which to cultivate the image and visibility of your sales agency. Make every effort to know your competition well – their products as well as their key management. You just never know … these relationships may become even more valuable in the future. Good business suggests a broad knowledge of the market and a position of strength for all future unforeseen circumstances.

For both manufacturers and sales agencies, word of mouth is probably your greatest source of visibility and image. Unfortunately, a poor image often speaks louder than one of integrity. Reputation overrides all other surface efforts in image promotion.

Manufacturers and sales agencies have a great responsibility from top to bottom to maintain the values of the whole. Sometimes it’s wise to set aside the signage, logo, and trade show and take care of your personal image first! Your image and reputation follow you everywhere; it is found in the words that follow in your path.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2009. 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


Management Strategies, Sales Management Abundancy No Comments »


Dear Manager,

Budgets and sales forecasts are, in all forms, essential. They touch the lives of all owners, managers and sales associates. They define our objectives; we can’t live with them, we can’t live without them! This topic comes to mind for all of us as we prepare for each new year. What are our goals, how will they be reached, and how will we know when we have reached them? How will we know when we have fallen short?

All companies seem to address these issues from different perspectives. Some set no objectives, some set forecasts based on insufficient data, and some take their forecasts dogmatically. Others find the balance, maintain very real expectations, and find them to be productive. But please….


How can any manager possibly manage with ineffective or inconsistent expectations? Under these circumstances, companies seem to reward those who fail and reprimand those who succeed. Amazingly, many companies look at their sales figures and daily sales bookings in a similar light.

In this scenario, a company’s focus is formulated and translated through their financial department. Accounts receivable and payable make the rules. Shipments, not sales, reign for these companies, because of its relationship to the bottom line. Daily sales sheets and historical comparisons are nowhere to be found!

The analysis of receivables, payables and shipments have no direct relationship to current sales. Sales drive all aspects of an organization, while shipments are a support function. As an indicator of success, shipments are old news. How can a company get an accurate picture of current business by living two to four weeks in the past? How can sales management possibly be asked to be accountable for information so dated in nature, unless the intent is to provide them with a safe haven in which to hide?

The number of companies who rely on this dated information is nothing short of perplexing. From a pure sales perspective, how does the factory know if I exceeded my previous year’s sales or not? If shipments will determine my success or failure, I will need to monitor both their purchasing and shipping departments to maintain an accurate evaluation of their/my performance. This is what I am now being held accountable for! I wonder how many sales people from these companies were terminated due to their perceived lack of performance during a UPS strike?!?


While accuracy is critical for managers, forecasts are intended to establish patterns, and form comparisons for their sales people. How is this possible if no forecasts are given? I know of many manufacturers and sales agencies that do not even provide forecasts for their sales people. Once again, this is an example of management living in the past. Should problems arise, management and their sales people are often caught flat-footed and in no position to respond. By then it can be too late. Sales management, in contrast to the big game hunter, gains no benefit from the element of surprise.

When a solid foundation is established, the greatest benefit of forecasts for all companies is the ability to bring focus. Quality numbers simply don’t lie. There is no refuting the best of the best and the worst of the worst. There is no one quicker and more capable of defending (and even finding the bright side of) poor performance than a good salesman. This is why they are in sales. There is no one better at destroying your position than a sales person who is asked to be accountable for expectations that reflect inaccuracies in your system. Quality information is a manager’s only salvation!


1. Develop objectives: This can be done weeks prior to the end of the year. Meet with your associates to gain a feel for the marketplace. Determine their objectives, and what they feel are reasonable expectations for their presentations. Share your thoughts and responsibilities with them individually, or as a group.

Always remember the following premise: Manufacturers anticipate growth. This is why we, as sales people, have been asked to represent their products. Sales people should expect quality products and presentations. This is why they have chosen to represent your products in anticipation of meeting mutual expectations.

While equal in foundation, these two perspectives are seldom considered simultaneously. Factories will rarely admit to poor performance in the marketplace, while continuing to expect (hope for) continued sales growth from the field. Sales people will rarely acknowledge excellent performance in the marketplace while trying to defend their failure to meet their objective. Obviously it becomes a dance. Somewhere between these valid considerations lies a reasonable and attainable objective.

2. Review your objective: All too often for sales management the process stops after step one. A monthly and quarterly review is essential to maintain performance.

Forecasts are similar to the grades we received in high school. We cannot argue that a D is acceptable if everyone else in the class is getting an A. Neither can you suggest that an A is expected if every one else is getting a D. If the majority of your regions are exceeding their objectives, those who have failed to do so will need to re-evaluate their own performance. The standards of a quality forecast are always defined by one’s peers. If the majority of your regions have failed to meet their objectives, there is certainly no value in terminating the entire sales force. In this instance, the original system of forecasting is flawed. It is now time to evaluate all aspects of your own presentation.

3. Recognize your objectives: With each step after number one, management seems to take less involvement in fulfilling these basic objectives. Recognition is a very powerful and rewarding tool for all parties. Studies have shown that, as a source of fulfillment and satisfaction, personal recognition often equals monetary compensation!

Personal recognition assumes a very low profile. No one will negotiate for personal recognition in their time of review. Personal recognition is the silent victory we all feel when we have been singled out. Having been recognized, we know, and everyone else knows, just how good we are. There may not be any greater personal victory in life.

I have always believed in monthly recognition for the top achievers in my company. Quarterly or semi-annual awards are as much fun to give as they are to receive. A final award of Sales Associate of the Year always enjoys great anticipation as the highest recognition for a job well done. As managers, never allow this opportunity to slip through your fingers!

Forecasts will also provide you with a foundation in the event that a change of course is required. There is no benefit in retaining individuals who have consistently exhibited a lack of performance. There comes a time when it is a disservice to all parties to continue. With months of review at your fingertips, comparative analysis, and conversations that have taken place, there can be no misunderstandings. As a manager, you have a responsibility to yourself, and to the entire organization, to consider a change.

Forecasting can and should be motivating, challenging and, most of all, rewarding. Individuals who only live by the numbers will die by the numbers. Individuals who take inspiration from this process will treat it like a challenge, and be rewarded greatly for their efforts. We can accept the process and flourish, or deny the process and place our fate in someone else’s hands.

I am reminded of a favorite quote from Dave Leland, a Portland businessman, which seems to have obvious applications in meeting the realities we must all face. “It’s really easy to spend a lot of time solving the wrong problem.”

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2009. 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