Siber Circuits Owner Responds to ‘Rep’ Column: Encourage Communication

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Simon Etherington, president and owner of Siber Circuits, felt so strongly about Dan Beaulieu’s weekly column titled “Reps Need a Better Deal, Part 2” that he put fingers to the keyboard and expressed his thoughts as a response. Beaulieu frequently writes about sales and marketing topics, particularly the relationship between the sales rep and the principal. Dan has argued that there needs to be improved communication, better language in the contracts, and a sales rep that’s eager to earn. Here’s what Simon had to say:

Dan, I enjoyed your column, “Reps Need a Better Deal, Part 2” and I have some concerns which seemed to mirror yours.

All your comments are accurate. These are the thoughts that often go through the minds of inside sales and management, especially the “what have you done for me lately” refrain.

So why is that? I can answer the question with one word: communication.

I have lived the rep life from both sides, but most of it from the management side. I have worked exclusively with reps since the ‘80s so I think I have seen it all.

Typically, sales reps will start off well. It is not unusual for them to take some time to get their “go to” customers to give the new principle a try. If the principle is all he was advertised to be, we have a winner.

Siber, as an example, works very hard not only to make good PCBs, but to ensure we provide good service and support. We have the numbers and the feedback to prove it.

So where is the problem? As I said, it’s communication.

If the salesperson is happy to let us take over and manage their account, that’s great. Indeed, we tell the salesperson we will be happy to develop the relationship and handle the day to day needs of the new account.

However, here is where the problem lies. We see it when we have rep/management meetings. The rep needs to treat his customer like it is his bank account. If fact, it is. He needs to continue to be part of our team. Engaging with the engineering team and purchasing to find out about the next project. Provide us some feedback as to what to expect going forward. Otherwise, we continue to only manage what we see but without a forecast.

All too often salespeople are happy to collect a commission check based on yesterday’s efforts. What about tomorrow? Who is managing that?

In our case we/me can often go long periods of time without hearing from the sales rep unless its about where their commission check is. Managing pre-existing accounts is farming. Finding new accounts is hunting. We need hunters.

This explains exactly why you are being asked about new reps.

No company worth its salt should be sitting back at any time, happy with their existing customer base. We all know for a variety of reasons, why perfectly good accounts can suddenly go flat. It happens, but who should be the first to know about that and advise the principle? That’s right, it’s the salesperson. Who will be in the line of fire when the principle advises the salesperson that sales have flattened out on a customer they otherwise relied on for sales? That’s right, the sales rep.

I agree, the rep contract could be improved, but I think it works best when the rep understands his responsibilities do not end with the last account. He needs to continue to hunt. Hunting costs money. Part of that cost in born in his existing sales commissions, but I could listen to ideas where perhaps the cost of hunting could be shared. It often is. How often does a salesperson have a principle in the field with him? Why is that? 

This would encourage and foster a better relationship between sales and the principle. It would encourage the team approach rather than having the salesperson feeling otherwise.

It is a worthwhile exercise to come up with a unique way to encourage a stronger relationship, but the salesperson should be careful of what he wished for.

If I were to summarize the issue it would be as follows: Most companies want to grow. The first person they will turn to is their salesperson. If the salesperson can’t provide the solution, the company has no choice but to find additional salespeople.

I look forward to your feedback.

Simon Etherington
President and owner, Siber Circuits



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