It’s Only Common Sense: Know What You’re Selling

Whether you’re selling garage door openers or guidance control systems, medical devices, kitchen appliances, laminate, or printed circuit boards, you must know your product. If you want to be a successful rep, you must study the product, understand how it is built, why it is built a certain way, and most importantly, why the product your selling is better than anyone else’s.

There are no two ways about it. When you face that customer across the desk, he is expecting you to be the veritable, “Pro from Dover.” When you are selling high-tech products, you must be able to talk high-tech. It is not acceptable to just set up the sales call, introduce your principal to the customers and let them go at it. You are the sales person, and to sell, you must know what you are selling.

For too long, too many salespeople, both direct and independents, tried to get by with as little knowledge as possible. They tried to wing it with what little knowledge they had assimilated in their years in business. In short, they just did not put in the work needed to be successful.

Think of the experiences you’ve had when buying just about anything, from a vacuum cleaner to a car. Think back to how impressed you were when the salesperson wowed you with her knowledge of her product. After a few minutes, once she’d established her position as an expert, she quickly became a new source of knowledge for you. She told you things about the product that you’d never thought about. She asked you questions, trying to determine your needs so that she could help you select the best model possible. It didn’t take you long to trust this person with all of your product needs. She was now your expert and you were listening to her advice. She not only had the sale that day, but she had you for any future buys of her product.

Now you have to the do same thing. You must know everything you can about your product so you can guide your customers through to the right decision and not only make the sale but make a customer for life.

Here are seven things you can do to become your customers’ product expert. Let’s use printed circuit boards as our example

  1. Choose the very best line possible. Ask people you know, and ask your customers. Do your homework and find out what company does it better than anyone else and then reach out to them and sell them on letting you sell for them.
  2. Learn everything you can about your customer. How they run their company and what their secret sauce is. What do they do that is so outstanding that their customers deem them the best?
  3. Visit and survey the company. Ask for their customer service philosophy. Talk to everyone in the company, at all levels from the management to the customer service people. Make sure they are all singing from the same hymn book.
  4. Talk to their engineers and learn as much as possible about their technology. Take not only a plant tour but rather get out on the floor and build a board.
  5. Watch their sales presentation. Talk to their direct salespeople; talk to fellow reps. Learn how they sell. In fact, ask for some sales training; you might know how to sell but you may not know how to sell this company…now is the time to learn.
  6. Never stop learning. Don’t just learn from this company, but rather read everything you can about their technology—especially premier technology. Be sure to have a complete understanding of their technical capabilities.
  7. Set up some initials sales calls with your legacy accounts and invite their top engineer to come with you. Once there, shut up, listen and learn. Do a ride-along with their sales manager and watch how she sells.

Now you’re doing what you’re supposed to do; now you’re investing in your craft! And finally, one more in the spirit of under promise and over deliver. Become so knowledgeable about the technology that you can write an article or two about that technology. Make it both a technical and a sales article pitching the company and its technology to a larger marketplace. Talk about being outstanding! No one will ever expect that from a sales rep, so it’s a fantastic way to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

It’s only common sense.

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2017

It’s Only Common Sense: Know What You’re Selling

01-16-2017

Whether you’re selling garage door openers of guidance control systems, medical devices, kitchen appliances, laminate, or printed circuit boards, you must know your product. If you want to be a successful rep you must study the product, understand how it is built, why it is built a certain way, and most importantly, why the product your selling is better than anyone else’s.

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It’s Only Common Sense: Seven Ways to Become the Greatest PCB Rep

01-09-2017

Most rep firms don’t give any thought to becoming well-known in their territory and in their industry, which is a shame because if you make sure everyone knows what a great rep firm you have, life will become a lot easier. It will be easier to get new customers, partners and, most importantly, principals. In fact, principals will be beating a path to your door.

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It’s Only Common Sense: 7 Characteristics of a Good Rep Partner

01-03-2017

When you struck out on your own and started your rep firm, you had to decide just how large you wanted to firm to be. Many people just strike out on their own and have a solo act for a while.

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2016

It’s Only Common Sense: 7 Reasons to Fire Your Principal

12-27-2016

OK, so now it’s your turn. We have talked enough about making sure that as a rep, you make yourself invaluable to your principal. We have gone on ad nauseam about the various ways that reps disappoint the companies they represent. Now we are going to switch gears and put that proverbial shoe on the other foot and talk about when it’s time for you to check out, and tell your principal, “Adios, amigo.”

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It’s Only Common Sense: Seven Ways to Prospect for New Accounts

12-19-2016

We all know that companies must grow or they will die. The same thing applies to rep firms. You must keep growing your business, adding new customers, and increasing your sales.

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It’s Only Common Sense: 7 Ways to Get Your Principals to Brag About You

12-12-2016

If you’re a rep, the best way to be successful is to have your principals love you. Sad as it may seem, I almost never hear principals bragging about having a great rep. In fact, instead, I hear horror story after horror story about how reps aren’t doing anything, they are not bringing in the right stuff, they are hard to find when they are being signed and even harder to find after they are signed.

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It’s Only Common Sense: Seven Steps to Marketing Your Rep Company

12-05-2016

If you want to stand out as a rep company, you must get your name out there. The good news is that practically zero rep companies ever pay any attention to marketing their companies. This means that any company that invests a little time and money in marketing will stand out, and it’s not that hard to do.

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It’s Only Common Sense: So, You Want to be a Rep?

11-28-2016

You’re tired of working for someone else. You have a bunch of customers who just love you and would probably follow you wherever you go. And you want to sell more than what your company has to offer; you no longer want to be restrained by the limited capabilities of one company. And then there's the money...oh, the money. You want to be a rep. Are you sure? Read on.

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It’s Only Common Sense: ITAR—The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Very Ugly

11-21-2016

Has there ever been a more nebulous qualification than ITAR? It’s one of those topics that everyone has an opinion about, but no one really understands. To some of us it’s a game with ever-changing rules, and to others it’s simply a hurdle to overcome. And for others, it is something to ignore altogether. Speaking of ignoring it, some large companies have been ignoring ITAR restrictions for years, flying right in the face of the DoD.

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It's Only Common Sense: Targeting the Ideal Customer

11-14-2016

To successfully sell your products and services, you first must figure out who wants them. To do so, you should develop and implement what I call an ideal customer template. This requires an honest evaluation of what you do. You should first understand exactly what it is you’re selling, and then analyze who you’re selling to right now so you can identify your ideal customers.

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It’s Only Common Sense: Salespeople Selling High Tech

11-07-2016

You may have been a director of engineering in your previous position before moving into sales; maybe you’re a full-blown technology guru. But the minute you switch over to sales, your credibility is immediately challenged. Tough and unfair as this may seem, it’s true. The reason for this is simple: If you have the word “sales” on your card, people assume you are trying to sell them something and will do anything to make that sale. Here are five guidelines for successfully selling high technology.

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It’s Only Common Sense: The Game of Sales

10-31-2016

Managing a sales team is just like managing a sports team. You strive to put the best team on the field and then manage them to greatness. It means dealing with all the team members as individuals, figuring out how to handle each of them, from the prima donnas to the underachievers and rookies. Then you must bring them together as one cohesive unit that will work together towards one common goal of winning the game, or making forecast.

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It's Only Common Sense: Why Best Buy Will go out of Business

10-24-2016

Have you been to Best Buy lately? If you have, you’ve seen a store that is going to go out of business, sooner than later. And it’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to happen.

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2015

Hiring a National Sales Manager

12-28-2015

Because of some of the major consolidations that have taken place this past year, especially one company in particular, this is also good time to be looking for direct sales people. And because so many companies are merging, there are going to be some great sales managers looking for work. Yes, folks, there are going to be some good ones out there looking, and they’re yours for the picking.

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It's Only Common Sense: The Weekly Sales Report

12-21-2015

If you hire and manage salespeople, you need to have them write up a weekly report for you. Actually, they need to do it for themselves, because one of the true tenets of reporting is that the report is at least as important to the person writing the report as it is to the manager reading it. I am talking about a good and thorough accounting of what the salesperson has accomplished in the past week and what his plans are for the coming week.

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It's Only Common Sense: You Can’t Make Sales Calls on Mondays!

12-14-2015

Everybody knows you can’t visit customers on Monday. And forget Friday. And you know that Wednesday is never ever a good day to visit customers, right? One guy told me that in New England they don’t like seeing vendors in the summer, so there is no reason to even try. Everybody in New York takes August off, so that’s out. If you've ever said any of these things, you don't really want to be a salesman.

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It’s Only Common Sense: Advertise Like you Mean It!

12-07-2015

Before you spend your hard-earned dollars on advertising, make sure that you know what you want to say and how you want to say it! Make sure that you know just exactly what message you want to get across and, finally, make sure that your ads are going to move your customers to do something. Here are 10 guidelines for developing a solid advertising campaign.

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With Twitter, Ignorance Is Not Bliss

11-30-2015

Twitter is the fastest way to get the word out about what's happening at your company. If you hire a new employee, buy a new piece of equipment, or develop a new technology, Twitter will reach the widest audience. If enough people retweet your post, then your Tweet can go viral, driving a bunch of people to your website. How else can you do that, old-timers?

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It’s Only Common Sense: Providing Super Customer Service

11-23-2015

I recently came across a terrific book on customer service by Flavio Martins. Win the Customer: 70 Simple Rules for Sensational Service is filled with new and innovative ideas and strategies for improving your customer service. I thought this would be a great time to pass on some of the more interesting, pertinent and instructive ideas from the book. And our industry needs all the customer service help it can get!

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It’s Only Common Sense: Go Where the Business Is

11-16-2015

Demand for sales training is on the rise lately. People are realizing that the number one problem for any company is a lack of sales (as if you’ve never heard me say that before!). So now individuals and companies are looking for ways to gain more customers, and of course the very best way to do that is to make sure that your sales team is operating on all eight cylinders. That is, they must be fully trained, armed, and prepared to get out there and win more business.

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It’s Only Common Sense: Cold Calling—There is No Short Cut!

11-16-2015

No matter what books you read, the important thing to remember is that in the end, the salesperson is the one who makes it happen. You can read all the sales books in the world, attend all of the seminars and webinars that money can buy; but in the end, it’s the person in the mirror who has to have the ambition, the passion and the diligence to make it happen.

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It's Only Common Sense: Encourage Freedom of Thought at Your Company

11-02-2015

Ask yourself this: Are your staff members allowed to think? Some of the new management techniques can encourage team members to leave their brains at the door. I know that my friends on the other side of this argument will strongly disagree, but I am going to stick to my guns on this one. When you start measuring every single step of an operation to the point where you are measuring minutiae, trying to save every half second of time on the manufacturing floor, you are squelching the very creativity that you claim to be encouraging.

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It’s Only Common Sense: Being Productive is Easier than you Think

10-26-2015

Start being more productive with your time today by removing the tasks that are not dictated by someone else. Plan your days ahead of time. Get in the habit of laying out your work week, and do so two weeks ahead of time. Make appointments with the tactical scrutiny and planning of a U.S. Army general.

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2014

It's Only Common Sense: Be a Great Leader

12-29-2014

Ask yourself: Are you the kind of leader you would want to follow? Are you proud of the way you lead your people? Are you proud of the way you carry yourself? Are you proud of the way your people react to you?

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A Conversation with... PNC Technologies' Sam Sangani

12-26-2014

PNC Inc. specializes in working side-by-side with visionary engineers and buyers in the high-frequency RF/microwave, audio, defense, and medical industries to create solutions for ever-advancing concepts and designs. Columnist Dan Beaulieu recently sat down with President Sam Sangani to learn what he has to say about being one of the industry's leading PCB suppliers.

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It's Only Common Sense: Ways to Ensure Failure in 2015

12-22-2014

"I know this sounds pretty brutal, but I have to use any method I can to get your attention: If you don't change your ways, you'll go out of business in the next 12 months," writes columnist Dan Beaulieu.

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A Conversation with... ASC's Dave Lackey

12-18-2014

American Standard Circuits' Vice President of Business Development and Technical Sales David Lackey is the company's resident guru when it comes to flex, rigid-flex, and military technology. Columnist Dan Beaulieu recently sat down with him to discuss the technology and its importance to ASC's growth and industry growth in general.

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It's Only Common Sense: It's Forecasting Time Again

12-15-2014

If you want to be successful you must do a forecast. You must understand your customers, their buying habits, and their ordering patterns. To predict what your customers are going to do next year you must know what they did this year and the year before that.

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It's Only Common Sense: Be Unreasonable

12-08-2014

To be great you must to be unreasonable. You must be the one to expect more from yourself and those around you than most are comfortable giving. You must get off your butt, get out of your comfort zone, and make things happen that no one thought possible.

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It's Only Common Sense: No MBA? You've Got TV!

12-01-2014

Who needs Harvard Business School when everything you need to get a full-fledged MBA can be found on your television set? That's right, everything you need to know about business is available with the click of a remote control.

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It's Only Common Sense: The Future is Now

11-24-2014

I love watching the future unfold right before my eyes. I've been on a technology kick lately--reading everything I can get my hands on about new and exciting innovations. I came across a piece in this month's copy of Wired that really blew me away.

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Saving the North American PCB Industry

11-19-2014

Enough is enough: It's time for us to take our industry back. I think we can do it. We have more than a good chance of earning our way back.

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It's Only Common Sense: Saving the N.A. PCB Industry

11-17-2014

Columnist Dan Beaulieu comments, "Enough is enough: It's time for us to take our industry back. I think we can do it. We have more than a good chance of earning our way back. As Thomas Friedman would say, the world is flat and things have equalized. We can now make our move and ensure we get the PCB industry in this country back up and running."

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2013

It's Only Common Sense: Predictions for 2014

12-30-2013

As 2013 comes to a close, Columnist Dan Beaulieu takes a look back at the past 12 months and reflects on what's happened, evolving trends, and what both mean for the coming new year.

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It's Only Common Sense: All I Want for Christmas is a 3D Printer

12-23-2013

While Christmas shopping this week, Columnist Dan Beaulieu writes, "I spied the future, something we've all heard and talked about for the past couple of years at the end of one of the aisle. It's called 'The Cube' and it is the first 3D printer I've ever laid eyes on."

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It's Only Common Sense: Take My Life, Please

12-16-2013

I'm done with passwords. I just don't care anymore; take anything you want from me. It's just not worth it. If you want to sneak into my house and steal $2.99 movies from my Apple account, do it! If you want to go to my audible account and steal a book, then be my guest--have a ball.

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It's Only Common Sense: What's Fair is Fair

12-09-2013

In the past month I have heard no less than three times about companies asking--demanding--that their PCB suppliers take 20% off the price of their boards. Not just the new part numbers, mind you, but the part numbers they've been building for years. Really?

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It's Only Common Sense: It's All About the Story

12-02-2013

A company's story explains what the firm does, what it stands for, why it's different from other companies, why it's better than other companies, and why people should choose its products over competitors.

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It's Only Common Sense: Murder in the Sky

11-25-2013

I was horrified to read in the papers the other day that the FAA is about to cancel its ban on cell phone use during flights. Soon we'll be able to make calls while the plane is flying, which means we are about to lose the last bit of silent sanctuary the world offers us.

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It's Only Common Sense: Get Out of the Box!

11-18-2013

Columnist Dan Beaulieu writes, "We do the same things over and over again expecting different results. Very little thinking is done outside the box in our industry; this is something I deal with all of the time."

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It's Only Common Sense: Social Media - It's Time

11-11-2013

Like some of you, Dan Beaulieu knows that social media is something that he needs to get involved in, but just doesn't know how to get started. One book can solve his problem, and yours.

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It's Only Common Sense: Bring the Orphans Home

11-04-2013

There are all kinds of reasons why we lose customers--it just happens. Should you just forget about these lost customers? Assume they are long-lost orphans and move on to greener, pastures? Dan Beaulieu says to do everything you can, whenever possible, to bring them home.

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It's Only Common Sense: Being the Best

10-28-2013

Where do you rank as a salesperson? Are you doing the best job you can? Whether you have been in sales for 20 days or 20 years there are things you should always be doing to ensure you're performing at a maximum.

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2012

It's Only Common Sense: A Great Time to Sell Your Shop

12-31-2012

There is a great deal of renewed interest in American board fabricators and, interestingly enough, those most interested are as we say in Maine, "from away." European companies are particularly interested in buying into the American market.

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It's Only Common Sense: Thank You, IPC

12-24-2012

Kudos to IPC for trying to raise awareness when it comes to International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations. The association recently hosted a workshop with the country’s leading defense contractors in an attempt to educate them about ITAR in terms of PCBs.

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It's Only Common Sense: It's the Little Things

12-17-2012

A great company takes everything it does seriously. It considers everything important, from the way they answer their phone, to the way they handle customer issues, to the way they package and ship their boards.

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It's Only Common Sense: An Offer They Can't Refuse

12-10-2012

For the past couple of weeks, Dan Beaulieu's been talking about the rep/principal situation which, these days, he says is as polarized as the Republicans and the Democrats or the rivalry of all rivalries--the Red Sox and the Yankees. But now, he says, it's time to declare peace.

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It's Only Common Sense: Be Great

12-03-2012

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French critic, journalist, and novelist, once stated, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." When I look at our industry Karr's observation seems shockingly accurate.

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It's Only Common Sense: Ways to Make a Rep Love You

11-26-2012

Dan Beaulieu answers questions from his readers: How do I make the rep/principal relationship work? How do I create a successful partnership between these entities? How do I change things around so that instead of hating board shops, reps love board shops?

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It's Only Common Sense: Why Reps Hate Board Shops

11-19-2012

For the past couple of years, I've noticed that it's much more difficult to get independent sales reps interested in selling for board shops. One of my offerings, a task that is becoming my least favorite, is trying to find reps for shops. My fee for this is getting higher every year because it's getting more and more challenging.

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It's Only Common Sense: Focus on the Positive

11-12-2012

Poor salespeople also find a way to make themselves feel better for failing. They choose to believe what they see in the news. It's as if they hear about a recession and think, "Aha! That's why I'm failing; that's why I can't win any business." But when I talk to successful people, they don't even discuss such things.

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It's Only Common Sense: Can't We All Just Get Along?

11-05-2012

"DAM" thinking occurs when a person feels it is more important to push his or her own agenda than it is to contribute to the success of the company's agenda. A person or company with this type of thinking will end in failure.

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It's Only Common Sense: When Not on the Road

10-29-2012

The time you spend in preparation can be as important (if not more) than the time you spend selling. It's all about selling. Here are 10 things you should be doing on those days when you’re not on the road in front of customers.

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2011

Could Jack Welch run a Board House?

04-18-2011

No, I don't think Jack Welsh could run a board house. He would have a hard time dealing with the challenges that we in the board business face. First, he would have to face his own people. Then he would have to deal with cash flow. For the first time, he would know how much it costs to hire that admin. And he would have to pay bills on time.

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Special Edition - It's Only Common Sense: Not Leaving Japan

03-21-2011

The events in Japan quickly became very personal for Dan Beaulieu last week. His son, Damon, a teacher in Morioka, Japan, gives his first-hand account of the events that followed the record-breaking earthquake and tsunami that changed an entire country.

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It's Only Common Sense: A Simple Plan

01-17-2011

If you want to be successful in sales you have to know your customers. You have to know what their needs are, what problems they face and what they consider a good vendor.

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Multilayer Takes Aim at Military, Niche Products

01-04-2011

Multilayer Technology has seen some good years and some tough years. But while other companies chose to hunker down and merely weather the recession's storm, Multilayer chose to enhance the firm's technologies and capabilities. The company recently achieved AS 9100 certification, and management continues to plan technology upgrades.

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2010

It's Only Common Sense: Success Is Up To You

08-16-2010

This week, Dan Beaulieu gives you the cold, hard facts: Success in sales is entirely up to you. That's right, success or failure all depends on only one person--you.

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2009

It's Only Common Sense: Getting Great Reps

03-15-2009

Do you want to find some great representatives? Its not easy, but Dan can tell you how in this week's new column. This weeks is a must-listen: Listen for the free offer Dan mentions inside!

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It's Only Common Sense: Get New Customers

03-02-2009

The key to success in the current economy is winning new customers. Current customers are ordering less, so you've got to grow your customer base. American companies are realizing that they have to look out for one another if things are going to improve--creating a new sense of nationalism in this country.

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It's Only Common Sense: Cancel Sales Travel, Indeed!

01-19-2009

Companies need business now more than ever, but many are actually canceling sales travel! Dan Beaulieu has a serious problem with this senario. Sales travel is essential to the health of your company--it also lets your customers know that you're still alive and kicking. Be assured: There is business out there for companies willing to make a show of force and go after it aggressively.

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2008

It's Only Common Sense: Getting That Story Out

10-13-2008

You can have a great product and still not succeed in this industry. This week, Dan offers three economical and effective ways during these tough times to get the story of your products out to the rest of the world.

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It's Only Common Sense: The Annual Meeting

08-26-2008

Its that time of year again--if you're going to have a successful 2009, you'd better start working on it now...right now. This week's edition of It's Only Common Sense tells you how to get prepared for a successful 2009!

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It's Only Common Sense: What About This Price Thing?

08-11-2008

Dan Beaulieu asks, "What are we going to do about always going for the lowest price at any cost?" The real cost of going for the lowest prices are real--very real, indeed. The customer may always be right, but when that customer insists on the lowest priced product, at the expense of quality, then that customer is not putting out the best product possible.

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Column: It's Only Common Sense from Dan Beaulieu "How to Motivate Your Salespeople"

02-11-2008

Want to get the most from your sales team? Listen to this week's "Its Only Common Sense: How to Motivate Your Salespeople" and find out.

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2007

Dan Beaulieu Column: "The Great Solution Is Staring You in the Face"

12-10-2007

Why do we refuse to buy into a great solution to our problems even when it's staring us in the face?

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Dan Beaulieu Column: Be the Best You Can Be

11-27-2007

Are you the best salesperson you can be? If not why not...its your choice.

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Dan Beaulieu: It's Only Common Sense "From Cold Call to Customer Base"

11-19-2007

Do you hate cold calling?

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Dan Beaulieu's "It's Only Common Sense": This Is What I believe

11-14-2007

Listen to this week's It's Only Common Sense column from Dan Beaulieu "

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Dan Beaulieu's "It's Only Common Sense": Yes, You Still Need a Brochure!

10-29-2007

o you think the web site takes care of everything? That you no longer need a brochure? Think again my friend.

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Dan Beaulieu's "It's Only Common Sense": Old School vs. New School

10-22-2007

Some companies are old school and losing while other companies are new school and thriving

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New Column from Dan Beaulieu: There's A New World A-Comin'

10-15-2007

The world is changing -- are you ready?

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Column by Dan Beaulieu: Are YOU the problem? Making that plan work.

10-08-2007

Learn how to succeed in making your business plan work.

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Want to hire great reps? Listen to Dan Beaulieu's latest column.

09-10-2007

Want to hire great reps? Dan Beaulieu takes the mystery out of finding and signing the right sales reps for your company.

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Listen to Dan Beaulieu: "Beware of the bad guys."

04-09-2007

Listen to Dan Beaulieu's column ths week. Beware the bad guys. Be careful, be very very careful, if that job offer seems too good to be true...it is...

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