How do you spend your time? Your weeks are likely a blur of repetitive, service-oriented scheduled calls that are meant to fulfill your promise to “be there” for your customers. There is no question that this activity is an important part of any territory manager’s job. If you fail provide a high level of customer service, it could translate to lost business. On top of that, your boss is demanding that you grow your territory. You might get lucky, or you can decide to deliberately create the new business that you need. With limited time, how do you decide where to invest it?

You can get sales growth in two ways: take it from competition, or help your dealer grow. The latter is referred to as organic growth. There is plenty of opportunity for both, but finding it is a challenge. A systematic approach to evaluating your accounts for both potential and probability will help you determine where to invest your limited time and energy. This process will naturally lead you to asking your dealer for a business commitment. Here are the steps:

  • Apply the 80/20 rule to narrow down the number of accounts you will initially target.
  • Listen to your gut and shorten the list to 5 to 10 target accounts that you feel have enough business potential to warrant your efforts. This potential must be significant enough to help you reach your business growth goal.
  • Schedule an appointment with the principal of each account, telling him or her that you would like to learn more about their business so you can better serve them and help them meet their goals.
  • During this appointment, ask questions about their business, its history, and what the plans are for growth. Listen attentively, take notes, and show sincere interest. This is your opportunity to assess the potential you have to either take business from competition or create organic growth. Don’t dilute the integrity of this call by selling anything. This is not a sales call. Schedule a follow up call.
  • At the next call continue to ask questions, but instead, probe deeper to see what it might take for them to change suppliers or invest in growing a particular part of their business. This is the time to assess the probability that you can get the business you have identified. Again, don’t sell anything, no matter how tempting it is. Doing so will destroy the consultative nature of this important call. Schedule one more call.
  • Discuss what you learned with your boss and your branch team. Then, prepare a proposal that summarizes the business opportunity that you’ve identified, what the dealer said he would want from you to earn it, and what you want from the dealer in exchange for your supporting efforts and commitments. Think big and visualize earning all of their business. Challenge your company to consider this as well.
  • At the next call, make your presentation. Your approach should be this: “If I would do all of this, would you commit this business to me?” Be prepared for the predictable responses and be willing to give-and-take on everything but your pricing. If you open the door to price negotiations, then that will be the basis for all negotiations in the future.

By following this process, you are essentially guaranteed to get your dealer’s agreement to at least some of what you’re asking for. By reviewing the steps I’ve outlined, you’ll see that the dealer is actually telling you what business potential you have and what you need to do to earn it. When you actually give him what he told you he wanted, the probability of getting his agreement is very, very high.

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