One of those snippets of AP-sourced news found on my browser home page recently announced that employees who objected to their boss asking them to occasionally take on some different task, might find themselves out of a job when/if the time comes to cut costs in payroll.
As an independent sales rep, or as any kind of entrepreneur, this is “old news”. If you are thinking of becoming any sort of self-employed individual, taking on another task should be second nature. Clean the bathroom, because it needs it. Do an associates job while he’s on vacation because, well, he’s on vacation and it needs being done!
Never once in the AP article did it mention the idea that employees that do willingly and cheerfully take on another task outside their normal job description, are the kind of employees that stand themselves to be promoted when/if that time comes…people do get promoted even during economic downturns, you know. And if you were in the boss’s shoes, who’d you want to promote? Someone who stuck to their “job description” or a well-rounded individual who knew the ropes all around?
Sadly, the fact we have to be told this kind of thing via an AP news blurb is pretty pathetic and an indication that Union Mentality creeps into all sorts of corners of the workplace. Do you like Unions? Would you like to move to Detroit or Appalachia?
I guarantee the boss-man/lady or owner spent many an extra hour cleaning the bathroom, cutting the lawn out front, cleaning dishes, packing and shipping the last 10 orders of the day, whatever it took, to keep the business running. If you want to wonder why they are boss, you might contemplate that.
T.Boone Pickens was a guest on a radio talk show I listened to in the 1980s. He was discussing entrepreneurship in particular. A caller, obviously a young man fresh out of school, asked him “Mr. Pickens, when one first starts out in their own business like you once did, about how many hours a week should they expect to work?”. Pickens answered in as kind a voice as he possibly could, “Ralph (or whatever his name was), if you are even thinking about that, you will never make it in your own business. To be your own boss, you work until the job gets done, or at least caught up”.
The “How many hours a week” mentality is very closely related to “That’s not MY job!”.
This is also why it is important for an independent rep to become as well-rounded and experienced as possible. YOU are your own boss…or you have many bosses. When you find something needs doing, you may be the only one who has the time or talent to do it. If a vendor (a boss, so to speak) needs something more than just someone to take orders and send them in, they will notice someone who’s talented in multiple areas.
Here are some examples of what a rep can do to go beyond “their job”:
· Get as tech savvy as possible, and keep educating yourself to what can be done with today’s technology. One of my own lines can name-drop a store’s logo onto the back of t-shirts. A customer who wasn’t very tech-savvy sent in a cute logo, but no script. They wanted us to add it. The vendor could not, or was hesitant to do so. I took it upon myself and after about 5 or 6 tries to get the dpi-resolution to comply, I got it to where the customer and vendor were both happy with the results.
Therefore the sale was made. It would not have been made if I had simply stuck to “my job”.
· Become a marketing expert. Marketing is the process where you prepare the prospective customer with information and tools so that when they are ready to buy, they buy from you…. or your vendor. Many vendors may be good at producing product, but they may do a questionable job marketing it. This means it may also be harder to sell. Sales are the end result of good marketing, not bad.
Don’t be afraid to offer help to a vendor that has a boring website or lacks any sort of print campaign. Think like the customer and translate that into “Would I buy from this company?”. Make up some of your own marketing materials or enhance your own website and see the results. Share them with your vendors.
· Think like an inventor. Use customer feedback or your own observations to think of what the market lacks…if you see a lot of products adapting a particular theme, fad, or trend, why not products that one particular vendor would be good at and has the production capability to pull off?
Remember the line of t-shirts that could be name-dropped? I suggested such a line to this vendor for several reasons. I had another line of good product of this sort, but horrible delivery. The vendor I contacted was already doing programs similar to what I had in mind, and I stressed they’d have a market pretty much all to themselves. It turned out with a little research, they agreed, and they could do the product fairly inexpensively compared to other things they had…and the new product could sell to their existing accounts as well.
· Be a bean counter. As mentioned in my book “The Independent Sales Rep” (check Amazon.com), you should keep track of your sales and commissions in detail. When you get paid, the check should have a detailed statement as to what orders it covers. It’s surprising many reps don’t do this. Check off those orders on your statement as though it was the bank statement for your checking account. Notify the vendor as to what orders from that period you were not paid for. It may be those orders are still in house and on hold due to the customer not paying an old invoice—you may offer your services as a collector too, but it may not have to come to that. It may be that the orders were lost. Or it may be they were shipped on time and credited to someone else.
Several times I have been owed commissions and went over my list with whatever list (or lack of it) a particular vendor had. When it became obvious to me in some of these cases that the person in charge of commissions couldn’t tell a PO# from a pig’s snout, I made a personal call to the owner/CEO of that particular company and told them: “In all honesty, if I had someone like that in charge my money at my company, I’d have my hand on my billfold 24 hours a day”. In each case, the commission handler was either fired or transferred to another department that did not involve handling money. These bean counters were not up to the job, so there may come a day when an independent rep has to be.
Of course the independent sales rep can’t literally do everything, from production down to shipping…but when things get stalled on account of someone, somewhere, not being able or willing to do their jobs, ask yourself: “Can this be something I can make my job?”. Customers and vendors alike will notice this and you’ll earn their trust.