It’s Only Common Sense: Time to Fix What’s Broken

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: What will we do about sales reps?

Having sales reps in our business—as in all other industries—is not working. Not only that, but the situation is also getting worse. The gap between reps and their principals is so large that it’s hard to believe we can close it.

I have been on both sides of this issue.

From the principal’s point of view, it’s difficult to find a rep who will sell without a retainer. There is something about a rep getting a retainer that flusters the principal so much; they’re angry every time they write that retainer check. The reps, for some reason, don’t seem to perform as well when they get a retainer. In my experience, every time I’ve convinced a client to pay a retainer, something goes wrong.

From the rep’s point of view, things look worse than ever. No matter how hard they work, it can be almost a year before they get paid for their efforts. Think about how long it takes for them to get their principal qualified at a customer—even if it’s a customer that the rep has known for years. There is the qualification process, the plant visit, the survey, and the sample lot. Then there is the first quote, the order, and the lead time it takes to build that order. At minimum, it’s 90 days before the principal gets paid and then at least 30 days later before the rep finally gets paid. From when the rep starts the process to when they get paid can easily be 10 months or more. Ten months of covering expenses without seeing a dime. Yikes! That is just plain horrible.

This elephant in the room, the rep-principal relationship, is one that needs to be addressed. Something must change. Both sides must give a little if this way of doing business will survive to see another day.

For the next few weeks, I will attempt to solve this problem. I will dedicate myself and this column to finding a better and more productive way to make the rep-principal relationship work.

Because I have been working with reps for many years, I want to share a story of my own that I believe demonstrates how a good rep-principal relationship can work and, unfortunately, how it can be destroyed.

In 1977, I was a 27-year-old national sales manager at a division of Rockwell International in Maine. I managed a sales force of both direct and independent sales professionals. My first year was extremely successful. Under my management, the company’s top line grew from about $7 million to more than $12 million. Naturally, I was very proud of this, but I didn’t do it alone. It happened by standing on the shoulders of four very good, very aggressive independent sales rep firms.

Once the year was over, we all slapped each other on the back. Then a bright accountant was put in charge of our division. He was a “smart young man,” a legend in his own mind. After he saw what we were spending on our reps, he quickly decided that it would be “smarter” to let them go and keep the money.

That was my first exposure to the shortsightedness of corporate accounting. I spent the next few weeks firing all our sales reps, destroying everything we had built, and learning firsthand what not to do for the good of a company.

The next year was an unmitigated disaster. Sales plummeted to under $10 million and our numbers sank. During the year-end report, the accountant admitted that sales had dropped by $2 million. Instead of the profit we made the year before, we had lost money. 

Frustrated, I said, “This is terrific, isn’t it?” Looking at me like I had two heads, he asked what the heck I was talking about. I smiled and said, “Just go to your desk, pull out all that money that we saved by getting rid of the sales reps, and we’ll make our money back, right?” 

That’s when I learned that controllers and other financial people have no business being involved with sales. It also showed me why sales reps are so paranoid. After all, I had just fired the reps that had helped my company score a record-breaking year. These reps were my friends and partners.

It’s been more than 40 years, and this lesson about independent sales reps hasn’t been forgotten. I have since dedicated a considerable amount of time and energy to rep-principal relationships. This has meant long hours educating both sides about how to treat each other with respect.

So, stay tuned during the next few weeks as we explore every facet of the rep-principal relationship and find a way to make it work. Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

It’s only common sense.

Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.



It’s Only Common Sense: Time to Fix What’s Broken


It’s time to address the elephant in the room: What will we do about sales reps? Having sales reps in our business—as in all other industries—is not working. Not only that, but the situation is also getting worse. The gap between reps and their principals is so large that it’s hard to believe we can close it. I have been on both sides of this issue and for the next few weeks, I will attempt to solve the rep-principal problem. Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: It’s Your Website, So Own It


Please don’t believe that all website experts can tell your story. They can’t. Yes, they know all about developing intuitive or easy-to-navigate sites, and you’re smart to follow your web designer’s expert advice on, say, color tone and graphics. But that’s as far as it goes. They are technicians or IT experts, not necessarily marketing people who should be overseeing your company’s branding and storytelling.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Eight Things I Learned from Don Draper


I like to watch TV and I have found there is much to be learned from it. Some of my columns have focused on what I’ve watched, from the management skills of Tony Soprano to the business skills of Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” and the real business shows of “Shark Tank,” “The Profit,” “The Deed,” “The Pitch,” and the tear-jerking “Undercover Boss.” Here are eight things I learned from the dashing Don Draper on "Mad Men."

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Fact—The Kids are All Right


Many say this is the worst of times. Do you believe it’s true? Many are scared of a recession and spread that fear as widely as possible because they don’t know what will happen to our economy and their businesses. Frankly, I don’t believe it. What I do believe is that people like to say things like this because it somehow makes them feel better. Personally, it’s a poor justification for their lack of success. What I really don't like is when we blame it all on that special group called Millennials.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Not Making Sales? There’s an Excuse for That


As I always say, great salespeople find a way to succeed. They take advantage of weaker competitors who are busy coming up with creative but mostly fictional reasons for not making their sales—tantamount to not doing their job. Successful salespeople use their substantial creative juices to find innovative ways to sell successfully in all conditions. They keep their heads about them and show grace under pressure. But enough about them. I’ve come up with a list of 20 reasons (excuses, in my book) for why you’re not getting sales. I wonder if any of these sound familiar?

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Burgers, Root Beer, and a Mini-Van—Hard Lessons on Knowing Your Customers


Even the nation’s largest corporations make horrible product decisions at times. They’re true blunders. Dan Beaulieu shares two classic examples, and both shed light on the importance of knowing your customers well. Where did you fare in the burger wars?

View Story

It's Only Common Sense: Getting Customers Past the Price Barrier


Do you really believe in your product? Do you feel you are doing your customers a favor by getting them to use your products and services? You will be a magnificent salesperson if you truly believe that you have the very best products that money can buy. I am always amazed when I hear the reasons salespeople say they aren’t succeeding. The number one barrier? Price. Here's how to work around it.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Ready to Make a Million Dollars?


You work hard in sales. You do everything you can to make your numbers, just like you’ve always done. You develop a strong lead generation plan by finding and targeting the right accounts. If you score those accounts, you make your forecast. In other words, you do what you’ve been taught to do. It’s all good, solid work. Nothing extraordinary. But what if you were guaranteed a $1 million bonus if you hit your forecast this year? How would you do things differently?

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: It Never Hurts to Ask for Help


When you just can’t make any headway with a customer, have exhausted all your own resources and ideas, and don’t feel that you have another move left in you, it’s time to call for help. Time to send the flares up and signal SOS.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Doing Whatever It Takes to Succeed


Sometimes your back is against the wall, and for whatever reason, you just have to win this business. You do all you can, pull out all the stops, eat your pride, and remain laser-focused. Sometimes, when failure is not an option, you dig deep and do whatever it takes to succeed. We’ve all faced this situation at one time or another. I once was forced and under pressure to do whatever I could to win a contract. In my case, the future of the company and all 100 people who worked there was at stake.

View Story


It’s Only Common Sense: A ‘Hire’ Responsibility—Making a Sweet Offer


So, you’ve planned, searched, vetted, interviewed, and you’ve finally found the right candidate—the perfect person for the position. Now it’s time to make an attractive offer and negotiate the details of the compensation package with this stellar candidate. If you have done your homework properly, you already know what it will take to convince this person to join your company.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Ordering Talent Off-Menu in 2023


In thinking about the best way to hire good and talent individuals, I went to my library and found a copy of Tom Peters’ book, "The Professional Service Firm50," published over 20 years ago in 1999. Even in these unprecedented times, I have to say: Tom Peters still has it. Flipping through the book again, I was struck by how spot-on his advice still is and, for a moment, I thought that he had foreseen our future talent shortage all those years ago. But I came to realize that he didn’t need to know the challenges we’d be facing in 2023—good advice is timeless.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: A ‘Hire’ Responsibility—Selling the Search


Looking for the right people for your company is very similar to the way your sales team approaches building sales—especially now, when the competition for good people is so intense. This is a smart way to consider your search tactics. In some ways, the search team is faced with an even harder task than a sales team because it’s currently harder to find a good hire than a new customer. There are far more potential customers than candidates right now.

View Story

A ‘Hire’ Responsibility—Finding the Perfect Fit


You’ve done everything right so far in your organization’s ongoing search for a new top line recruit. You’ve created an ideal candidate profile, so you know exactly what you want, and you’ve leveraged your network to spread the word. Great news: All your hard work has paid off. You’ve managed to find not just one, but several good potential candidates for the position. As you review your options, you see there’s one candidate you’re particularly excited about, and now it’s time to start taking a good, hard look at them. Dan Beaulieu has five tips for success.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: A ‘Hire’ Responsibility—The Search


Dan Beaulieu continues his series about searching for and hiring the perfect candidate. This time he focuses on starting your job search. He says, "You’ve created your ideal candidate profile and you know exactly who you are looking for. To many, that is half the battle, since it is so much easier to search for someone when you know, tangibly and holistically, the qualifications you really need to take your business to the next level. Now it’s time to start your search. Here are my fundamental and timely tips for transforming your next job search."

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: A ‘Hire Responsibility’—12 Traits of the Perfect Candidate


Continuing our series on finding and hiring the best people for the future of your company, today we will talk about the ideal candidate for the position you’re trying to fill. Just like in sales, where we develop the ideal customer profile, we know to who our ideal candidate is. As the saying goes, “How will you find what you want if you don’t even know what you want?” The best way to find the perfect candidate for the position you want to fill (and for your company) is to create a description of that ideal candidate. This means really thinking about what attributes you want in the person you are going to hire.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: A New Series—A ‘Hire’ Responsibility


In this new series, Dan Beaulieu will address one of the biggest challenges facing companies today: finding and retaining a qualified workforce. Dan speaks with companies all around the country and this what they all talk about. Remember the time when we had so many potential candidates to choose from? Well, we all know it's not like that now. But you can still build a dream team. It just takes a little more thought. In this first installment, Dan addresses thinking creatively and with the future in mind.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Planning for a Great 2023


Here we are again, getting ready to plan for a new year. If your company has been doing great this year, this is an opportunity to review what worked and why you have been succeeding in 2022. You can build on that by adding a few more tactics and adjusting that strategy so next year is as good as this one. If things didn’t go so great for you, it’s a great opportunity to start over, to turn that proverbial page and have a fresh start. Learn what worked and throw out what didn’t work—after learning from it, of course.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: It’s Just Not Common Sense


Some things really make sense, but let's face it, some things really don't (even when they're supposed to). In this week's column, Dan Beaulieu—an avid reader of customer service books that highlight when things don't work so well and the solutions for them—shares a few of the annoyances in today's technology that just don't seem to be the commonsense approach. Isn't customer service supposed to be about service? But some of these things we all deal with may not be as good as we want them to be. How does your list compare to Dan's?

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Take Your Company From Zero to Hero


Many times, we can be too close to the problem to see it. It’s the old “forest for the trees” predicament. When this occurs it’s time to step back and do a full evaluation of the situation. It’s time to take a clear and unadulterated look at you and your company. There is nothing wrong with doing this kind of exercise, and I recommend it happens on a regular basis. In the end, no matter how bleak things may look, it will help get your company on the right path.

View Story


It’s Only Common Sense: Goals for 2022—The Courage to Innovate


There is an expression, “Whoever tries the most stuff wins. Whoever fails at the most stuff wins.” This appeals to me because I really hate playing it safe and not trying something instead of risking failure. If you look at all the great ones—the innovators, the creators, the developers, the people who have made significant changes in the world—they were all risk-takers, and probably all a little crazy. And there are the others who will never get there. Speaking of great ones, don't forget the famous words of Wayne Gretzky, who said, “I never made a shot I didn’t take.”

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: ‘A Christmas Carol’ Lesson


Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" is one of the best and most original business books you can read. It’s full of valuable lessons that apply to all facets of business, even today, more than 180 years after it was written. This time of the year you can watch any version you like, from the 1938 Reginal Owen version to the 1951 Alastair Sim version to Disney, the Muppets and Mr. Magoo. Even Bill Murray has his own version. Given that, I’ll go on the assumption you know the story. Except you’ve probably never thought about it as a business story.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: ‘The Profit’ Offers 10 Rules for Success


While other people are watching "The Voice" or "Game of Thrones," I am always watching business shows. Call me a nerd, but it’s a passion. One of my favorites is "The Profit," where serial entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis invest his own money into businesses that need his help. I love this show because he deals with companies, mostly small and family owned, as he shows their challenges and how he helps solve them. It is an ultimately relatable, common-sense approach to problem solving.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: A Little LEGO Story


What do Brad Pitt, Anna Kendrick, Gillian Anderson, Britney Spears, Matthew Perry, Mayim Balik, Mark Hamill, Chris Pratt, Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Pattinson, and David Duchovny all have in common? Think about that for a minute (or a million years) and you will never get it. Okay, give in? They are all AFOLs. No, not awful (my spell checker is working) they are all AFOLs—Adult Fans of LEGO! You’d be surprised how many AFOLs there are in the world. I can add my name to this list, and here's why.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: How Well Do Your Customers Really Know You?


A friend of mine was disappointed recently when he went to trade show and met one of his customers. As they talked it became evident to my friend that his long-time customer had no idea that his company did flex and rigid flex boards. Talking even further, this customer had no idea that my friend’s company did metal-backed boards either. Alt this customer knew about my friends’ company is what they did for him—simple six- and eight-layer epoxy boards. But customers are not interested in hearing your message–or any other message­–until they are ready to listen to that message.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Planning for a Great 2022!


Get ready to enter a new year; it’s less than five weeks away. If you haven’t started working on your planning for 2022 you are almost too late. And since I have been in the industry before dust, I know for a fact that most of you have not even thought about it yet, never mind started your prep. So, as always, I’m trying to be helpful in any way that I can. Here is a short checklist of things that you can do so your planning for next year is done by the end of the month.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: What the Pandemic Taught Us


I think this has been the fastest year in history. People tell me it’s because I’m getting old, and that’s true; but come on, I’m not that old. It feels like we just turned the page on 2019 to 2020, never mind 2020 to 2021. Heck, it feels like only last week we were all worried about Y2K and what that was going to do to our world. That was over 20 years ago.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Your Customer is Job #1


A survey I read recently said that 76% of the companies they polled admitted that it is now easier than ever to switch vendors. Yikes! And I believe it. I know that our own industry has become very dynamic. Now, more than ever, our customers are open to making changes. The bad news is that this puts us in jeopardy of losing our own customers; but the good news is that it gives all of us the opportunity to attract and gain new customers as well. It’s the wild west out there when it comes to customer acquisition.

View Story

It's Only Common Sense: Together We Can Figure This Out


The supply chain as we know it today is filled with missing links that are frankly screwing everything up. Why don’t we sit down and think about this for a minute? We can overcome many of these delays by actually working together by performing some of these actions concurrently rather than consecutively.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Super Service Your Way to Customers for Life


Our goal should be to become so treasured by our customers that when their new accountant shows up and says your customer is paying too much for your products, your customer is so enamored with your work that they tell the accountant, “Shut up and mind your own business,” then list all the reasons they will never move away from you.

View Story


2021: ‘Let’s Hope It’s a Good One Without Any Fear’


Other year-in-review scripters are listing all the reasons why this was a horrible, terribly no-good year. It would be easy to do the same. Dan Beaulieu follows his mother's advice to look on the bright side. He lists 10 ways to see a silver lining in 2021.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Adaptability is the Key


Why is it that some people have done so well working remotely? Dan Beaulieu believes this warrants further study for a number of reasons, not the least being that it so much easier to hire people remotely, than it is having to hire locally.

View Story

It's Only Common Sense: Why Market to Our Own Customers?


In many ways marketing to your current customers is the most important form of marketing you can do. To emphasize this point, here are seven reasons why you have to market to your own customers.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


As we do every year on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, my family gathers to watch the old classic “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” starring Steve Martin and John Candy. Just like we do every year, we all end up shouting ideas and suggestions at the characters, encouraging better choices. This movie came out in the late ‘80s, and it is stunning to realize today how many things have changed since then. Most notably, there have been changes in terms of technology, services, and travel. Just think if they’d had cellphones. Their lives would have been so much easier.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Words of Wisdom From Bezos


There is no mistaking the fact that Jeff Bezos is a smart guy. After reading the book "Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos"—which, you can find on Amazon, of course—Dan Beaulieu shares eight key takeaways.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Here We Go Again—Pandemic Shutdown, Round Two


For a number of reasons, the U.S. and other countries around the world are entering into the second round of shutdowns, which promises to be more severe than the last time. As we approach this new chapter of shutdowns, Dan Beaulieu shares eight positives to consider.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: It’s the Small Things


Great companies always pay attention to details. Dan Beaulieu shares how Seth Godin recently wrote a book titled "The Practice: Shipping Creative Work" and describes the importance and impact of receptionists.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: How Leaders Find Great People


Continuing his series on leadership, Dan Beaulieu looks at what truly successful leaders are doing and saying when it comes to hiring great people. What kind of people do they hire? What qualities do they look for? And how do they match prospective candidates to their company’s needs?

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Leaders Really Care


Continuing his series about leadership this week, Dan Beaulieu details a story he read in the book "212° The Extra Degree: Extraordinary Results Begin With One Small Change" by Sam Parker and Mac Anderson, as well as some examples of the power of leaders and teams from the NBA and five things that great leaders always do.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Doing What Matters


More people than ever are calling Dan Beaulieu for advice on how to spend their days. But things are not normal right now, and people—especially salespeople—need some advice on how to spend their days. Here, he shares seven lead generation steps you can take today that will make you a great salesperson tomorrow.

View Story


It’s Only Common Sense: Making 2020 the Best Year of Your Sales Career


Even if you didn’t do your homework last year, it’s not too late to set yourself up for success—all you need are two days of planning and a lot of hard work to make 2020 the best year ever. Dan Beaulieu shares 10 surefire steps to help you be successful in 2020.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: 50 Holiday Wishes for Salespeople


In the spirit of the holidays and the new year, Dan Beaulieu shares his 50 holiday wishes for salespeople, starting with, "May your products be great and on time."

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Consistency Is a Virtue


It all comes down to a simple rule, which we sometimes tend to forget. The key to consistent customer service is to treat your customers as you want to be treated. And that rule applies to everyone in the company, from the owner to the customer service people.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Delivering Amazing Customer Service


As you can probably tell by the tone of some of Dan Beaulieu's recent columns, he is on a journey to discover the best customer service ideas he can find. Beaulieu shares highlights from Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet by Shep Hyken.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Out the Friction!


If you were not familiar with the term “friction” when you read the title of this column, you will understand soon. Dan Beaulieu explains what friction is and how to avoid it based on the book Run Frictionless: How to Free a Founder From the Sales Role by Anthony Coundouris.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Delivering “WOW” Service


Based on The Power of WOW: How to Electrify Your Work and Your Life by Putting Service First, written by members of the Zappos team, Dan Beaulieu shares the company's Oath of Employment, which highlights outstanding customer service.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Treat Your Customers Like Prospects


After sharing a story from "Be Amazing or Go Home: Seven Customer Service Habits That Create Confidence With Everyone" by Shep Hyken, Dan Beaulieu advises readers to advise anyone who is serious about customer service to read this book and asks how you treat your customers once they're no longer prospects.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: The Right Way to Brand Your Company


I have helped a lot of companies develop their brand, and I believe the best way to get started is to find their story. It’s always there; you just have to find it. It reminds me of the Michelangelo anecdote that claims he was fond of essentially saying, when faced with a huge block of marble, “There is a beautiful statue in there; it’s just my job to find it.” The same applies to a company’s story. Here are some of the questions I ask the companies I work with.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Building a Great Reputation


The first thing you have to do is make sure that you do have a great reputation. It makes no sense to brand yourself if you can’t deliver the goods. So, just like a company that has to make sure that it delivers the best overall value to its customers, as a salesperson, you have to deliver the best overall value in what you do.

View Story

It’s Only Common Sense: Sales Management—Focus on What Is Important


A sales manager should do everything they can to focus on their sales team. They should perform at maximum proficiency at all times and ensure that they are focused on all the right things. It is recommended that good sales managers spend 90% of their time with their sales team doing three things: have one-on-one meetings with individual salespeople, lead team sales meetings, and take part in “ride-alongs.”

View Story
Copyright © 2023 I-Connect007 | IPC Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.