C-Suite Network™

Personal Development Sales

Is Your CPG Startup Ready for Outside Sales Reps?

Every Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) business comes to the point where the founder asks themselves—” Am I ready to hire a salesperson?” In order to find an answer, you must ask yourself a few more questions:

Do you imagine replacing yourself in your territory?

Because outside sales reps are generally based in their own territories, replacing yourself would likely require a salesperson who’s already in your area. Ideally, you’d introduce them to each of your accounts with confidence that they’d maintain and grow the relationships you’ve cultivated in that territory.

Do you imagine yourself opening a new territory with your new salesperson?

The ideal rep for a certain territory would come from that territory. Sales representatives may have worked for many different brands throughout their careers, but they’ve probably done so in the same area.

Financially speaking, are you ready to hire a new sales rep?

And by “ready”, we mean–can you afford it? Do you have the funds to pay the rep’s base salary and expenses for their sales? If you do, for how long? Can you cover the bills long enough to “prime the pump”, so to speak? And when will you be able to break even?

Do you think it’ll take 6 months or more–in other words, within 6 months they will earn more than it costs to pay them, their expenses, and commissions? Beware! This could be a dangerous assumption and requires delicate handling. It has to do with your salesperson’s performance in developing and maintaining your brand’s image in their territory. In our case, we planned on having a year to break even in new territories. We were surprised by accounts, reps, and territories who were able to break even, and make a profit at that, much sooner!

So what do you need in your artillery before you try to commit to a new territory sales rep? Well, what’s the base salary rate in that territory? And what kinds of expenses are you likely to expect? All of these things vary from territory to territory, so it’s vital that you do your homework! Ask other industry folks in that territory. But heed warning! If your salary is too high, your new sales rep might not be incentivized enough. If it’s too low, you run the risk of not attracting an effective salesperson. Ideally, you will guarantee a commission structure to your employees that is based on growth, sales, and profitability.

In our case, we identified the key accounts we wanted to be in–the ones we thought would help us generate a profit the fastest, and the ones who we thought would help our new salespeople get commission sooner. The “low-hanging fruit”, in other words. Then, we hired the best rep to fit those accounts. Getting a referral from buyers was a huge help in finding the best reps. If we hired their referral, we got into their account sooner! But in order for the sales rep to keep the account, they had to perform.

Some people might think that they need to have enough sales in their current territory before expanding. This isn’t always the case. But it is always the case that you need to be able to afford the basics in a new territory for a certain amount of time without income. The shorter, the better!

Ultimately, the business owner will have to give their own territory to a replacement. But when? The answer to that question has to do with the effort the owner wants to put in. They can either keep their sales position and hire a CEO, or they decide to oversee new territories, training new salespeople and holding them accountable for their work. Yes, there will be turnover. The owner will be taken away from their accounts at one point or another–this is just the nature of business growth. It might seem like a great idea to replace yourself at first, but it might not be financially sensible.

What do you need to provide in order to compete with other CPG companies for your sales reps?

Of course, you’ll have a hard time matching your competitors’ established benefits packages when you’re new. But your offer will still have a very attractive component–the chance for the sales reps to build a brand in their own territory. Even the “Territory Brand Manager” title indicates that this salesperson has reached a focal point in his or her career.

Based on your reps’ achievement of certain metrics, try to negotiate for future benefits. The job title and the opportunity to be responsible for building a brand will offset the concession if they are an entrepreneurial, confident go-getter! You want this type of employee anyway!

Whatever you negotiate, there’s no doubt you’ll be out the “guarantee” or base salary, and expenses. So start saving! And get an accountant to give you all the details for that specific territory in terms of income and cost of sales. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that some territories will return much more quickly on your sales rep investment than others!


 When it comes to financially supporting the decision to hire outside sales reps, there are multiple moving parts to consider. There’s no one right way to do things. The only thing you can do is your homework–and be careful! Your salespeople represent you, your brand, and your products in a new territory. Some risk-taking will be necessary, so start calculating and proceed “All ahead slow!”

For more, read on: http://c-suitenetworkadvisors.com/advisor/michael-houlihan-and-bonnie-harvey/



Best Practices Culture Growth Leadership Personal Development

Is Your Company Sexist?

In June 2018, Ernst & Young, an accounting firm with $36.4 million in global revenue and 270,000 employees, demonstrated how deeply sexism is embedded in company culture.

At a day-and-a-half-long seminar on leadership and empowerment, 30 female executives received a barrage of information about how to “fit into” corporate culture. The basics of this presentation were contained in a 55-page document.

Noteworthy excerpts included:

“Don’t flaunt your body—sexuality scrambles the brain.”

A description of how women’s and men’s communication styles differ stated that women often “speak briefly” and “ramble and miss the point” in meetings. In contrast, a man will “speak at length ― because he really believes in his idea.” Men are more effective at interrupting than women, who “wait their turn and raise their hands.”

A masculine/feminine score sheet further reinforced sexist stereotypes. Some of these included the notions that women are loyal, sensitive to the needs of others, and yielding. Men are individualistic, independent, and competitive.

A senior consultant at Paradigm, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, Evelyn Carter, said that while the Ernst & Young presentation took note of sexist stereotypes, it seemed to advise women how to live with them.

What’s a Company to Do?

Consulting with a diversity and inclusion company is a good start. I also recommend this article in Inc. “Women Should Not “Fix” Themselves to Fit Into Sexist Work Environments,” 

by Amy Nelson, founder, and CEP of The Riveter. Read this article for some specific suggestions about changing company cultures.

In addition, special attention needs to be paid to both verbal and written language so that it’s gender-neutral.

“Men” Is Not an Inclusive Word

The argument that it is, while archaic, is still used, as in the idea that “mankind” includes both men and women. The truth is that it leaves out women entirely; it makes men the default gender. Erasing that word from one’s speech and writing is a good beginning.

In that vein, the word “guys” also must go. A guy is a man. I can’t count the number of times a waiter addressed my husband and I as guys. “Thank, guys.” “What would you like tonight, guys?”

Some other words, like “businessmen,” “chairman,” and “manpower” should also be endangered. The first two only need the replacement of “person” and “people.” The third can be swapped for “personnel.”

One phrase that should be eliminated is “Man up” and similar expressions, some of which are genitalia-based. It might take a little longer to say, “Take responsibility,” but it has much more impact.

When my boys were little and enjoyed having me read bedtime stories, I edited the language in their books. Fireman became firefighter. Police man became police officer.  I even changed some elements of stories. If daddy was outside doing yard work and mommy was inside cooking, I added a sentence that daddy would take his turn cooking the next day. When my boys learned how to read, they realized how I’d changed the stories. We still laugh about this today.

 Use “They”

I agree with those who say that using “he and/or she” is clunky and awkward. The solution many are adopting is “they.”

“If an employee wishes to submit a complaint, she or he should forward it to the appropriate department.”

“If an employee wishes to submit a complaint, they should forward it to the appropriate department.”

Grammatically, it may look wrong, but it’s simple, and it does the job.

Overcoming Objections

One of the bigger objections is “It’s just an expression.” None of the phrases I’ve used here are “just expressions.” They are, rather, “reflections.” They demonstrate the underlying sexism that underpins far too much of company culture and culture in general.

Attention to non-sexist language also isn’t a phase that women are going to get over. They are in it for the long haul. It makes good business sense to understand and adapt to the values that are reshaping company culture.

Besides, it’s the right thing to do.

Pat Iyer is one of the original 100 C Suite Network Contributors. She serves business leaders as a ghostwriter and editor. Connect with her at patiyer.com.

Best Practices Growth Leadership Personal Development

The Company Memo as a Reflection of Company Culture


Good writing skills plus a good attitude make a good memo.

An Imaginary Case History

Frank must send out a memo to the people on his team about low productivity among employees. The nature of that memo will depend a lot on the kind of company culture he’s either created or contribute to maintaining.

The specific problem is that people are turning in reports that are carelessly written and sloppy in terms of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. How will Frank address this issue?

Wielding the Stick

Suppose he functions within a repressive company culture. This would be one that sees its employees, Frank included, as units of profit and loss. Those at the top do nothing to promote a sense of community and common purpose. The odds are good that many don’t like their jobs, call in sick whenever possible, and are either actively seeking other employment or thinking about it. (Frank may be one of them.)

Frank Lays Down the Law

Feeling the pressure from higher up, he writes his memo in a harsh and formal tone. He uses words like “consequences” and “unacceptable.” He threatens that employees will get negative reviews. Beneath this threat lurks the possibility of firings. Overall, the emphasis is on “Shape up, or ship out.”  He may incorporate as well the message that anyone should be able to write an acceptable report. The undertone here is “You’re all stupid.”

Waving the Carrot

In a more employee-centric environment, Frank will pause before he writes his memo. He takes the time to review the attributes of each team member. He knows that Jaye is dealing with a child’s chronic illness. Rick has to put his mother into a nursing home. He realizes that other team members may be dealing with issues of which he isn’t aware.

He also recognizes that, due to pressures to launch a new product, it’s been a long time since the office has had a party or outing and that informal conversations have been down to a minimum. People have been stressed by overtime work. It’s time to rebuild the cohesiveness of the team.

He writes a memo that reflects his awareness of these issues and suggests a team meeting to discuss them. He invites team members to bring proposals to the meeting. In addition, he emphasizes that he’s available to anyone who needs to speak to him individually.

The tone of this memo is informal and friendly. He uses words like “rebuild,” “understanding,” and “accessible.” His memo invites a positive response.

Middle Ground

With the above two examples, I’ve posited extremes. However, it would be more accurate to envision a spectrum. Many companies are making the transition from being employee-repressive to more positive approaches. This means that a memo—and all inter-office communication—can serve not only to reflect but to shift company dynamics and the nature of its culture.

Maybe those at the top who practice repression out of habit and can’t envision a different way need to see the effect that a friendly, employee-centric memo with appropriate follow-up can create.

Trigger Words

I’ve mentioned some of these above. “Consequences” and “unacceptable” characterize a repressive company culture. “Rebuild,” “understanding,” and “accessible” reflect a friendlier atmosphere.

Here are some other words to consider.

Repressive: necessity, obligatory, required, rules, mandatory

Employee-centric: teamwork, cooperative, supportive, appreciation, community

A company culture is an ongoing process. A memo and any other form of written communication should not only communicate necessary information but convey an appropriate tone.

Our words count.

Pat Iyer is one of the original 100 C Suite Network Contributors. She serves business leaders as a ghostwriter and editor. Connect with her at patiyer.com.

Best Practices Growth Leadership Personal Development

Are You Making This Mistake With Your Mission Statement?


Why Mission Statements Don’t Work

Just because we have mission statements doesn’t mean they should magically inspire people. Only 1 in 4 employees actually believes in their company’s mission statement, let alone their customers. The truth is most businesses don’t have very compelling stories because we focus our attention on telling our stories rather than the customers we serve. Most companies explain their products, services, benefits, and features, not WHY we should care or about the ultimate outcome we provide for the customers we serve.

The fundamental question every business must answer is what problem we’re actually solving. To tell our story in a way that attracts customers, we have to put the customer at the center, not just values and ideals.

In Lisa Cron’s book, Wired For Story, The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence,  she says that “story was more crucial to our evolution than the opposable thumb. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to. Story is what enabled us to imagine what might happen in the future, and to prepare for it. A feat no other species can lay claim to, opposable thumbs or not.”

To form a bond with customers, knowing what’s important to them and where those customers can be reached in the media landscape, and developing the type of content and experience they desire requires a level of storytelling. After all, we don’t buy fortune cookies to eat them. We buy into the stories they tell. The future they inspire is more potent than the product itself.

What message should we really tell our customers?

  1. Who is the Hero?
  2. What is the conflict they’re confronting and struggling to overcome?
  3. What future outcome do they really want us to help them achieve?

Most businesses talk about what they sell, not what conflict they help resolve. Over time companies have been selling solutions to external problems, but people buy solutions to internal issues. Nobody is interested in our products. They’re interested in what your product can get them.

When people ask us what we do, what they’re really asking is:

  1. Does what you do matter to me?
  2. If so, why?
  3. And exactly should I do about it?

Make the Customer the Hero of Your Story:

If you need advice on your heart, you go to a cardiologist. When you need help with your marketing message, you go to NY Times Best-Selling Author and former screenwriter, Donald Miller. Miller says the biggest mistake businesses make with our marketing is describing our companies as the attractive character or the Hero of the story instead of the customer. Instead, we should play the role of the guide to our customers’ needs. By being the guide, we, in turn, become seen as the Hero to them instead. We’re describing too many benefits and not the potential outcome we provide the customer.

In his famous book; Building a Story Brand, Miller writes: “If The Bourne Identity were a movie about a spy named Jason Bourne searching for his true identity, but then also included scenes of Bourne trying to lose weight, marry a girl, pass the bar exam, win on Jeopardy, and adopt a cat, the audience would completely lose interest.” There are too many directions that deviate from the original goal. Instead, Miller argues we need to provide a common goal we can agree we want for each member of the audience or community we’re trying to reach.

When we clarify our marketing message into a single want, we bring our audience into our story by getting them to want the same future outcome instead of the process and tools it takes to get them there. We should focus instead on explaining the results we provide than what we have to sell them.


For more information visit tylerhayzlett.com

Marketing Personal Development

Why CONTENT MARKETING Is The Only Skill You Really Need

The Rise Of Content Marketing

In 1995, journalist Esther Dyson asked an important question about the burgeoning web:

“What new kinds of content-based value can be created on the internet?”

Dyson observed almost 30 years ago that as the internet becomes more populated with all kinds of content, the value of intellectual property will depreciate. “The likely best defense for content providers,” she argued, is “to distribute intellectual property free in order to sell services and build relationships.”

What worked in marketing in the past won’t keep working in the future. And it isn’t, we know it. In a world with unlimited competition for attention, we must find a way to deliver value to our customers before they ever make it to a pitch to sell them something. Because if you don’t, someone else will. The modern era of marketing has been an entire shift from advertising what we do to teaching what we know to help the most people. Businesses today are treating their information as the product to attract people interested in learning about their field to add value and gain the attention of the customers we want.

The Rise of Value-Rich Content

Subject matter experts today are standing out by providing the most useful, easy to find content to create a community around the passion they share for their subject matter. It’s NOT about producing content for the sake of promoting content for our business. It’s about providing beneficial information that informs & delights people who are searching for what you know that can help them.

The term content marketing isn’t new. It was simply adopted by the marketing industry wishing to put a stake in the ground in 2007 to highlight the shift away from annoying traditional interruption advertising to the maturing discipline of differentiated value-oriented content creation. To help people not just sell people. 

78%  of CMOs believe custom content creation is the future of marketing, which isn’t surprising given how it influences 61% of consumer’s buying behavior with a 6x higher conversion rate compared to marketing without a digital content strategy. Businesses today that produce the most relatable content. Win.

The content marketing funnel is the new sales funnel. 75% of people visiting a site are just seeking useful information. 23% are comparing solutions they are looking for, and only 2% are ready to take any immediate action. That means we need far more content to attract and engage people into our funnel. Create episodes, videos, articles that help your customers overcome the conflict stopping them from achieving their goals. Create articles on examples of other people or companies reaching the goals you can help them achieve to get them interested in those results. (The mountain they want to climb).  Then create content that outlines every step they need to obtain what they desire and the tools and resources they need to reach their ultimate goal (be the guide).

Instead of interrupting the content, your potential customer is consuming. Produce the content they want to consume.

For more information visit tylerhayzlett.com

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