What Does a MANA Manufacturer Member Look Like?

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I have the pleasure of speaking with many of MANA’s manufacturer members each year. And from time to time I also speak with manufacturers who choose not to belong to MANA or any other not-for-profit association that supports the representative system of selling.

Frankly, the differences between those two groups are dramatic. Manufacturers who belong to MANA and other not-for-profit trade associations that support the representative system of selling are much more likely to be deadly serious about:

  • Taking their products to markets through manufacturers’ representatives.
  • Thoughtful reflection of the impact house accounts have on their relationships with manufacturers’ representatives.
  • Improving their understanding of the outsourced system of selling through MANA resources like Agency Sales magazine and “Nine Steps to Being a Quality Principal” professional development program.
  • Implementing (or working toward implementing) rep councils to serve as their company’s advisory board.
  • Collaborating with representatives to create mutually-agreed-upon marketing plans.
  • Offering written representative agreements that allow the representative a fair return on time invested in that line.
  • Planning territory visits for maximum efficiency and productivity.
  • Putting themselves into the representatives’ shoes to create long-term, mutually profitable relationships.

Do all these insights and commitments manifest themselves the first day a manufacturer joins MANA? Of course not. Savvy MANA representative members know that manufacturers who have been MANA members for months have begun to make a commitment to representatives and manufacturers who have been MANA members for years. They have not only made that commitment, they have had time to study MANA’s professional development resources and integrate representative best practices into their businesses.

So our message to MANA manufacturer members is to be sure to tell prospective representatives that you are a MANA member and also to share with them your progress on making your company representative friendly.

Our message to MANA representative members is that when a MANA manufacturer member contacts you, remember that they have made a commitment to support your trade association and the representative system of selling. And always reciprocate that commitment by extending the courtesy of a response to every MANA member who contacts you regardless of whether or not you are interested in their line.

The Need for Reps to Recognize the Importance of Change and to Embrace Change in the Way They Do Things

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Anyone who knows me well will recognize that it’s somewhat ironic that I’m writing on embracing change! That’s because I hate change. But being asked to write this has forced me to examine my general reluctance, its root and the net result of changes in general.

I asked myself, why do I spend the time and energy resisting change? Well, sometimes my resistance is rooted in fear of the unknown. Sometimes it’s in the thought and stress related to having to learn something new and the time it’s likely to absorb. Most frequently it’s rooted in my general fear of … Read the rest

Making Change Work

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Discussions focusing on the need for individuals and companies to change very often seem to gravitate to examples of dinosaurs and buggy whip manufacturers — both of which failed to change and now they’re gone. Among the more common phrases that accompany these discussions are, “Change is hard” and “People hate change.”

Perhaps a more down-to-earth consideration of the subject appears in the words of Chip and Dan Heath in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The authors maintain, “Big changes can start with very small steps. Small changes tend to snowball. But this … Read the rest

The Ever-Changing Face of the Gerstman Group

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Come face to face with change and there are basically two courses of action to follow: embrace it and move forward; resist/reject it and wait for whatever happens. History is littered with the likes of those that have chosen the latter course. Consider for a moment everyone from manufacturers of buggy whips to typewriters, who have resisted change and today remain firmly locked in the pages of history books.

There’s no better example of an independent manufacturers’ representative firm that has chosen and benefitted from following a different course that allowed them to embrace and grow with change than Harvey … Read the rest

Second Source Strategies:
A Marketing Paradigm for Reps?

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Despite a lukewarm economy, our niche market in the firearms industry is still seeing unprecedented spikes in sales. Given my background in economics, I saw this as a classic case of supply and demand, but instead of breaking out my Excel sheet to start forecasting market impact, I thought, “How can this be an advantage to our rep agency business?”

The answer seems relatively clear — an increased demand must mean manufacturers are hungry for suppliers to ramp up production. The short answer would be “Yes,” however, our ability to get in front of these large manufacturers so we could … Read the rest

Sales Lessons From Secretariat

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I wrote this on June third, so it’s more than likely that by the time you read this, we either have another Triple-Crown Winner in California Chrome, or we don’t. [Editor’s Note: We don’t. California Chrome finished fourth in the Belmont]. Either way, as the Belmont Stakes rolls around each year, I’m reminded of perhaps the most famous horse ever and winner of the Triple-Crown back in 1973, Secretariat. If you haven’t seen the 2010 movie Secretariat, you need to. It’s both inspirational and motivational, the movie provides us with some great sales — as well as life — lessons. Read the rest

Universities

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Long-time friend of MANA Bob Reiss has graciously allowed Agency Sales magazine to serialize his book Bootstrapping 101: Tips to Build Your Business with Limited Cash and Free Outside Help, available now on Amazon.com. The book looks at surprisingly effective low-cost and no-cost ways to acquire the resources you need to run your company. Whether your company is an existing enterprise or a start up, a manufacturers’ representative company or a manufacturer, this book will introduce you to innovative ways to cut your costs and drive more of your income into bottom line profits.

Professors at schools prefer to … Read the rest

Relationships and Trust

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Long-time friend of MANA Bob Reiss has graciously allowed Agency Sales magazine to serialize his book Bootstrapping 101: Tips to Build Your Business with Limited Cash and Free Outside Help, available now on Amazon.com. The book looks at surprisingly effective low-cost and no-cost ways to acquire the resources you need to run your company. Whether your company is an existing enterprise or a start up, a manufacturers’ representative company or a manufacturer, this book will introduce you to innovative ways to cut your costs and drive more of your income into bottom line profits.

You often hear that “It’s … Read the rest

No Trust or Rapport =
No Sale or Referrals

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Have you ever had a sale that didn’t close and you weren’t sure why? Chances are you lost the sale because you didn’t establish sufficient trust and rapport with your prospect. Once you have developed trust and rapport, you’ve actually got the hard part behind you and you’re probably going to make a sale!

For you see, it really doesn’t matter how knowledgeable you are about your product or how professional your PowerPoint slides look, because unless you’ve earned your prospect’s trust and confidence you’re not going to make the sale — period. The bottom line here is that people … Read the rest

How Good Are Your Salespeople? Really?

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The major product that independent manufacturers’ representatives sell is selling. They are professional salespeople who spend 100 percent of their time and effort selling products manufactured by their principals.

The question about the quality of selling by the agency’s salespeople is very relevant. How good is the product that they sell?

There is little question that most of the more senior people in agencies are good — if not great — salespeople. People who have lived by their selling wits for 20-30 years selling in whatever industry the agent firm is in are generally pretty good salespeople.

Could they be … Read the rest

Bending the Rules

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There are rules for a reason: they work for most people most of the time. Often scientific evidence backs them up. But as with almost any other endeavor in society that doesn’t involve criminal activity, rules can sometime be broken — or at least bent — without the world coming to an end.

This is especially true in business. Company owners and top executives give a lot of thought to winning and keeping customers — and they spend a lot of time and money on things like PR, leadership training, social media campaigns, etc., etc. But, the real front lines … Read the rest

What Agents Are Looking For

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Over the years, this section of Agency Sales has addressed the question of what traits manufacturers find attractive in their independent manufacturers’ representatives. The reverse of that — what agents look for in their principals — hasn’t been explored quite as often.

Recently a group of representatives was queried on that subject and their responses were enlightening. Included in their responses to the question of what they found objectionable in principals were the following:

  • “I’m especially apprehensive about continuing to work with principals who routinely make a big deal about any errors I might commit, but say very little if
  • Read the rest

Get What You Want in Business and Life

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Want to get more in life?
Want to have more of the things you want?
Here is the simple (but not easy) process.

The late, great Zig Ziglar was right when he said you can get anything you want if you help enough other people get what they want. However, the real crux of the matter is “How do you help enough other people?” What do you do to help them? What value can you provide for them that they are willing to pay you serious money?

That is where you have to be prepared. Zig would be the first … Read the rest

Navigating the Minefield — Contracts to Trials

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A trial is not about what happened. It is about who can prove and, in a sense, sell what happened. The judge is the purchasing agent. The competition is in the room with you, vigorously shooting holes in your presentation.

Agents manage expectations. Don’t promise the moon to land a principal. Principals, especially those new to the trade, or those who have previously only sold direct, may expect unreasonably quick results. Don’t fuel the fire. Principals will expect the miracles you promised. Beware of principals who are out for only one thing, the most beautiful thing in the world, free … Read the rest

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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You’ve spent months preparing for this moment. You’ve missed backyard BBQs, given up vacation days and blown off the family to devote time and effort to research, analyze and make predictions. And now, you’re fairly confident that all your hard work will pay off to make this “your year.”

You guessed it — It’s time for Fantasy Football.

At this time of year, Thursday through Monday means only one thing to many Americans: football season is back in full swing. Fans will be glued to their computer screens for the next four months as they track plays and performances while … Read the rest