Give Back to the Rep Profession, Just 15 Minutes Per Month — Revisited

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In May I discussed a great way to give back to the representative profession. When a manufacturer whose products don’t fit your line card contacts you, take a few minutes to let them know your company is not a fit and encourage them to continue their search for a representative who would be great for their products. If you don’t, some other representative loses when they hire a direct salesperson.

This message struck a chord with representatives — here is some of their feedback from social media:

This is an excellent point, and I have to admit that I am about 50/50 regarding responses, but will turn that into 100 percent responses as of today!

— Tim Carey, President, Kirk Sales, Inc.

Charley — you could not be more right on with your comments. We owe at least that to our profession and to the Companies who pay to use this service.

— Mark Conley, President/CEO, O’Donnell Associates North, Inc.

I should practice what I preach. I always return my phone calls or e-mails, so I should do the same when a prospective principal is reaching out. I don’t like it when I leave a message and don’t get a reply. Thank you, Charles, for explaining how the prospective manufacturer was not getting a reply. I could understand how frustrated she or he was, and this is not a good reflection on the sales representatives’ profession. I will respond to all manufacturers that reach out in the future.

— Lisa Wilson, Owner, L.S. Wilson & Associates, Inc.

I always respond and will refer another rep who may be interested.

— John Aiello, Owner, PSE Associates, LLC

Guilty as charged. There seems to be a definite increase in searching for outsourced sales. I have just responded to a company, late, but responded.

— Thomas Leslie, Thomas M Leslie & Associates, LLC

In the field of material handling there have not been many inquiries. I have not responded to all of them since they don’t fit my business profile. I will, in the future, contact even those who do not fit my line card and express my support for what they are doing. We are PROFESSIONALS and this is one way to show that.

— George Murphy, President at G. Murphy Sales, LLC

To cultivate and preserve a healthy pool of principals for all of us, each encounter principals have with a manufacturers’ representative must reinforce our professionalism. Call them back or e-mail them back and you elevate the professionalism of our entire industry.

Beware of the Entrepreneur?

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Most MANA manufacturers’ representatives pride themselves on being entrepreneurs. We start our businesses from scratch and create something out of nothing. Ideally we work to create an entity that can be perpetuated long after we are gone. If not, we at least create a means to support ourselves financially and provide a necessary service to the industry we serve. We are fortunate to have a partner like MANA that is committed to help us as we move through our careers.

Typically, however, the entrepreneurial spirit peaks at the beginning of an agency’s life. We decide things such as taking on … Read the rest

Tips From the Real World of Working With International Principals

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While working with international principals has proven to be a profitable and attractive option for many independent manufacturers’ representatives, two agents caution there’s much work to be done in order to make such partnerships work.

MANA members Sid Ragona and Dave Hull look over their experiences in Europe and Asia respectively and offer their agent peers advice on how to make the most out of overseas relationships. While there are some distinct differences/challenges in working with principals from Europe and Asia, the two men do agree that there are a number of areas that agents should consider and pay special … Read the rest

House Accounts: The Perfect “Dis‑Incentive” Program

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In years past Agency Sales magazine has addressed the subject of house accounts via coverage of industry presentations and round tables, personal interviews and in a variety of survey articles. It should come as no surprise to anyone who is an agent, who works with agents, or someone who observes the business model that includes independent manufacturers’ representatives taking products to market that house accounts are the exception and not the rule. However, they do happen and they do exist.

When house accounts rear (what some might consider their ugly) heads, it’s generally for reasons such as:

Are We Getting What We Want From Our Marketing?

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The only way to find out if your marketing is performing the way you want is to doubt everything you’re doing.

Instead of guessing, jumping from one initiative to another, hoping for the best, or taking advice without knowing how to evaluate it, start at the beginning by questioning your assumptions, your expectations, your personal preferences, and, particularly, your perceptions of what marketing should do for the company.

Just to be clear, question every marketing activity, every plan, every “great idea,” and every recommendation. It’s the only way to move from hoping and assuming to getting marketing right for your … Read the rest

Questions to Ask in Every Selling Situation

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More than 500,000 startups are born each year in the United States alone. Impressed by that number? Don’t be — because 50 percent of those startups fail within their first year. And, within the next four years, another 50 percent — or more — will fail. The environment for small business is hostile. If you’re running a small business today, you know what I mean. Luckily, there are ways to master your environment and give your company a leg up. The number-one rule is this: You absolutely must know how to sell your product or service. And you need to

Read the rest

Mentors Direct Early Stage Business

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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.

One of the best ways … Read the rest

90 Percent of Sales Success Is…

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Not to be clichéd, but in reality most of life and business success is so simple that it borders on cliché. While the saying that “90 percent of success is just showing up” is true, there’s a lot behind that 90 percent. First, most people won’t do the hard work necessary to show up where and when they need to. Second, it isn’t just showing up that matters, it’s how you show up.

What it Means to Show Up

Showing up means your number shows up on caller-ID, it means you physically show up on the doorstep, it means showing … Read the rest

Lessons Learned From World War II Encounter

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On the westernmost point of Alaska, forming the tip of the Aleutian Islands sits the small island of Attu. Attu has the distinction of simultaneously being the westernmost point in the United States and North America and also one of the easternmost points, (being that it is actually in the eastern hemisphere). Also, it was the site of the only land battle ever fought on U.S. soil during World War II.

On the morning of March 26, 1943, Admiral Charles H. McMorris (U.S. Navy) was patrolling the waters off Attu with a small convoy consisting of one heavy cruiser, the Read the rest

Recruit Your Way to the Top

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Essentially a sales manager’s primary responsibility is to recruit, train and motivate his or her sales force to achieve peak performance. Of these three vitally important management tasks, recruiting is the least understood and by far the most challenging.

If you’re successful during the recruiting interview process and hire a superstar sales rep, you’ll find that he or she is self-motivated, coachable, and eager to train. On the other hand, if you’re recruiting out of desperation because your sales reps are failing left and right and you need another warm body, you’ll experience low morale, continued high turnover, and find … Read the rest

Treating Agents as Family

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If a manufacturer ever wants to identify a conversational flashpoint with its independent manufacturers’ representatives all he has to do is introduce the subject of house accounts. House accounts are guaranteed to garner opinions from all quarters, and it’s a subject that never seems to go away.

Looking through the pages of Agency Sales of more than a decade ago, one manufacturer offered his thoughts, which are as applicable now as they were then. According to the manufacturer, who boasted of more than 35 years experience working with agents, “We’ve always adopted a philosophy that we treat our reps as … Read the rest

The Power of Taking Decisive Action

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“Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet and dramatist

You know it is true. As an entrepreneur or salesperson (and aren’t we all in today’s warp-speed economy?) you know that results only happen when you take wise, decisive, results-driven action. Losers in life sit and plan and strategize forever. Then when things don’t work out just right, they complain that it wasn’t their fault but someone else who caused the problem. They spend their creative energies trying to Read the rest

Adding Value to Your Agency Through Long-Range and Succession Planning

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The purpose of this article is to identify guidelines for enhancing the value of your agency, as well as important items to consider in succession planning for your agency. The guidelines are based on the author’s experiences of being involved in more than 100 agency transitions. First, the stage will be set with a look at valuations, along with important structural elements and historical perspective. Then, we will examine some strategic planning points that might increase the consideration payable to you, if and when you decide to pass along your agency.

Valuation

Valuation in the rep agency world is elusive. … Read the rest

Capital Vices: The Seven Deadly Sins of Retirement Mismanagement

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Perhaps not now, but at some point, you’re going to have to survive on the dollars that are stashed away in your retirement account. That 401(k) is fun to watch when you’re in your early working years because it doesn’t seem like it’s real money. It’s just a paper statement that arrives every month with a whole bunch of numbers on it that usually gets thrown into a drawer.

But as the years fly by, reality sets in and it suddenly dawns on folks that one day they’re actually going to need that money. That’s when people start paying a … Read the rest