70th MANAversary

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The year was 1947. Harry S. Truman was president, the World Series was televised for the first time (the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games), Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and on October 17, 1947, the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association joined the community of not-for-profit trade associations.

Fast forward to July 1949, and MANA members discovered the first, 24-page issue of The Agent and Representative magazine (eventually renamed Agency Sales) in their mailboxes.

Digging through the first few issues of The Agent and Representative reveals how much MANA has changed, and also how much it has remained the same.

In those first few issues we find sentences like: “I know it’s customary for men who call themselves and believe themselves to be ‘practical men’ to pooh-pooh anything savoring of academic classification in salesmanship.” No thought of women as salespeople or as customers in those earliest editions. But in today’s MANA, woman-owned firms are common and the first woman to join MANA’s Board of Directors does so in May 2017.

Another glaring change since 1949 is that, although manufacturers were invited to advertise in our magazine, the articles in that 1949 issue focus solely on the needs of manufacturers’ representatives. Today Agency Sales strives to be relevant to both manufacturers and manufacturers’ representatives and includes articles for both audiences. And, also for the first time, a manufacturer will join MANA’s Board of Directors in May 2017.

Those are things that have changed, and changed for the better. Yet, some articles from those early issues could be reprinted today and most readers would have no hint that they were written in 1949. In the very first issue of The Agent and Representative is the story of Bill Herendon, a manufacturers’ representative whose customers pressured his principals to fire Bill and cut the price by the amount of Bill’s commissions. And how Bill, lacking a written agreement, had no recourse when the principal’s new sales manager agreed to that customer’s request.

As part of our 70th MANAversary celebration, each Agency Sales magazine from this issue through October will include a “blast from the past” from those early issues. In this issue, we share the first full page of “Agents and Representatives Wanted” advertising published in The Agent and Representative magazine, from the September 1949 issue. Next month, we’ll reprint the story of Bill Herendon.

Click on image to see full size

Click on image to see full size version.

On a personal note, it is humbling to read these early issues and realize the legacy with which MANA’s current staff and Board of Directors has been entrusted. It falls upon us not only to maintain and grow the services we provide to our members, but also to ensure that some future MANA CEO can write a similar editorial for MANA’s 100th anniversary, musing on how hard it must have been for manufacturers’ representatives in 2017 to get through traffic and make sales calls without flying cars.

Selling to the Manufacturing Sector in Other Countries: Focus Mexico

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While being a manufacturers’ agent or representative is a well‑developed profession in the U.S. and Canada, the entire concept of outsourced sales forces is still mostly unknown in Mexico.

Many of the reasons companies fail to sell their products in Mexico through reps fall into these categories:

  • Being unprepared to pioneer a new market.
  • Making assumptions about the market based on current paradigm.
  • Not embracing that the new market uses a different language.
  • Not accepting that the new market operates under a different business and social culture.
  • Not understanding that the new market operates under different business rules
  • Read the rest

The Ups and Downs of Operating in a Global Economy

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The subjects of independent manufacturers’ representatives and their efforts in the arena of international trade have hardly been strangers to the pages of Agency Sales. Whether that means reps working with overseas manufacturers to market and sell their products in this country, or reps looking to sell U.S.-manufactured products overseas, the process is accompanied by any number of challenges. The fact is, the risks — not to mention the rewards — remain considerable.

Over the years as this publication has reported on reps’ involvement in the international marketplace, a number of truths remain constant. A perusal of interviews that have … Read the rest

Through the Looking Glass

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Domestic impulses usually inform, that is misinform, United States principals who are thinking about opening up international markets for their products. By inadvertently incorporating domestic biases and assumptions into the long game of international market buildout and expansion, their general tendency will be to look through a distorting mental prism of what is actually involved in being able to identify, attract, retain and smartly engage with foreign procurement people.

Entrenched in a domestic, commercial logic, these principals are mostly unaware of the warping effect it has on processing international information and thus how out of sync they can be with … Read the rest

Reps Bring Stability to the Territory

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Ask Peter Zafiro why he and his company go to market with independent manufacturers’ representatives and he’ll be quick to let you know that his decision is based on a wealth of experience.

Zafiro, general manager, LinMot USA, Inc., an Elkhorn, Wisconsin-based manufacturer of industrial linear motors, says, “I’ve gone to market with a variety of business models over the years. I’ve worked with factory direct-only salespeople, hybrids of direct and independent reps and with independent reps only. What I’ve found is that I get the most bang for my buck with reps. Here’s why: I’ve found that reps are … Read the rest

The Importance of Keeping Customers and Principals in Balance

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When Ed Young Jr. describes how his agency, Ed Young Sales Company, has survived and thrived since its founding more than 30 years ago, he stresses how important a very simple business philosophy has been as a guiding force.

“Call it my philosophy on being an independent manufacturers’ representative. I believe it is critical for the rep to maintain equilibrium with customers and manufacturers. A 50/50 balance is crucial! Without customers the manufacturers have no one to buy/use/require their products. Without manufacturers the customers would have no products to buy/use/require to meet their business needs. It’s kind of a simple … Read the rest

How to Sabotage Your Sales Career

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Sales managers scratch their heads. “Right from the start, I was so sure Carl would be a top performer. I would have put money on it. But before I knew it, he crashed and burned.”

It’s an old story, one that often ends with the same words, “I wasn’t cut out for sales.” Maybe. But probably not. Poor training, inadequate support, and unrealistic expectations can each play a role.

Even so, what causes potentially good salespeople to fail has little or nothing to do with poor sales skills. The real harm is self-inflicted. Salespeople sabotage themselves. And here’s how they … Read the rest

Achieving Your Goals

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Fulfilling your clients’ expectations — keeping them happy — is the way to success.

Knowing where you are going with your projects through all the stages of follow-up will get you to your goal while meeting your clients’ needs and expectations at the same time. Creating space for success along the way by letting go of unprofitable clients and hiring associates to help you promote your products and services may be necessary steps for you to consider in order to increase your sales.

Fulfilling Client Expectations

Clients who are satisfied with your products and services provide you with a good … Read the rest

Selling Is Changing — Not Really

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This past week I’ve received three separate e-mails from various sales gurus talking about how much sales has changed. While the internet, social media, and advances in technology have altered some of the peripheral aspects of selling, the foundational principles and keys that lead to sales success have remained the same.

Sales Facts That Will Always Remain the Same

  • Sales is still a numbers game

Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time failure in sales is due to a lack of activity — in other words, not making enough calls. Now that we have the Internet, I know sales reps who spend … Read the rest

Customer Service Hell is Spelled — IVR!

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You have just entered Customer Service Hell. It’s the phone call looped through a frustrating automated system known as IVR (Interactive Voice Response) — you know, the one where you “Press 1 to continue in English” and “Listen closely to our list of options, as they may have changed.” Or, “Please call back during our normal working hours.”

Calling for Help

While automated phone attendants sound great for the business that’s set one up, it’s not ideal for a customer that just wants to speak to someone about a question, concern, scheduling of an appointment, or simply to learn about … Read the rest

MANA Recognizes Long-Term Members

Thank you

MANA wants to recognize members who have been with us for many years.

Every January we list in Agency Sales those agent and principal members who celebrated their 65, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 year membership anniversary the previous year.

MANA thanks and congratulates the members we listed below for their long-term support and commitment.

Note: We also thank those long-term members whose longevity does not end in a “0” or “5.” Your company name was either published within the past three years or will be published within the next two.

Agent Members

65 Years

Dale … Read the rest

The Value in Evaluating Each Other’s Performance

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Last month a conversation with a manufacturer covered the benefits of conducting employee evaluations. The manufacturer didn’t leave it there, however, and continued by addressing the benefits of conducting such evaluations with its network of independent manufacturers’ representatives.

According to the manufacturer, it’s common in his company when conducting employee evaluations to have the employee also fill out a form evaluating strengths, weaknesses, goals, etc. With this company, one of the firm’s regional managers completes the same exercise with the rep agencies in his territory. The relatively short form covers the expected areas of performance. Both the regional manager and … Read the rest

Tips to Make Your App Millennial Friendly | 28 Shares

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Are you developing a mobile app for your business? You’re not alone. More than 90 percent of companies said that they are planning on increasing their mobile investment in 2016, so you’ll have a lot of competition in the mobile space. How can you stand out and attract the crucial Millennial demographic to use your apps? Follow these tips!

  • Focus on Speed

It’s no surprise that Millennials thrive off of instant gratification. After all, they have probably been using technology since before they can even remember. To cater to this need for instant gratification, it’s important that your app performs … Read the rest

How Should Your Sales Team Be Using LinkedIn?

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LinkedIn is often thought of as a digital resume or a way for job seekers to connect with recruiters and find new opportunities, but it is much more than that. Salespeople can greatly benefit from using this social media platform, not just to update their colleagues on their sales experience, but also to grow their business. Here are some of the many ways LinkedIn can be used to benefit salespeople:

  • Research

When a new lead comes through the pipeline, your sales team should hop onto LinkedIn to do a little background research. Is the prospect connected to any of your … Read the rest

Can Your Principal Not Pay Commissions and Enforce a Non‑Compete?

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Sales representatives can find themselves between a rock and a couple of hard places following termination by a principal. The sales rep may have not only lost a profitable line of business integral to his ongoing business model, but the principal may have failed to pay him all pre-termination and post-termination commissions the sales rep believes are owed to him and may have reminded the sales rep that the terminated contract contains a post-termination non-compete which the principal will not hesitate to enforce. Under these circumstances, does the principal get to have its cake and eat it too and continue … Read the rest

MANA Honors Board Chair, Announces Chair Elect

MANA’s Board of Directors recently honored Board Chair Ken McGregor (pictured below third from left) for six years of outstanding service on MANA’s Board that will end April 30, and elected John Beaver (far right) to serve as its new Chair effective May 1.

McGregor’s firm McGregor & Associates, Inc. has been a MANA member since 1999. McGregor was elected to MANA’s Board after long service on the Board of the Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives (AIM/R), which is reps’ voice in the plumbing industry. “Ken joined MANA’s Board two weeks after I became MANA’s CEO,” notes MANA CEO and … Read the rest