Customers Love Reps Because Reps Solve Problems

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We often hear that customers are more loyal to manufacturers’ representatives who have been in the same territory for decades than they are to direct factory salespeople who often rotate into a new territory every two to three years.

But there’s more to it than just longevity in the territory. Let me share three stories about reps who went the extra mile for customers.

One rep’s customer ran out of connectors and the rep’s principal was backlogged for six weeks. The principal’s response was, “Sorry, we are bringing in the connectors by boat instead of by air to save money. The connectors are already in the container on their way to the boat and there is nothing we can do.”

Because the rep knew his customers very well, he knew that another one of his customers had an abundant stock of the connector and he was able to borrow enough connectors from one customer to keep the other customer supplied until the principal’s cargo container arrived.

A rep found he had stepped into something unpleasant when his principal shipped defective products to his customer. The principal insisted that the best they had to offer was to have the customer return the defective parts for rework. The customer insisted that they didn’t have time to ship the parts back and wait for them to be returned.

To break that stalemate, the rep went home, grabbed his toolbox, drove to the customer, and reworked the parts himself at the customer’s site.

A rep’s customer complained that the principal’s website was hopelessly difficult to navigate, making it impossible to find the catalogs and drawings the customer used on a routine basis. The rep built a simple web page with links to all of that customer’s most commonly used parts, and posted it on an easy-to-remember domain name so the customer would not have to navigate the principal’s website to find the most commonly used parts.

These are just a few stories of reps who creatively solved problems their customers faced. Do you have a great story to share? Send it to me at ccohon@manaonline.org.

Leads: Orphans at the Doorstep?

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Businesses invest countless hours and dollars to identify, target and educate their customers. Ultimately though all leads emerge as foundlings left at the doorstep of the sales funnel. They are left waiting to be adopted, nourished, and finally molded into our customer. Orphan leads should be potential or repeat customers. They are the key to our business success.

In the sales funnel, leads are heaped into the pipeline to be organized, sorted, qualified, contacted, and transformed into strong, profitable customers. The process is not always quick and obvious, nor are the performers clearly identified, prepared and responsive.

It’s no wonder … Read the rest

Quick Answers to “Why MANA?”

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“Why should I join MANA? I’ve got more than enough to do with running my agency. I really don’t have time to get involved in association activities.”

Fair enough: that’s hardly an unexpected response when a prospective MANA member is contacted about joining the association. Thankfully the existing members have come up with the right answers to counter that question. Tops among the reasons to join are:

  • “I’ve found MANA is the association for those who aspire to become professional manufacturers’ representatives. The more you develop as a professional manufacturers’ representative, the more successful you and your principals become.”
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  • Read the rest

A Career Filled With Change

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Bob Gallagher’s rep story mirrors that of many other MANA members. He grew up around the profession. Immediately after graduating from college he took a position as a rep and today he serves as the president of Teeling & Gallagher, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana.

Teeling & Gallagher specializes in components for the transportation segment of the market. This includes all the OEMs and tier suppliers to the automotive, heavy truck, agricultural, aerospace and related markets which provides for a large group of customers in the Midwest.

According to Gallagher, “I’ve always been fascinated with anything that has wheels or flies, so … Read the rest

Surviving Initial Impressions

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A second MANA member recounts some of his history as an independent manufacturers’ rep and describes how and why his agency has been an association member for more than 45 years.

At the beginning of a conversation with Agency Sales magazine, Rick Mullen good-naturedly explains how he successfully survived and thrived following the initial positive “false impression” he experienced at the start of his career as an independent manufacturers’ rep.

According to Mullen, president of Mullen Sales, Inc., Farmington, Connecticut, “I joined the agency fresh out of grad school in 1984. I chose being a rep over other opportunities because … Read the rest

Manufacturer or Rep: Who’s Responsible for Generating Sales Leads and How?

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Thanks to the Electronics Representatives Association (ERA) for giving MANA permission to reprint this article from their magazine The Representor.

Working in the electronics industry, you’ve likely heard one of these statements:

  • Rep: “We are a sales company. We don’t do marketing. That’s up to the manufacturer.”
  • Manufacturer: “I hire sales reps to go out and find new customers. We are just a manufacturer.”

Here lies the great paradox of our industry: new sales are the lifeblood of a company, yet the responsibility for marketing and prospecting is tossed around like a game of hot potato. Why do companies often Read the rest

Letter to the Editor

Response to “Surviving a Change in Management,” October 2019

This article could be about a company we have represented for almost 36 years that has gone through a couple of buyouts by investment groups. Each time this happened, our commission was cut, territory taken away, and increased reporting became a necessary nightmare. The management that has come and gone neither embraces the manufacturers’ representative model nor understands the power of compatible products.

This has been personally hurtful, since we were responsible for the original family-owned business moving from direct sales to manufacturers’ representative agencies, and also for a 10-year period … Read the rest

Manufacturer and Rep — Working Together

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The running of the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year was one of the most exciting on record.

The winning driver, Simon Pagenaud, won by a mere two tenths of a second! It truly lived up to its reputation as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing!” But did you know that another very exciting development this year was the entry of a new car owner who had developed a new business model that he felt to be not only more cost-effective,
but both revolutionary and a winner?

In front of a crowd of 300,000 his new team’s driver miraculously jumped out to Read the rest

Considering the Challenges of Managing a Rep Firm

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“Do you have the courage to run your business?”

Being the owner or leader means something special, but you have to recognize it.

Managing a Rep Business Is Different

Running an independent manufacturers’ rep business is a bit different than other businesses. Managing a team of rep salespeople is definitely like herding cats. Having a really productive team that is consistently able to exceed the expectations of your manufacturers doesn’t mean that you can ignore your management responsibilities.

When business is at its best is the time when you — the leader — have to exert yourself to build the … Read the rest

A Checklist: Nudges to Move Your Career in the Right Direction

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When you’re asked to explain why you should be promoted, get a raise, or have a new job, it can make you feel uncomfortable. Why? Because you’re forced to talk about yourself — something mother told you never to do. Besides, who will believe you?

Well, there’s a better way to get noticed without having to say a word. You can nudge your career in the right direction. Here’s a checklist so you can see how you’re doing — and what you need to do:

  • Possess awareness. Be sure your antennae are always up! Never stop observing and gathering information,
  • Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps

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This is the 15th in a number of articles serializing The Sales Force — Working With Reps by Charles Cohon, MANA’s president and CEO. The entire book may be found in the member area of MANA’s website.

Ruth Anderson’s schedule during the workweek was hectic, so the three agreed to meet in Troothe’s conference room on a Saturday morning. Harold had arrived early with pastries from his favorite bakery, and he had covered the walls of the conference room with large sheets of plain white paper so that the ideas they generated could be captured easily. Jim had brought his … Read the rest

Bad Service Nullifies Advertising

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The American Management Association found that successful companies spend about 20 percent more money on personnel, including on personnel training, than unsuccessful companies do. The finding held true for companies of all sizes in every industry.

All your company’s promotion, advertising, marketing and goodwill can be ruined by one rude or indifferent employee. Money spent on advertising is largely wasted when customers show up or call in response to it and are turned off by employees with a lack of manners, long waits on the phone, or lack of knowledge of the product to name a few.

Richard Israel, retailing … Read the rest

Good vs. Bad

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With regularity MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page offers thoughts on any number of subjects important to manufacturers and their reps. A good example was posted earlier this year when Lisa Wilson, L.S. Wilson & Associates, Inc., Bristol, Wisconsin, shared her thoughts on what makes a good vs. a poor principal.

How would you define a really good principal vs. a poor principal?

Over the past 21 years, I learned the following about a good principal:

  • Will pay commissions even when you retire.
  • Will pay you for the life of the part or program.
  • Will turn over whatever existing business there is
  • Read the rest

The Importance of Transferring Knowledge

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When you stop and think about it — most of us don’t know what we know — or at least we can’t recall it on command. Sure, we can remember what we need to know when a specific challenge arises. But how will we transfer our knowledge to a generation of employees who come to work with different attitudes and expectations about getting the job done?

On-the-job training will not be enough. Besides, emerging workers have learned to learn in ways that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. So how will you and your management team prepare for this critical … Read the rest

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

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This legal maxim essentially means that if a legal remedy is available to a party to redress an injury or wrong but is not acted upon in a reasonable timeframe, it is effectively the same as having no remedy at all. William Penn similarly stated: “To delay justice is injustice,” and Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter From Birmingham Jail: “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Recently, a rep contacted me to request my assistance in recovering more than $100,000 in commission she stated was owed to her by a principal. This is a substantial sum and … Read the rest

Well-Deserved Honor — AIM/R Presents Golden Eagle Award to Elkay EVP Mark Whittington

One of the best-kept secrets each year at the AIM/R Annual Conference is the recipient of the Golden Eagle Award. This prestigious award was established as a way to recognize senior-level plumbing manufacturing executives who have actively supported independent reps and the important role they play in the supply chain. During the September 2019 Annual Conference in Orlando, AIM/R Board Member Michelle Lewnes-Dadas, CPMR, of Preferred Sales Inc., announced that Elkay Corp.’s Executive Vice President Mark Whittington had been selected for the Golden Eagle.

Throughout the year, AIM/R reps are encouraged to nominate executives who value their representatives and recognize … Read the rest