A Rep Is a Rep, and I’m a MANA Rep


So what’s in a name? Sometimes we try to complicate things, and I’m not quite sure why.

Over the past several years, investigations have been made to determine whether MANA should change its name. It is true that we are international (not just national), we are made up of sales and marketing entrepreneurs, and it is a fact that the term “rep” has become more readily recognizable than “agent.”

Although we have embraced lots of change, we are not changing our name! MANA is so well-recognized and well-branded. It’s not so much what the acronym stands for, but more what we stand on — proud values that have continued for 60 years. Simply put, we are “MANA, the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association with almost 5000 member-companies, dedicated to promoting, protecting and educating the function.”

Similarly, a “rep” is, well… a rep! And we have tried many alternative ways to better describe an interdependent manufacturers’ representative:

  • Sales professional.
  • Manufacturers’ agent.
  • Sales and marketing entrepreneur.
  • Outside sales engineer.
  • Manufacturers’ rep.
  • Extended sales force.
  • Outside salesperson.
  • Commercial broker.
  • Factory trained rep.
  • Outsourced professional field salesperson.
  • Independent manufacturers’ rep.

I do like “outsourced professional field sales” and “extended sales force” because they more accurately describe a rep. But as much as they detail our function more appropriately, our manufacturer partners still call us “reps” (and so do we, for that matter).

Again, it’s more of what we do than what we call ourselves. A Rep is a rep, and represents manufacturers with professionalism, trust and pride. Reps have to sell twice as much — they sell to the customer, and then they have to sell (their ideas, proposals, and programs) to the factory too. The Reps’ IP (Intellectual Property) is their relationship with and knowledge of the customer. Reps know the needs, identify the opportunities, solve problems and seek solutions for the customer. Reps are not a channel, they are the same as a manufacturer’s direct sales force (just paid differently). Embrace the relationship, because mutual respect is the key ingredient for success.

I am borrowing a phrase from MANA’s chairman of the board, John McNellis of McReps, who suggested this definition after graduating from CPMR: Rep = Respected, Educated, Professional. I’ll assist you with some other ideas of what “rep” means — you can mix and match, or accept them all as the characteristics and traits of a Rep:

Reliable Responsive Resource Respected Represents
Experienced Educated Entrepreneur Ethical Excellent
Professional Precise Promoter Proud Principals

So what’s in a name? MANA = your function, your association, your resource. Rep = the outsourced professional entrepreneur who is the ultimate in performance-based sales success.

Be proud, be a rep.

How the Savvy Rep (Safely & Effectively) Uses Legal Counsel


Reps are often reluctant to use attorneys for a number of reasons, ranging from the cost of services to fearing that the lawyer will foul up business relations with their principals. After all, the rep is a salesperson who has to make both the principal and the customer happy. And involving attorneys may often seem like inviting the bull into the china shop.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The savvy rep retains and uses legal counsel on more than just a “last resort” basis. The savvy rep knows that legal conflicts may be avoided, principal relationships improved, … Read the rest

How to Boost Sales Productivity and Save Valuable Time


Prime Devices Corp., Morton Grove, Illinois, which sells electrical products for major manufacturers, has automated its reporting process, lifting time burdens from its field sales force. The company is getting more hours per day of true selling, higher revenue, more contented reps, and higher retention.

Prime Devices President Charley Cohon says he has better control over his reps and better information on prospects to keep his manufacturers confident of Prime’s efforts.

In late 2000, Prime Devices faced a common sales problem. Its four reps were supposed to turn in reports each Monday on the prior week’s calls. But reps often … Read the rest

Leveraging Value to Retain Profitable Customers


Is your sales force stuck in the wrong era?

It sounds like a strange question, but if they find themselves forced to compete on price to sell value-added products or services — or even if they’re trying to sell solutions to problems that customers know they have — the answer is probably “yes.”

The business and the sales profession at large have evolved tremendously during the past 50 years. Problem is, the highest percentage of sales organizations haven’t kept pace with the evolution. It’s no longer enough to offer a value-added product. You must leverage your value all the way … Read the rest

Recipe for Success


MANA-member Unity Electrical Sales, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a broad-based rep firm serving the western Pennsylvania and West Virginia markets. That agency’s stated goal “is to provide value and growth to our manufacturers; reliable and consistent service to our distributors; and professional advice to end-users in the residential, commercial, industrial, mining and OEM market segments.

The agency was formed more than a year ago as the result of a merger of Pittsburgh-area rep firms Sherwin-Wilson and Madia-Paul. Personnel from those agencies were joined by electrical industry veteran Christy Goss to form the 12-person Unity Electrical Sales team.

“What we have … Read the rest

Turning Over Too Much to the Rep


On the one hand, you’ve got some manufacturers that look at contracting with independent manufacturers’ representatives as more than just outsourcing sales. On the other hand, you’ve got some manufacturers’ reps who resent the fact that more and more responsibilities are being relegated to them — not always accompanied by commensurate compensation.

What some of these manufacturers are doing is handing over their marketing and sales duties to reps. Here’s how one manufacturer views that scenario: “They don’t just delegate the job of selling into a particular territory to a rep — they dump the whole marketing and sales process … Read the rest

Marketing Myths Exploded


What Your Customers Don’t Want

It is a new era. We’ve heard that before about the new economy, the dotcom wave and how things are not as they used to be. Well, surprise, they have changed once again. The old ways of marketing have gone the way of the manual typewriter, the ink blotter and the fast-talking, cigar-smoking salesman with the derby hat.

Customers today want to have companies there to help them, not badger them. Even new economy companies think that by sending a barrage of unwanted e-mail messages, they’ll get through and penetrate the minds of the customers. … Read the rest

Tax Strategies, Year-End 2007

By and

“The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward.” — John Maynard Keynes

Tax planning primarily concerns the timing and the method by which income is reported and deductions and credits are claimed. The basic strategy for all year-end tax plans is to time your income so that it will be taxed at a lower rate — and to time your deductible expenses (and any tax credits) so that they can be claimed in a year in which you are in a higher tax bracket. The tax planning rules are simple (while their execution may … Read the rest

Is Health Care Part of Your Retirement Plan?


Ask a group of investors aged 50 and older to identify their top financial concern relating to retirement, and chances are they’ll answer “health care.”

With medical costs skyrocketing and limited coverage by programs such as Medicare, many retirees face expensive monthly insurance premiums and significant out-of-pocket costs. That’s why it’s important for pre-retirees to consider health care costs when planning for their later years and for current retirees to carefully manage their sources of income.

A Sizable Cost

A look at the cost of health care can help put the issue in perspective. The Employee Benefit Research Institute has … Read the rest

Tips & Tactics

MANA Meetings

It’s often gratifying to weigh the effectiveness and accuracy of what is offered as advice at MANA meetings and seminars against real-world experience. It’s apt that the thought comes to mind this month given the topics of two articles appearing in this issue of Agency Sales.

First, the article describing some of the discussion that took place at MANA’s annual Legal Symposium emphasizes how important it is for reps to realize and exercise their strength in the negotiating process prior to signing a contract. At the same time, the 13 attorneys who took part in the full-day … Read the rest