In Search of Excellence

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Back in September we touched on the issue of change; why manufacturers’ reps need to act differently if they want to grow in the current reality. From there, MANA decided to put together a program to make this happen. We call it In Search of Excellence — Lessons from the Best Rep-Manufacturer Relationships.

The program borrows from the 1981 best-selling In Search of Excellence book that Robert Waterman and Tom Peters wrote (Harper & Row). The questions the authors ask apply today just as much as they did when they wrote the book. The solutions apply as well.

What do manufacturers’ reps gain from participating in the new MANA program? As they move from their current reality towards a different outcome, they develop a different and more effective relationship with principals and customers. The new principal and customer relationships result in growth and increased mutual profitability. They gain the ability to control their territory. They earn respect.

A significant number of highly professional and successful manufacturers’ rep business owners belong to MANA. They exemplify the desired outcome, the goal of the program. They lead; the other MANA members follow to move toward the desired outcome. The process never ends; the leaders innovate, the others follow and they benefit. The entire membership moves in a positive direction. The manufacturers, the manufacturers’ reps and the customers benefit.

We scheduled the first of these programs in Southern California on Friday, February 11, 2011. (See the back cover of this magazine for details). MANA plans to offer the same program in other cities later in the year.

We join associations for many reasons. One is to learn what other members do to be successful. We believe this program does exactly that. You have to take the initiative and participate; you do not learn by osmosis. Attend In Search of Excellence — Lessons from the Best Rep-Manufacturer Relationships in a city near you. Get a big return on your dues investment.

How about a Punch in the Teeth?

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This month, Agency Sales’ editorial focus is on facing change in our business and how both we as independent reps and our principals will need to change our working relationships in order to survive in the future. I can remember attending my first ever association meeting in another business almost 30 years ago now and guess what the topic was — “Facing Change.”

It does lead one to wonder if “Changes” will ever stop and can’t we just stay where we are for awhile? For the most part, it seems human nature is to resist change, simply said it … Read the rest

Reps Who Change Avoid The Dinosaurs’ Fate

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“The only constant is change.”
“Embrace change.”
“The dinosaurs didn’t change and look what happened to them.”

Consider the subject of change and examine the need for it, and chances are you’ll be swamped with a tidal wave of clichés such as the above. Venture out into the real world, however, and it’s there that you’ll learn how reps wrestle with the ever-constant need to adapt to their changing environment.

Aggressive and ambitious would appear to be the best words to describe how John Aiello has approached the need to embrace change. According to Aiello, founder and president of the

Read the rest

What’s A Professional Salesperson?

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I often hear my clients lament that they wish they had a more professional sales force. That idea of a “professional sales force” gets a lot of conversation in sales management and sales executive circles. But what exactly does it mean? And why is it a good thing?

Here’s one person’s opinion.

First, let’s eliminate those things that don’t matter. There are a number of misconceptions about the attributes of a professional salesperson that center around the externals of a salesperson’s situation. For example, being a professional salesperson has absolutely nothing to do with the product or service the salesperson … Read the rest

The Successful Agency

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Some manufacturers’ representatives have acted as though they were the sharecroppers of our industrial system. Like sharecroppers needing someone else’s land to work, the rep needs someone else’s product to sell. Like sharecroppers whose survival is dependent on weather, insects, and other things beyond their control, the rep faces the ups and downs of its market, manufacturers that allow the products it sells to become obsolete, backorder problems that reflect badly on the rep and other factors beyond its control.

And too often, reps, like sharecroppers, take what is handed to them without questioning. Too many sign agency contracts without … Read the rest

Analyzing The Manufacturers’ Rep‑Principal Relationship

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As the manufacturer views the marketplace, he’s always got two goals firmly in his sights — achieving increased sales and profits. To reach those goals he relies upon the services of a professional sales force. That’s where the choices begin. He can go either of two ways when it comes to interfacing with prospects and customers:

  • Hire direct employees.
  • Outsource the sales function by contracting with an independent manufacturers’ rep agency.

Regardless of which path is followed, the manufacturer must be mindful of the fact that management of an outsourced sales force is significantly different from managing employees. How the … Read the rest

Intellectual Capital and Your Sales Career

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“We’re forced to close because the bank will not lend us the money we need.” Phrases like this have been heard too many times the last several years, and yes, it’s unfortunate, but here’s my perspective: “Companies don’t fail due to a lack of financial capital. They fail due to a lack of intellectual capital.”

Let me put it in even simpler terms: Companies fail because people don’t think. It’s always easier to blame someone else for our problems. It’s what most people do, and besides, we all believe we’re brilliant. Any setback could not possibly be associated with us; … Read the rest

Are Your Business Systems A Marketable Asset?

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The way you run your business can make a big difference in how you are seen by principals, customers and prospective principals.

Managing your agency can be a powerful tool for differentiating your rep firm from others. The following elements can provide unique and powerful items to differentiate your firm from competing rep firms.

  1. Field sales management 
  2. Call tracking 
  3. Lead handling 
  4. Customer tracking
  5. Product management and promotion
  6. Customer communication

Field Sales Management

How do you manage your sales force? Even if you are a small firm with only three to four salespeople, you need to demonstrate a management system to … Read the rest

Stop Winging It and Start Bringing It: Closing More Sales Effectively

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Sales teams all over the country are looking for the “golden answer” on how to increase sales in today’s economic situation. Successful teams are finding out quickly that there is no “golden answer” or trick play that is going to make a sales team successful in today’s economy. To increase sales in today’s economic situation, first stop looking at today’s economy as an obstacle and start finding the advantages of today’s economy.

Some well-known phrases, such as “for every pro there is a con” or “for every no there is a yes” and a favorite, “one man’s trash is another … Read the rest

Putting More Pull Into Your Marketing and Sales

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A business owner tells of getting a call from a local printing services salesperson of a Fortune 500 company, who immediately stated that his company “does everything” and then asked for a meeting to find out “the needs of the business.” The owner indicated that he would welcome information, but refused to schedule a meeting. 

Several weeks later, the same salesperson called again, this time, pressing even harder for a meeting. Again, he was turned down.

This is a classic case of “push” creating “shove.” The greater the push, the greater the shove. “I sensed almost instantly that this salesperson … Read the rest

Suffering From “Maybe-itis”?

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Health bulletin for salespeople: The dread disease Maybe-itis continues to be a major health hazard to the careers of many in the sales profession. Symptoms of this disease are readily apparent upon close inspection of an individual’s selling skills, and commonly include the following:

  • An inability to get people to make a decision; resulting in a perpetual sense of false hope in something that isn’t going to happen.
  • A presentations-to-sales percentage in the range of 10 percent to 15 percent.
  • Mindless follow-up with people who say they are “kicking it around.”
  • High frustration and anxiety over the impact on sales
  • Read the rest

Firming Up the Relationship

In the article that appears on page 24 in this issue of Agency Sales, Jerry Leth, MANA’s director of membership, and Joe Miller, former president/CEO of the association, detail steps manufacturers should take in order to establish and firm up the relationship between principals and their reps.

What frequently happens in the principal-rep relationship is that things can start off well but then sour in a hurry. Part of the cause of this disintegration of the relationship is that once reps are signed on, they are all too often forgotten. A bad situation can be exacerbated when principals … Read the rest

The Importance of E-mail and Internet Marketing

An E-mail Marketing Checklist

According to Quattro Internet Solutions, rapid developments in the marketing environment make it difficult to run a successful, adapting e-mail campaign. Here is a checklist of changes to keep an eye on when businesses, including reps, are implementing their own marketing plan.

Remember the futuristic TV series Beyond 2000? We wandered beyond 2000, and while we were all either looking out for flying cars or the world to end I don’t think we ever really stopped to consider how this technological boom was going to affect our business strategies. Or, for that matter, how digital would … Read the rest

Twitter vs. Facebook

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Which is the best social media tool for you and your business — Twitter or Facebook? Each has its pros and cons for business-building. Which is the best tool for cultivating solid relationship marketing for your business?

Well, there are a lot of considerations. If we look at Twitter there are these factors:

• Twitter is great for sending a “broadcast” message to a large number of people.

• Twitter is very fast communication.

• You can link to a webpage for more video, audio, sign-up and other materials for moving customers up the relationship ladder.

• Twitter is … Read the rest

What To Do After An Investment Setback

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Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, has two simple rules of investing:

  1. Never lose your principal.
  2. See rule number 1.

Unfortunately, during the recent economic downturn, many people have lost some if not most of the principal in their retirement accounts. As a result, either they have to delay their retirement plans and keep working, or they have to find a way to quickly recoup the funds they’ve lost.

But regaining the lost principal takes more work and higher returns than people realize. Here’s a quick riddle that illustrates this point: Do you know when 30 plus … Read the rest

MANA Adds To Executive Staff

MANA is pleased to announce that Doug Bower joined the MANA staff on December 6, 2010 as the new Director of Strategic Alliances. He is replacing Jay Ownby who is retiring after five-and-a-half years of service.

Previously Doug was a National Sales Manager with Dow Corning, where he worked extensively with manufacturers’ reps. Doug is very active in PTRA, the Power and Motion Technology Association and served on their Board of Directors for two years. He also worked with manufacturers’ reps when he was Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Shin Etsu Silicones.

Doug is a native Californian, has a … Read the rest