A Worthwhile Investment


Prior to coming to work at MANA in 2000, I was a manufacturers’ rep. Recently, I spoke with a fellow rep who shared several lines with me. We talked about one of our mutual principals, one that had been a favorite of ours. The owner understood relationships. He took care of his employees, he took care of his customers, and he worked as a partner with his reps. That company led the market.

A year after I signed my agreement with the principal, he retired and sold the business to a large corporation. The new general manager recognized that the system worked, so he made no changes. I continued representing them until I changed careers.

I worked with several other principals who believed in the same philosophy; partner with each other, we are not adversaries. These were extremely successful companies and the success was mutual.

Do you have this type of relationship with each other? If not, why not? Is the trust level an issue? Or is it because of a belief structure that says these relationships are mythical; they really don’t exist? Is it lack of knowledge of how to work with each other? Whatever the issue, work on it to allow the relationship to evolve into a real partnership.

Repairing the relationship takes time and effort, but look at it as an investment that brings a huge return.

Compare working with each other to the alternative, where you don’t work together as partners. The results are different. You expend more effort and energy in protecting your turf and less in helping customers. Guess which approach creates higher success levels?

Which leads me back to that favorite principal of ours — the new general manager who led the company when I represented them retired. His replacement had the other philosophy, and the company is no longer the industry leader. They lost a number of their top performing manufacturers’ reps who now represent the competitors. They have also lost key employees. Please don’t let it happen to you — it’s not a pretty sight.

Line Card Strategic Leverage: How to Really Earn a Rep’s Mind-Share


When a manufacturer’s sales executive visits a territory, the rules of engagement are to set up key calls for the exec’s product line. It’s a bit challenging because a rep is probably selling or promoting more than one line at most of the key accounts. The advantage of the rep’s line card synergy is lost. Adding to the challenge is the scheduling coordination efforts with multiple salespeople involved in the visit. However, I did have one principal that made it much easier for us. While he wanted us to make calls at key accounts for his products, he wanted us … Read the rest

Why I Always Gave My Principals Lots of Information


This is the second in a series of articles that Agency Sales is presenting that will examine the subject of Transformational Change — for both independent manufacturers’ representatives and their principals.

Last month we examined how two rep firms changed the way they conducted business. This month the subject is the need to perform mutual action planning. In subsequent issues, a number of other subjects including consultative selling, training and communication will be presented.

Reps hate it when I admit I provided information to my principals. I took notes during a call because we were in the motion control and … Read the rest

The Deadly Enemies of Innovation


If you believe that American innovation will continue to provide us with world leadership, don’t be too sure. American industry is facing a double whammy: Innovations from abroad are increasing rapidly, and our own made-in-America corporate misbehavior kills off ideas that should happen but won’t happen — ever. As a manufacturers’ representative, why should this be important to you? It is because you need to focus on the organizational mechanisms that can defeat the ideas you propose to customers and prospects.

Our systems defeat many of the ideas created by our most brilliant Americans. Among them are salespeople, engineers of … Read the rest

Should You Increase Your Prices Tenfold?


Greg put down the phone. It was a strange call. Mega Package had called to ask him to bid on a training program for the first-line supervisors. Greg’s training company had done this work before but not a multi-year project training as many as 2,500 front-line supervisors in 40 plants across the United States. There were seven other international training companies bidding. With a $10-million-dollar-a-year training company, he was the only little guy being asked to bid. This was a mandate worth millions of dollars, and he had never done an assignment larger than a few hundred thousand dollars at

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Escape the Numbers Trap: Steps to Target Prospecting for Increased Sales

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If yours is like a lot of sales organizations, you may have intensified prospecting efforts lately as old customers downsized, cut spending, and in some cases went out of business altogether. The problem is that prospecting is often time-consuming, costly, wasteful, and hard on the morale of the sales team. Why? Look at some of the typical tips for successful prospecting: “Schedule a minimum of two hours a day for phone calling.” “Spend the first 30 minutes of each day making at least three calls.” The idea is that if you make enough calls, sooner or later a certain percentage

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How to Genuinely Enjoy Cold Calling


Perspectives That Will (Honestly!) Create Enjoyment In Your Cold Calling

Most of us dread our days of making cold calls. We take a deep breath, pump ourselves up, and prepare to talk with a perfect stranger. Is there any wonder a gray cloud sometimes hangs over our desk?

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Cold calling can be an interesting, intriguing, fulfilling adventure.

Here are some perspectives that will give you an entirely new outlook on cold calling. When you apply these new perspectives, cold calling can actually be enjoyable. It can become personally fulfilling as well as … Read the rest

The Stealth Cause of Lackluster Sales


Here’s an issue sales managers confront all too frequently. You just introduced a new product. At the sales meeting, the salespeople seemed excited. Yet, it is three months later, and nothing’s been sold. What’s up?

Or, you work with a salesperson in the field, and identify some skill that seems poorly developed, such as “asking better questions” for example. You point it out to the salesperson, provide some examples and ask him to work on it. The next time you work with him, there is no improvement. Why’s that?

Here’s one more example of this phenomenon: Your company has just … Read the rest

Selling in a Tough Economy: How to Distinguish Yourself From the Competition


One dreaded statement from a sales prospect could make a salesperson turn pale. “Is this your best deal?” “I’ve interviewed a couple of your competitors and they are willing to sell for less.” “Thanks, but we want to shop around before we make a decision.”

How many of us have recently heard, “Our business has been so good for the past five years we haven’t felt a need to do any sales training, but things are different now and we need help!” In today’s market of intense competition and constant margin pressure, this scenario continues to replay itself.

When not … Read the rest

Master Broker Entitled To Triple Damages Under California Sales Representative Act


A major issue in the case was whether the California Independent Wholesale Sales Representative Contractual Relations Act (the “Act”) applied to Prestidge because it was a master rep or wholesaler with many sub-reps.

The Plaintiff, G.H. Prestidge (“Prestidge”), owned and operated a wholesale broker business and served as a Master Broker with a national sales force consisting of 14 rep organizations with approximately 45 individual sales representatives. The reps marketed goods and services to retailers of a variety of companies. Defendant, Oscar Home Care, Inc. (“Oscar”), was a supplier/distributor of air fresheners and related products in the retail industry. Both … Read the rest

Figuring Out What’s Important In Business


Most of us have begrudgingly figured out that it’s useless to worry about whether the economy is getting better or worse. Such high and mighty stuff is okay for Washington, but such information doesn’t make much difference in Quincy, Massachusetts, or Eagle Rock, California, or any place in between.

The owner of an engineering outfit says his people are “straight out.” While that’s good news, the economic temperature changes by location, industry and the time of day.

Since the cynicism is reaching stratospheric heights, it’s time for less pontificating and more observing. Here are several “snapshots” that reveal helpful … Read the rest

Performance: Measuring Reps vs. a Direct Sales Force

It’s interesting that a number of manufacturers who decide to direct their marketing and sales efforts to independent reps have already done their homework. As a result, when they contact MANA or take the beginning steps in forming their rep networks, they’re already following a map they’ve drawn for themselves.

For instance, consider the words of one manufacturer who described his efforts in working with reps: “One of our major goals is to create and enhance our presence in the marketplace as quickly as possible. At the same time, we knew we had to keep our eye on expenses and … Read the rest

Using the Power of Smartphones To Grow Your Business


If someone had told Alexander Graham Bell that one day his invention would evolve into a device that could turn your lights on and off, he would have taken your temperature with a mercury thermometer, which incidentally, in 1876, hadn’t changed much in more than 100 years.

Remember when cell phones first emerged? Chances are, you were just as cynical as Mr. Bell. You probably made that first call with a furrowed brow, skeptical to the possibility it promised. You were certain that your call wouldn’t connect, or at the very least your voice would be overridden by static. Like … Read the rest

The Subject Is Taxing


This article is reprinted from the December 2010 issue of the IHRA REPorter.

The following are highlights of the tax implication of the newly passed Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

Items Decreasing Tax

Business Loans — The government will loan money for five years to small banks (those with assets under $10 billion) to loan to small businesses. The banks will have to pay interest. Unlike when the Bush administration sent out money without strings attached, the rules require banks to report to a newly created loaning agency both the amount and the number of small business loans that

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New Location For WAMA

WAMA (Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers’ Agents, Inc.) has entered into an agreement with the Wisconsin Association Management, LLC, (WAM) to provide administrative and management services effective January 1, 2011. The contact person will be Doug Stangohr. The new administrative location and mailing address is: 11801 W. Silver Spring Drive, Suite 200, Milwaukee, WI 53225. The e-mail address will remain the same: wama@wama.org. WAM is working to maintain the same telephone number; 414-778-0640.

The next luncheon meeting will be on February 14 at Klemmer’s Banquet Center, 10401 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee. Lunch is “family style” served at 12:00 noon, followed by … Read the rest