Looking Good Under the Principal’s Microscope


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In this issue of Agency Sales magazine we look at groups of reps that have been the most affected by the economy — positively or negatively.

In tough economic times, principals more than ever take a very hard look at the value they receive for the commissions they invest with your rep company. In good times, principals might only use a magnifying glass to scrutinize the value your rep company brings to that relationship. In bad times, they use a microscope.Rep companies that look good under the microscope actually can prosper in a recession, as principals move from costly direct sales forces to reps, and from reps whose business practices don’t look good under the microscope to those who do.To prosper in a tough economic environment where excellence is swiftly rewarded and less-than-excellence is even more swiftly punished, it’s time for you to put your own company under the microscope to see what your principals see.How do your business practices look under the microscope? Do you methodically respond to all principal communications within 24 hours? Says one rep: “Honestly, the sales leads I get from my principals often are of dubious quality, but if my principals place a high value on those leads, then I have to place a high value on those leads too. So I always acknowledge the lead by e-mail immediately, and close out the lead within five business days, even if it is just to say I have called twice and e-mailed twice, but was not able to make contact.”How do your people look under the microscope? Do you have a continuing improvement program in place for product training and sales training? And do your people who have management responsibilities get business training?How does your line card look under the microscope? Did you cultivate your line card so that most of your principals benefit from each sales call you make, or have you kept a few odd-man-out principals that don’t fit with the rest of your line card? The first thing that a great prospective principal will look at is your line card, and if your line card does not reflect a laser focus on that principal’s market, you won’t even be called for an interview.

And once you’ve readied your company for microscopic scrutiny, it’s time to share those improvements with your principals. After all, the only way they will know that you have set the bar higher is if you tell them so.

And, of course, a great way to let your principals know you’ve set the bar higher would be to be featured on the cover of Agency Sales magazine! On page 21 of this issue, you’ll find details about how encouraging your principals and fellow reps to join MANA could get you on the front cover of the September 2012 issue of Agency Sales!

Is It The Market Or Is It Me?


A good friend and mentor of mine in the rep business used to say to me, “It’s not one thing, it’s a thousand things!”

It becomes quite easy and maybe even fashionable to blame the economy for our woes, yet even in the worst of times there are companies, businesses and people who continue to excel and outperform all others. You have to ask why when many can tend to get mired in self pity and blame everyone and everything — it might be time for a look in the mirror.

One element that is apparent is that the role … Read the rest

Gauging the Ups and Downs of a Challenging Economy


As this is being written, the presidential primary races are approaching a fever pitch and jobs creation and the economy remain high on the list of talking points. Mix that with current headlines pointing to encouraging employment figures, improved housing statistics and positive auto sales and there’s plenty to consider on the economic front.

But headlines and talking points are one thing, what’s happening in the trenches where independent manufacturers’ reps daily toil can be quite something different. Encouragingly what some reps have to offer might just bolster the view that there’s a chance for 2012 to show the improvement … Read the rest

MANA Mentoring Program Gets Reps Up and Running


No one ever said being a rep is the easiest way to make a living. To make it a bit more manageable and to help newly established reps avoid some common pitfalls MANA has initiated a mentoring program where nascent reps can benefit from the advice of a veteran of the profession.

This initial venture is guided by Joe Miller, MANA’s President and CEO from 1998-2006. According to Miller, “MANA generally gets 25 to 30 new rep members each month. About one-third of them are new businesses. You know the drill — super-successful, medium- to large-company salespersons and sales managers … Read the rest

What Did You Learn From The Last Sale You Lost?


My mom always used to tell me how we learn more in life from our failures than we do from our successes, yet for too many of us in sales, this concept doesn’t seem to sink in.

I’ve lost plenty of sales in my life. If I wanted to get really down on myself, all I’d have to do is take a piece of paper and start writing down as many as I could remember. If I wanted to go into a complete state of despair, all I’d have to do is to write down next to each sale I … Read the rest

The Real Difference Between “A’s” and “B’s”


The keynote topic was Solutions for the New Economy. The speech ran a little longer than anticipated so it was nearly 9 p.m. before we reconvened.

How was the keynote speech?”

Phil volunteered, “It was a good presentation about how to do things ‘better’ and ‘more’ and ‘improve.’ The speaker was rather dogmatic. It is amazing how sensitive I am now to the word ‘solutions.’ I was asking myself the whole time, do I sound that dogmatic when I talk to my salespeople? Why do people think that the new economy can be solved into existence? It’s their muscle Read the rest

Make Every Word Count: Be A Memorable Speaker


In sales, what would happen if your prospects could vividly remember why others choose to do business with you? Would it be profitable for you if they felt that you were more focused on their needs than your competitors? You can have that impact with a memorable pitch, or speech. If people are making hiring decisions for consulting contracts or a large investment, they are probably going to be discussing with a team or committee what they heard from various vendors, consultants, or sales professionals. Your goal is to have them remembering and repeating your key ideas and benefits: you Read the rest

Managing Your Online Brand In the World’s Best and Worst Marketplace


“Had a very long day today. Got into an argument with my boss and a client. All I want to do is drink a glass of wine and take it easy, but I have to do laundry tonight. Arrrgh!”

This is the text of a post I once read on a friend’s Facebook page. She was clearly frustrated after a tough day at the office.

There’s nothing earth-shattering about this post and certainly nothing unusual. We all have periodic days we would rather forget. It’s common to come home from work tired out, feeling sick to your stomach, knowing you … Read the rest

PTRA Marks 40 Years Serving Reps

When PTRA’s members convene in San Diego, California, in May, they will be experiencing just one of the many invaluable products/services that the 40-year-old rep association offers.

Incorporated in 1972, the Power-Motion Technology Representatives Association (PTRA) has included in its goals from day one:

  • Optimizing the value of independent sales representatives.
  • Optimizing the value of the rep-principal relationship.
  • Safeguarding the integrity of the independent manufacturers’ rep’s profession within the power transmission and motion control industries.
  • Enhancing the professionalism of members.
  • Operating as a stable association.

A search through MANA’s RepFinder will show that many PTRA members also are members of … Read the rest

Determining Who Pays For What

As has been mentioned previously in Agency Sales, the MANA discussion group on LinkedIn can prove a valuable resource to learning what’s on the minds of principals and their reps. For instance, recently the ever-present subject of sharing expenses was presented to the group and there was no shortage of input from both sides.

As presented, the question was: How do you share the cost of visiting a new principal when airlines and hotels are involved? I have always felt the principal should share the cost if they are serious about hiring your rep firm, although I find it

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Keys To Being Innovative Today To Get Business


Today’s market is different than anything we have ever seen before. To succeed requires being innovative in some fun and clever ways that go outside what has been done previously.  

Pace Robinson, Dottie Ramsey and Joan Hatcher from Modern Supply in Knoxville, Tennessee, recently gave me an interview where I asked about what they were doing that is working so well.

Founded in 1949 by Pace Robinson’s father, the company had been successful by following a more traditional format of appealing to contractors and plumbers who were predominantly male-oriented, conservative and established. Modern Supply’s success came from providing quality kitchen

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Protecting Your Hard-Earned Assets From Creditors


This is not our usual article dealing with rep issues, but is important to all manufacturers, reps and distributors and others who may accumulate wealth.

While many individuals place substantial emphasis on maximizing their earnings and accumulating wealth, many fewer individuals focus their attention on protecting their assets from creditors. Because of our increasingly litigious society, greater emphasis should be given to using available strategies to protect assets from creditors. While few — if any — asset protection strategies are ironclad, proper planning can make it more difficult for a creditor to attach assets of an individual. Some of the … Read the rest

The Subject is Taxing


2012 and FORWARD 

We entered the New Year surely unsure of the future of taxation in the United States. All of the Bush tax benefits end on December 31, 2012 unless Congress acts. It seems that the last time Congress acted was for a variety show. Hopefully I underestimate them.

Of immediate interest is that certain things already have dropped out of the tax code unless Congress reinstates them postmortem. For the past several years individuals have had an opportunity to deduct sales taxes as an itemized deduction if it exceeded their state income tax payments (a certainty for states … Read the rest

How to Manage Money as a Couple


Combine the expectation of divorce for new couples hovering around 50 percent with a variety of studies that suggest money is the most divisive topic for couples, and you get a formula for disaster. But one expert thinks it doesn’t have to be that way.

Jane Honeck, CPA, and author of The Problem With Money? It’s Not About the Money! (www.theproblemwithmoney.com), maintains that while a SmartMoney Magazine survey revealed that 70 percent of all couples talk about money at least once a week, the communication isn’t very effective. Honeck has some good advice that can help couples make arguments about

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