What If There Was No MANA?

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This month Agency Sales magazine explores the question: “Why is membership in MANA important?” And because April is my first anniversary as MANA’s CEO and President, it’s an appropriate time for me to answer that question by posing an even larger question (with apologies to George Bailey in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life): “What if MANA didn’t exist?”

If MANA didn’t exist there would still be industry-specific rep associations, each individually serving groups like plumbing, power transmission, electrical, casting, and electronic reps. But many of MANA’s services would be too costly for each individual association to duplicate. Consider these scenarios:

The plumbing reps have discovered a particularly effective way to structure their annual conference. Will the power transmission reps find out about it? Without MANA, probably not. MANA circulates best rep association practices not only in the pages of Agency Sales magazine, but also by scheduling an annual Association of Manufacturers’ Rep Associations meeting where key executives from each rep association can share their struggles and successes face-to-face.

A casting rep discovers a particularly rep-savvy attorney who helps her recover unfairly withheld commissions. Will a housewares rep who needs the same help be able to find that attorney? Without MANA, probably not. A database of rep-savvy attorneys gathered only from casting reps would be a much shorter list than the list MANA gathers from reps across all industries. And that critical mass of attorneys in our database allows MANA to:

• Organize an annual “Attorney Forum” where those attorneys can meet face-to-face and share best practices on serving rep clients.

• Secure from those attorneys specimen agreement guidelines as a foundation for individualized agreements customized to particular rep-principal relationships.

• Arrange for MANA members to receive a free one-hour consultation from most attorneys in our database.

A startup rep has talent and drive but not rep experience. Will that startup survive? Without MANA, the odds of success are not as good. Under the expert guidance of MANA ex-CEO Joe Miller, MANA launched its “Pathway To Rep Success” mentoring program that trains experienced reps how to be great mentors and provides them with a structured, formal mentoring curriculum. Matching novice reps with trained mentors gives novice reps the best possible opportunity to succeed and join the community of successful reps. And the larger the community of successful reps available to prospective principals, the more attractive it is for companies to go to market with manufacturers’ reps.

Just like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, MANA would be missed. As tough as it is to be a manufacturers’ rep, without MANA it would be even tougher. That’s why your membership in MANA is important. Thank you for being a member and supporting the rep system of selling.

Membership in MANA is Important: The Facts!

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The 2007 business census tells us there are around 30,000 rep agencies in the U.S. and Canada. The census numbers correlate to the market data MANA has used for many years. The point is that there are a lot of you out there, and your economic impact is estimated at around $300 billion, with a B. As a group, you employ about 170,000 people and pay them around $7 billion per year. 

Now don’t get a swelled head!

As individuals your voice can barely be heard. You need to form a group, a union, an association that can look after … Read the rest

Why MANA Membership is So Valuable

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It doesn’t take a great deal of digging to learn what MANA members value most in terms of the products and services that the association provides. Whether it’s the nascent rep firm looking for product lines or the well-established agency that has long profited from its membership, there always appears to be something for everyone.

Perhaps, Bob Heltman, founder/CEO of Leading Edge Products & Services, Inc., Hendersonville, North Carolina, says it best when he explains “Membership in MANA is a little bit like being associated with a reputable corporation. It provides the rep with the level of credibility that he … Read the rest

It’s No Time to Trip

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It happened on Thursday after lunch as I ran up five steps to the office holding a cup of coffee. On the second step, I tripped. Instantly I knew what happened. “Call an ambulance,” I shouted. It was a complete quadriceps tendon tear. This time on the right thigh. Four months later, the surgeon’s final check up with words of caution, “Don’t trip.”

Those words are also good business advice. While “Don’t trip!” is a powerful message, it can be ignored, even at a time when it’s easier than ever to take a dive on the second step. When they … Read the rest

Hire Fast, Fire Faster: Keep the Right Players on Your Team

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There is an old but true saying, “the best candidate doesn’t always get the job.”

If you have ever made a bad hiring decision, don’t worry, you are in good company. All leaders and managers select bad hires even if they don’t know it. The difference is, really great leaders recognize their mistake and fire faster. All hiring managers are sure to make bad hiring decisions because they made a decision based on situational questions, content on a resume and mostly by their emotions or more notably referred to as “their gut feeling.” Selecting a bad hire is understandable; but … Read the rest

Determining The Value of Your Business

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To reach the peak of Mt. Everest mountain climbers need oxygen. For your business to reach its peak you need an oxygen influx, and one great way to get it is to (pretend to) “buy your own business.” Put your business through a mock acquisition process to uncover the opportunities and vulnerabilities a business buyer would uncover.

“Thank you,” gushed a previously frustrated sales manager. When I asked why, she replied that it was for helping Bob buy the company she worked for. “He’s a breath of fresh air,” she said. He listened to the employees, had plans to … Read the rest

Realizing Hidden Opportunities

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“Great moments are born from great opportunities,” said the late Herb Brooks, one of the world’s most famous hockey coaches.

Brooks certainly seized opportunity during his career. He agreed to coach the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that beat the “unbeatable” Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York, during the famous “Miracle on Ice” game on the way to winning the gold medal. It was a modern-day “David vs. Goliath” matchup. Many coaches would refuse such an overwhelmingly difficult job. In fact, several did.

But Brooks saw opportunity in the monumental challenge of leading a bunch of young, amateur, college all-stars … Read the rest

Discounting to Create Cash Flow? Be Careful!

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Recently I spoke at a large conference on the subject of how to maintain your price and avoid discounting. After the presentation, a business person approached me and asked what my strategy would be if his company needed to discount price to create cash flow. This is not an easy question to answer.

Sure, I could easily throw out a response that implies that the reason a company has to discount is that it hasn’t done a good enough job of building its pipeline or hasn’t invested enough in the right type of marketing. I know, though, that this isn’t … Read the rest

Think A Lot

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It’s a difficult year for a lot of salespeople. The world is changing rapidly, and every new headline contains information that seems to impact business in a significant way. The competition is more active, customers are more discriminating, and nobody has enough time.

There was a time, a few years ago, when it was easier. You could work hard for awhile, and then you could relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors. You would reach a point where life became easy, your customers were buying from you consistently, and you had your job figured out.

That’s no longer the … Read the rest

Awareness Precedes Intelligence

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It was two weeks since my meeting with the four sales managers when I received an e-mail from the chairman. He simply said, “I have a serious problem. Give me a call.”

In our last article the four sales managers stayed up ‘til midnight curious about the difference between the “B’s” and the “A’s.” Mark’s career as a sales manager seemed to be on the line. Phil and Steve were very sure that understanding this difference was serious.

The chairman started our meeting with a chuckle. “I’m glad my e-mail got your attention. All the sales managers went home from … Read the rest

Why Reps?

There’s probably no better endorsement for the rep way of going to market than one from a manufacturer who has long-established ties with reps. That is just the case with a manufacturer who participated in an interview with The Thinking Salesman Letter (www.TheThinkingSalesman.com). Written and produced by former MANA Board member Al Brosseau, the interview covered major reasons why the manufacturer has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with its rep network.

At the outset, the manufacturer explains that the 100-year-old business, which works with a mixed direct sales staff and network of 21 rep firms, started with reps because … Read the rest

QR Code Benefits for Reps

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You probably have seen the “bothersome” little black and white square things on magazine pages and other printed ads. America is finally waking up 10 years after these QR Codes became a big hit in Japan and Europe. (QR means Quick Response.) These codes are scanned with Smartphones or Androids and quickly link to videos, phone numbers, brochures, coupons, membership offers, catalogs, etc. QR codes are fast, efficient and profitable.

In the United States QR Code use jumped an incredible 9,840 percent in the second quarter of last year vs. second quarter of 2010. And, cell phones now are … Read the rest

Product Recommendations? How to Manage the Risks…

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Recommendations made by a manufacturer’s rep are an issue that arises all too often in the world of reps. It is important to set out a framework before describing how to best manage the issues associated with recommendations by reps.

Typical Situation

Successful manufacturers’ reps are frequently degreed professionals with many years of hands-on experience in their respective industries. They can be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to practical applications and performance criteria for products. Their knowledge and information can be invaluable to principals and customers, and is often key to closing a sale.

Rep Theory and PracticeRead the rest

How Are Your Investments Seeded?

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The spring daffodils poking their heads up is a clear sign that the college basketball season has wrapped up and the celebrated NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament — often nicknamed “March Madness”— has seen its last highlight. In anticipation of that month-long event people all over the country scrambled to fill out their brackets and cheered on their favorite teams.

For the uninitiated, the tournament begins with 68 teams and operates in a knockout format, concluding with just one team left standing after three emotion-filled weeks and 67 exciting games.

It’s also the foundation for recreational office pools and

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