The Changing Landscape of Communication

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It’s a topic that has been evolving at an ever-increasing pace. Many MANA members can remember when there were three choices for communication between reps and principals:

  • Write it down, put it in an envelope, seal the envelope, add a stamp, and put it in the mailbox.
  • Find a pay phone, punch in your calling card number, and keep the call short because AT&T long distance was expensive.
  • Visit your local travel agent, collect a hand-written paper ticket, and arrive at the airport just before the plane boarded, breeze right through the airport without a concern about security.

Moving ahead a few years, faxes went from exotic to mundane, and then e-mail took the place of faxes. Now, just like a modern paint store with every color available on demand, the options are daunting in their abundance.

  • Teleconferencing is an everyday event, and continues to grow as it migrates from computer-only to tablet and phone-friendly versions.
  • Document sharing allows users across the world to collaborate through Google Drive, Dropbox, or Sugarsync.
  • Social media offers your advocates and critics options not only to communicate with you, but also to share their bouquets and brickbats with the rest of the world. Whether you are getting kudos or a complaint, when someone posts it on your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or (insert any of a hundred different social networking sites here) the whole world will see what is being said about you, and judge you based on how you respond.

And because the options for rep-principal communication are growing at an ever-accelerating pace, MANA made sure to include best practices in communication in our upcoming manufacturer seminar, Best Practices with Reps, Planning with Intent, October 18 and 19 at the American Management Association Conference Center in Chicago.

This issue of Agency Sales magazine includes all the details about this upcoming seminar, which is led by National Electrical Manufacturers’ Representatives’ Association (NEMRA) past President & CEO Hank Bergson and Johnson & Wales University Associate Professor of Marketing Kris Hefley. Hank and Kris are well known for their expertise in the rep industry and long-time friends of MANA, so this will be a great event for principals who want to enhance their rep relationships. We hope to see your principals there!

Communications Between Reps and Their Principals


There are many ways to communicate with principals; a phone call, a voice mail, a written note, a text, an e-mail, a fax and let’s not forget the letter. We have all used these to build our businesses and to communicate with our principals. E-mail messages have rendered obsolete most of the traditional forms of communication and have become the primary business communication tool, but this may be at the expense of our understanding of the messages being conveyed. I’ll try to explain.

Have you ever noticed how important information in the second or later paragraphs of an e‑mail is … Read the rest

MANA Seminar Provides Manufacturers The Lowdown On Working With Reps


Knowledgeable manufacturers will attest to the fact that there’s no shortcut when it comes to finding the right rep for their product line and managing that relationship for peak sales results. But manufacturers striving to complete that task in the most efficient manner will welcome the guidance they’ll receive in MANA’s Manufacturer Seminar.

The day-and-a-half seminar will be conducted in Chicago by industry veterans Hank Bergson and Kris Hefley.

•   With more than a 40-year career in the electrical industry as both a manufacturer and the CEO of the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA), Bergson currently works as a … Read the rest

Taking Stock of Communication With Principals


“Face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball contact” are among the first words Hank Bergson speaks when asked to assess the importance of two-way communication between reps and principals.

Bergson, the former president and CEO of NEMRA and currently a consultant working with MANA among others, stresses that “When addressing the subject of communication between reps and principals, it’s critical to keep in mind that we’re speaking about two-way communication, that is from the principal to the rep, and just as important, rep to the principal.”

First, considering reps and their interaction with principals, Bergson observes that “Most reps are great salesmen. They know how … Read the rest

The Value of Communication: From the Principal’s Perspective


photo of Charles IngramCharles Ingram, Eriez Magnetics, Erie, Pennsylvania, points to effective communication as the foundation for long‑standing and effective relationships between principals and their reps.

Anyone doubting his view should take note of the fact that Eriez this year is marking the fifth rep agency that the company has been working with for at least 50 years. In that group of five is one agency the company has been working with for 65 years, “and we’re only 75 years old as a company,” he notes. “There’s no longevity such as that without excellent two-way communication.”

Eriez’s magnetic lift and separation, metal detection, … Read the rest

Guide to Understanding the Sales Rep-Manufacturer Relationship


This is the third of three installments of a Small Business Guide to help manufacturers and sales representatives understand each other better, so that their relationship is not adversarial — as it is in many instances. Parts one and two appeared in the July and August issues respectively of Agency Sales magazine. Both parties — principals and reps — need each other and a mutual understanding should create a positive partnership that will yield more profits for each, while extending the duration of their relationship.

A link to this complete e-book may be found on MANA’s website:

Advice For

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Challenging People To Think


This is the conclusion to the article that began in the August issue of Agency Sales.

The chairman was now a little impatient. He said with some conviction, “We’re running out of time. We’ve beaten the elephant issue to death. We are going to track numbers for the rest of our business careers — that is inherent to being a president. If numbers have no meaning — yet it is important that our people find meaning in the numbers; how do we make that happen?”

“Sir, that is a great question — and I totally agree with the reality … Read the rest

Tipping the Sales Scale in Your Favor


Every salesperson knows the job is tougher than ever. It’s not for the faint hearted or those who feel the world owes them a living. At the same time, salespeople recognize the importance of having an extra edge, of standing out from the crowd.

Yet, even those with winning qualities can have other attributes that keep them from getting to the top. To help tip the scales scale, here are several ideas that can make a difference.

Start exciting customers and stop trying to entice them — Spending time figuring out a customer’s hot buttons is out of sync with … Read the rest

Competitive Strategy Influencing the Decision to Win the Sale

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How does a done deal come undone? Your rep had a good relationship with a great contact, the right solution to meet the customer’s needs, and strong buying signals right up to the last. Then came the dreaded call: “Thank you for the proposal, but we’ve decided to go with someone else.” So, what happened? Could this loss have been prevented?

In our experience of looking at thousands of win-loss reviews and talking to salespeople and sales managers, in many cases the salesperson did not have a full picture of how the decision was being made, who was influencing the … Read the rest

Turn “Socializing” Into “Networking”


Most professionals know they must network in order to achieve long-term business success. I remember as far back as high school being told by my guidance counselor that I needed to “meet a lot of people and build a network.” That was great advice back then and even better advice today.

It’s critically important to participate in the public arena and interact with the people who could become your clients, provide you with valuable information or help you further your causes and beliefs.

While they understand the importance of networking, many professionals do a lousy job of it. It’s easy … Read the rest

More On Communication


Communication is the major topic in this issue of Agency Sales. Discussion of that subject encouraged one manufacturer to offer: “There’s never any end to my frustration when I learn one or two of my agencies are struggling for any variety of reasons. It takes a lot of time and effort to get agencies to replace them. As a result, we always prefer to learn about problems as early as possible in the process. We like that because that way we can usually fix problems. Honestly, I wish more of my reps would call me regularly and update me on Read the rest

Is Anybody Out There? Four Strategies for E-mail Marketing Success


Should you ever bring up the topic of e-mail marketing, you will certainly hear people complain about the hundreds of e-mails they receive on a daily basis. They will tell you sob stories about the endless “junk” they receive and how they try to opt-out from all of that “spam” — all to no avail! They might even give you a strange look (after all, you did bring up e-mail marketing at a party) and start asking you if you are “one of those people” who sends huge volumes of e-mail.

With increased postage rates and the desire to reach … Read the rest

It’s Important to Understand How Your Lawyer Thinks


One thing that I have learned in more than 30 years of practicing law is that it is important for the client to have a good understanding of the manner in which his or her lawyer thinks. I explain to my clients that lawyers are in the information processing business. Now that is not all that we do but it is an important part of it. We take large amounts of information and try to condense it down to a manageable level that we can present to a jury, judge or arbitrator to present a clear and concise case for

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Start Planning Now: Strategies for a Brighter Financial Future


When it comes to planning their financial future, many people follow the same philosophy: “I’ll start saving and planning tomorrow.” Unfortunately, tomorrow comes and goes with the beginnings of a plan still not done. Before they know it, years and even decades have passed, and they’re still not prepared for retirement, for emergencies, or for any number of things that could happen.

Granted, when you’re young or when the economy is tough, the future and all the “what ifs” are the last things on your mind. You’re living in the now, making ends meet the best you can, and tomorrow … Read the rest