House Accounts and Collateral Damage

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“I do a good job for all my principals, but there is one principal whose product I really love selling. I probably spend more time on that principal than the commission strictly justifies, but I do it anyway, because they always make me look good to my customers.”

That’s not a direct quote from one rep, it’s a composite of rep comments from a recent LinkedIn conversation — and it’s a topic that always comes up when reps get together.

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Those reps’ consensus: Great principals earn more of a rep’s attention

by being easy to do business with. “Not-great” principals sometimes push for attention disproportionate to commissions, but reps ultimately push back when principals try to get extra attention by pressuring their reps instead of earning it. One rep cited a principal who wanted 30 percent of his time but represented just 8 percent of his income. The rep had no choice but to have a heart-to-heart talk with that principal to manage expectations about activity levels that could be maintained in proportion to commissions.

Principals who earn more of a rep’s attention do it by generating enthusiasm and becoming the rep’s “emotional favorite” with rep-friendly practices such as:

  • Scheduling time in the territory based on mutual need and productivity.
  • Using the reps’ feedback from the field to good advantage.
  • Providing a quality product, shipped on time, at a competitive price.
  • Creating fair and consistent split commission policies.

And one thing most reps agree on is that a principal who has house accounts has little hope of becoming its reps’ emotional favorite. Many reps consider house accounts to be a bellwether of a principal’s overall attitude about reps — once a principal takes house accounts, can commission cuts and territory reductions be far behind? It’s likely that most principals who take house accounts never consider this collateral damage: Even though they continue to get their fair share of their reps’ time, taking house accounts blemishes their reputation, making it unlikely they will ever become their reps’ emotional favorite or earn anything more than just their fair share of their reps’ time.


Congratulations to John Beaver of GSA Optimum for winning our “MANA Wants You for the Cover of Agency Sales Magazine” membership recruitment contest, which earned him the right to have his rep company featured on the cover of this month’s issue of Agency Sales. Thank you, John for your recruitment efforts and for your long and continued support of MANA!

The Professional Edge

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MANA defines itself as The Association for Professional Manufacturers’ Reps and Those Who Aspire to Be Professional, and Their Manufacturer Partners.

What do we mean by professional and why is it important for you to be professional?

Let’s discuss the importance of your being professional first. A “natural selection” process exists when manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers connect with each other. A Fortune 500 company won’t set up a relationship with a one-person rep who just started his business three months ago. Nor will a 25-person, 30-year-old rep agency sign an agreement with a start-up manufacturer with only five million … Read the rest

Rep Spreads the Word on MANA Benefits

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John Beaver’s enthusiasm and sense of humor sound loud and clear when he speaks about what he chose as his life work: “I wouldn’t change anything about being a rep. I never wanted to be a doctor because I don’t like blood; and, being a lawyer would be too boring for me. Being a rep is the most exciting, diverse, interesting and fun thing I could ever imagine. You do something different every day. If I had the chance to choose my profession all over, I wouldn’t hesitate to be a rep again.”

It’s partly because of that philosophy that … Read the rest

Making the Choice to be Different

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For two days the Chairman and his 14 Presidents were challenged to think about the difference between the Industrial Age business model and the new Energy Age business model — or whatever they wanted to call it. After two days of examining the structural differences and the potential for their own companies, they were absolutely certain that they did not want to return to the Industrial Age business model of plan, organize and control.

We had talked extensively about the muscle memory of their ‘old game’ and how they would continue to hear legitimate arguments for running a business, organization … Read the rest

A Snapshot of the Rep Business

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I work with many reps helping them grow their businesses. Recently I received the following copy of a letter from a rep principal/owner to one of his salespeople. Please read carefully. The names have been disguised to protect the guilty.

Dear Charlie,

I would like to recap our phone conversation from Friday. As I discussed with you, there are some principals who have expressed concerns with your performance in the territory you cover for our rep firm.

Line 1: Pete was extremely upset by the lack of progress that you made this year with Jones Supply. As he pointed out … Read the rest

Do’s and Don’ts for Calming Cranky Customers

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Perhaps you’ve noticed that customers are becoming increasingly hostile. Case in point was the highly publicized incident where a patron in a fast-food restaurant became so enraged that he attacked the restaurant manager. The customer spilled his coffee on his breakfast and when the manager refused to replace the meal, the ensuing argument led to violence that ended with the customer being arrested.

It seems in our fast-paced frenetic world customers are now more tired, rushed, stressed and downright fed up. That’s why in my customer service seminars both managers and frontline employees frequently ask me how to handle the … Read the rest

Don’t be Blindsided by the Competition

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Know What the Customer Really Values

A sales rep had a long-term relationship with the head of an in‑house printing group, and he expected to get the business when the company decided to outsource its printing services. The rep was shocked to find out the deal went to a competitor. His contact told him the other company offered a “better value.” The sales rep thought he knew the customer, but now he wondered, “What did the other guy know that I didn’t?”

The sales rep in this example was sure he knew what the printing manager was looking for — … Read the rest

Tips for Selling More in a Tough Economy

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You hear it everywhere you go: “Sales are down because of the economy. My customers simply aren’t buying as much.” There are some people out there saying the economy doesn’t matter; it’s what’s going on in your own head that matters. While it’s true that what goes on in your brain is always more important than outside circumstances, the economy is still what’s affecting many businesses. If yours is one of them, put the following ideas into practice and you’ll find that the effect on you will be minimal, and in fact, you may notice no change or even a … Read the rest

Qualities that Produce Star Performers

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Possessing the correct skill sets for a position in today’s economy is absolutely essential — but it’s not enough to be a star performer. With so much emphasis on job qualifications, it’s easy to give little thought to certain personal qualities that, when combined with outstanding competencies, result in extraordinary performance.

And it’s the star performers that are missing today. In a recent study of 600,000 people Indiana University’s Kelley School of business found that individual performance doesn’t fall on a bell curve. Rather, the researchers found a “power-law” distribution, with a few elite performers contributing the most to the … Read the rest

Using Fear to Your Advantage in Leadership

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There you are, standing at the helm of your sailboat in the midst of the worst storm of your life. You hold tight to the wheel as the boat flies off the top of a 30-foot wave. The noise sounds like a wounded animal as it howls through the rigging. All you really want to do is go down below, crawl into a bunk, pull the covers up over your eyes and wish it all away.

But then you look at your crew and see them looking at you with eyes as wide as saucers with fear, and you’re jolted … Read the rest

Finding the Right Representation

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Next month’s issue of Agency Sales will devote space highlighting many of the products and services that MANA members have found invaluable over the years. As a bit of a preview, what follows are excerpts from a discussion that is fairly typical of what takes place among principals and reps in the MANA LinkedIn discussion group. We include it here to illustrate how the MANA discussion group serves as the ideal forum for reps and manufacturers to present problems and concerns and invariably come up with a wealth of solutions.

A manufacturer kicked off the discussion by describing the difficulty … Read the rest

Today’s Technology is Getting Smarter

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Most people agree that our technology is getting smarter, but most don’t realize just how smart. Sure, they know their smart phones have GPS capability and their smart appliances are capable of improving efficiency, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, smart technology is around us every day. From surveillance cameras to clothing, today’s smart technology is watching us, helping us, and getting smarter because of us.

Smart Video

As an example, let’s look at in-store surveillance cameras. In the past, the video quality of those cameras was poor. Most of us can remember watching the nightly … Read the rest

Knowledge of Laws Critical for Sales Reps in Dealing with Principals

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An important step that each sales representative should take as part of a business strategy is to become familiar with the laws governing the relationship between sales reps and principals.

At a minimum, a basic understanding of sales representative laws in the state where the sales rep has its primary place of business is especially critical. This is because the majority of states, but not all, have recognized that protecting the rights and commissions of sales representatives is important as a matter of public policy. However, those public policy protections have taken shape through the enactment of specific statutes that … Read the rest

Is Your Portfolio Worthy of Olympic Gold?

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With the Olympic Games just behind us, interest and memories are fresh of London, where world-class athletes went head-to-head in a lifetime quest to win gold medals. Now a couple of months later, back home investors continue to chase life-long dreams in hopes of someday striking gold with their investments. So in honor of the 2012 London Games, here are five “rings” of advice (one for each Olympic Ring) to help you build a portfolio worthy of Olympic Gold.

Blue Ring: Analyze the Market

The first question you must ask and answer before you invest in the stock market is … Read the rest