“Thanks for stopping by, please leave your catalog in our recycling bin on your way out.”

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Introducing the newest challenge for 21st Century reps, customers who say: “Someday I may need information about your product. But don’t even try to leave a catalog here; I don’t have room to store catalogs. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to see your information until the moment I need it, and then I only want the exact information I need delivered immediately and nothing more. And if you can’t do this for me, I will find someone who can.”

It’s a paradigm shift that reps must embrace: customers no longer want reps to deliver libraries of comprehensive information from our principals about every possible product they ever might use. That comprehensive information, whether delivered in three-ring binders or on websites, is more and more being perceived as a burden rather than a resource as customers balk at receiving data dumps of everything we do in favor of receiving only the data they need to address the problem or application directly at hand.

It’s a natural outgrowth of the information overload that comes from having vast amounts of data available on the web. The more information you can access, the more you discover that the information you need is hiding at the bottom of a pile of information you don’t care about. So customers don’t value reps who bury them in information and leave them to search for a needle in an informational haystack. More and more, reps add value not by adding more information but instead by curating the information and helping customers find exactly the data they need.

The latest challenge for 21st Century reps, then, is to become so intimately familiar with your customers’ applications and your principals’ products that you have a comprehensive understanding of your customers’ needs and provide them not with every possible solution from your line card, but instead with the best possible solution from your line card.

With customers’ time constraints tight and skeleton crews in engineering and purchasing, today’s customers increasingly value a trusted rep consultant who can provide exactly the information they need, not more and not less; on a just-in-time, not-early, not-late basis. Become that concise, on-time trusted consultant and you will become an indispensable, highly valued asset to both your customers and your principals.

WOW, Have Times Changed!


It seems like the past 12 years of 2000 have given the rep business many challenges and changes. Maybe the ’80s and ’90s had these same challenges? But that was a long time ago and memory fades as I get older.

One of the biggest issues today is principals — keeping them and getting new ones that know how to work with manufacturers’ representatives. As principals become more sophisticated, they add non-industry personnel to their boards of directors, such as lawyers, bankers, etc. One of the first questions they ask is, “Why are you paying these guys such large commissions?” … Read the rest

Rep Challenges —
The List Goes On


When asked, independent manufacturers’ representatives are quick to offer up a litany of the challenges facing them as they toil in their respective territories. The list includes everything from pressure on commissions, wrapping their arms around an ever-evolving and growing technology, how to gain face time with customers and how to attract good lines.

While those appear to be a few of the constant concerns they find on their plates, two authors/consultants — Mike Weinberg and John Chapin — both of whom have articles elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales, considered some of the broader challenges that they … Read the rest

Organizations Aid Reps’ International Efforts

In last month’s issue of Agency Sales magazine in an article focusing on the need for reps to at least consider the opportunities presented to them by working internationally, a consultant noted that there are foreign-trade organizations (e.g., JETRO for Japan and KOTRA for Korea) that attempt to stimulate business with foreign markets. It was emphasized that searching out and working with these organizations can pave the road for foreign market opportunities.

Including both the Japanese and Korean organizations already mentioned, MANA has compiled a list of foreign trade development organizations. Each of them is a MANA member and they … Read the rest

Seminar Stresses the Importance of Knowing What Reps Do


When a manufacturer makes the decision to go to market with independent manufacturers’ representatives, they’re inherently admitting they don’t have the physical and financial wherewithal to cover the market on their own. As a result, manufacturers had better make sure they know how to work efficiently with reps if they’re moving in that direction.

That was the thought process of several attendees at MANA’s Manufacturers’ Seminar in Chicago last fall. And, it was a thought process shared by the seminar’s two presenters Hank Bergson and Kris Hefley.

“I think what we offered to the 20 manufacturers in attendance was a … Read the rest

Pitfalls That Derail Decision-Making


Despite the wealth of information available to us these days, many of today’s best and brightest business leaders still make poor decisions. This is unfortunate, because sound decision-making is at the heart of every company’s success.

Even if you have the best education and years of experience, it’s still possible — and common — to make poor decisions. Why? Today’s decision-makers are up against a long list of pitfalls and obstacles that prevent them from making sound decisions. Fortunately, once you know what you’re up against, you can take the proper steps to correct it. Here are the top five … Read the rest

Making the Virtual Office Real


Given the one- to three-person size of the large number of independent rep firms, many reps find themselves working out of a virtual office. More times than not, those virtual offices are at home.

Reps that have already made that move have faced and hopefully met logistical and personal challenges that accompany this virtual office trend.

RPMS, while not a rep firm but a company that many reps are familiar with, has successfully made the move, and the steps they took might serve as an example for reps anticipating a similar operating change. RPMS, Lenexa, Kansas, is a leading supplier … Read the rest

Tips for Running a Great Meeting


Any work meeting you conduct is a reflection of you. What kind of image are you portraying? Professional, on-target, and efficient? Or unprepared, unproductive, and ineffective?

Unfortunately, few people receive formal training on how to conduct a great meeting, and this lack of training is apparent in corporate conference rooms across the country. Between meetings that ramble on with no agenda and no action steps to participants feeling bored and questioning why the meeting is even taking place, it’s no wonder that so many people dread going to meetings.

In order to conduct a meeting that boosts your credibility and … Read the rest

Prospecting For New Business Made Simple: Avoid the Confusion, Fear and False Prophets


Here’s reality: very few salespeople prospect for new business. And even fewer do it effectively.

There are a lot of reasons as to why that’s the case, but one stands out above the rest. Fewer and fewer salespeople have a working knowledge of how to prospect! Many in sales today don’t prospect because they never had to do it and a good number of them don’t know how. That ignorance is only reinforced by the false teachers from the Sales 2.0 movement who proclaim that prospecting is no longer effective for picking up new business. Their deadly advice is music … Read the rest

Tips for Getting Through and Speaking to the Prospect


One of the most frustrating aspects of selling is having a great list of potential leads and then being unable to actually get through to and speak to those people. It may be a receptionist with bullet-proof teeth, the person you never seem to be able to get on the phone after the initial contact or that won’t get back to you, that no-soliciting sign, or that nagging question: How do I continue to chase this person without being a pest or seeming desperate? Here we’ll look at the quickest ways to get past these obstacles and talk to the

Read the rest

MANA Recognizes Long-Term Members

MANA wants to recognize members who have been with us for many years.

Every January we will list in Agency Sales those agent and principal members who celebrated their 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 year membership anniversary the previous year. MANA also sends them certificates in commemoration of their longevity as members.

Thank youMANA thanks and congratulates the members we listed below for their long-term support and commitment.

Agent Members

Mr. Brian Middleton
Wichita, KS
Member 55 years

Mr. Edward W.G. Pope
Brampton, ON
Member 55 years… Read the rest

To Add or Not Add Manufacturers’ E-Mail Addresses


Claims of “Big Brother” surfaced when a manufacturer made the request that his reps use e-mail addresses with the principals’ domain name. Their rationale was “Adding their logo to the end of your e-mails is the best way to provide a manufacturer with more exposure.”

Not all reps agreed with that thinking, however, as detailed in the MANA discussion group on LinkedIn. Two reps immediately noted that this “smacks of Big Brother” and is likely a first small step toward replacing the reps with “factory” reps.

Another rep offered that “I have flatly refused anything like this. I have principals … Read the rest

Practical Tools For Making the Most Out of Technology


With all the new devices technology offers us, what is best for you and your organization? What will enhance your employees’ effectiveness and maximize their productivity?

There are so many choices out there for mobile devices, so which ones are best to equip you and your team? Let’s review some of the primary device categories and for whom they might make the most sense.

Smartphones are useful for anyone who needs to stay “connected” when mobile. Smartphone users should ensure that they have full wireless synchronization of their e-mail, calendar and contacts; they shouldn’t have to be at a computer … Read the rest

Welcome to the Credit Markets: The Sales Representative as Loan Underwriter


You may not have thought of yourself as a banker, but sales representatives are providers of commercial credit.

By keeping this in mind when entering into or deciding whether to continue or sever a relationship with a principal, a sales representative can minimize the damages it will incur if the principal becomes insolvent, by which I mean unable to pay commissions as they come due. There is always some level of risk that a principal will not pay commissions not out of malevolence, but due to inability. Business failure is always a possibility. The representative cannot do much to affect … Read the rest

Empty Chairs and Empty Pockets: Re-examining the Value of Life Insurance


What if your office chair were empty tomorrow and forever? How valuable are you to your organization? How important are your skills, your leadership, your vision and passion to the success and future of your business, institution, organization or even your family?

These are not hypothetical questions. They are as real as your heartbeat. Who is counting on you? Make no mistake; there are many who will hurt, some businesses may fold, some schools, colleges, churches and institutions may suffer, some dear ones may not recover emotionally or financially if your chair is empty.

On the other hand, it is … Read the rest

MANA Directors Ice and Reese Thanked for Years of Service

Ed Reese & David IceMANA Directors David Ice (right) and Ed Reese recently received thanks and recognition from MANA’s Board of Directors for their long service to the association. Ice has served as a Director since 2006 and also served as Chairman of the Board, and Reese has served as a Director since 2007. Both have been instrumental in guiding MANA during their long years of service, and have earned the gratitude of MANA’s members. Both conclude their terms of office in April 2013.… Read the rest