When we talk about MANA members, the first word that always comes to mind is professionalism. The reason is that MANA is the number one resource for professional reps, reps who aspire to become professional, and principals who set high standards of professionalism of reps they choose to be their partners.

image of snap-together professional

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This issue of Agency Salesmagazine discusses rep professionalism, and in speaking with many of MANA’s rep and principal members, I’ve uncovered a number of ways that a professional rep distinguishes him or herself from reps that still need to work on their professionalism.

What are the two most commonly mentioned ways that professional reps distinguish themselves? Professional reps:

  • Work on their business, not just in their business.
  • Are businesspeople in sales, not salespeople in business.

But are those just slogans, or are they really shorthand for some of the best practices we see among professional reps, such as these:

  • Written business plans and objectives, not just sales plans for each of the rep’s key principals, but also a five-year plan for the rep company itself.
  • A “hot list” of potential candidates for sales positions kept handy so that the firm can swiftly take advantage of opportunities to expand its coverage within its current territory or expand into new territories.
  • Annual reviews of the rep firm’s line card to reconfirm that each line is still synergistic with the rest of the line card. This lets the firm release lines that no longer fit the line card and reallocate time that would have been spent on those lines to working on synergistic lines that are part of the firm’s long‑term plans.
  • A continuous commitment to training and education, either on the products the firm sells or the skills that sustain and enhance the firm’s selling and business operations.
  • Succession plans that allow the rep owner to receive the value of his or her firm upon retirement and the rep firm’s principals to have continuity of sales services once the rep owner retires.

So when you find a rep firm where the owners and employees have solid plans to be better next week than they were this week, better next month than they were this month, and be better next year than they were this year, then you’ve probably found a true professional, and a highly valued partner in profits for all the principals on that rep’s line card.

Moving Up To Plan B


A sluggishly rebounding economy is likely going to be the best thing to happen to my business for 2013. It could be for yours too. Seriously.

The “plan” since 2008 has been to survive. The prize for outlasting a recession is the impending boom of a recovery. It always happens that way — heck they teach it in schools. For us reps, we wouldn’t have to do much strategically — just hang in there and then get out of the way. The economy would be cranked up, employment would be soaring, and the deficit/budget would be at manageable levels. In … Read the rest

What It Means To Be Professional


“MANA is the #1 resource for:

  • Professional reps,
  • Reps who aspire to become professional, and
  • Principals who set high standards of professionalism of reps they choose to be their partners.”

Those words appear on MANA’s website, and elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales magazine (see MANA President and CEO Charley Cohon’s editorial on page 3). They are repeated here because this issue of ASM focuses on the pressing need for professionalism in independent manufacturers’ representatives.

Close to 10 years ago MANA member Harry Abramson, president, Electronic Salesmasters, Inc., Beachwood, Ohio, kicked off a series of articles for this publication … Read the rest

Stop Business Crises Before They Create Havoc


Perhaps even more than the lure of money, optimism dominates the entrepreneurial mind. Whether it’s well-grounded or not, every business enterprise is fueled by it.

“During the Great Recession, more Americans have become entrepreneurs than at any time in the past 15 years,” states the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. Even with the nation’s economy in a persistent slump, more individuals opted for business ownership.

As history tells us, many of these fledgling enterprises will fail. Yet, even taking the step to “go out on your own” is an act of incredible optimism, particularly since others often talk about “going … Read the rest

Does Anyone Know the Cost of a Sales Call?


Historically, it was hardly unusual for an independent manufacturers’ rep to work a territory for commission only. As time has passed, however, a struggling economy and changing market trends have combined to call into question the viability of the commission-only relationship. Those joint pressures have resulted in an increased cost that can be affixed to the average sales call. At the same time, reps have done a poor job of communicating to manufacturers what it cost them to make a sales call.

Those are just a couple of the immediate views forthcoming from a growing number of reps when the … Read the rest

Marketing Your Business:
Get More For Less


As a business owner or leader, you always need to make sure you’re perceived as the expert in your industry and that you’re getting your marketing messages out in the right way. But with so much hype and conflicting advice these days about the best way to market your product, services, or company, how can any business owner know the best marketing path to take?

Implement the following marketing tips today and watch your profits soar.

Know What Makes You Unique

Yes, your company sells certain products or services, and you probably have years of expertise in what your company … Read the rest

The Fundamentals are the Fundamentals Because They Still Work!


There is a lot of noise and confusion about prospecting in the sales world.

It’s always been hard to get salespeople to prospect for new business — even when proactively pursuing strategic target accounts was widely accepted as a valid method for acquiring new customers. Today, the false teachers, many from the Sales 2.0 movement, loudly proclaim that prospecting is dead and completely ineffective for developing new business.

Be on guard when you hear people preaching that prospecting no longer works. Be careful because it is exactly what your itching ears want to hear. No one really likes to do … Read the rest

Traditional Job Descriptions Don’t Attract Top Talent


Define Success for Qualified Candidates

A recent research study identified the 10 biggest mistakes companies make when hiring. The study included over 130 companies ranging in size from Fortune 500 to mid-size privately held organizations, a wide variety of industries, and more than 250 job openings.

The number-one hiring mistake made was rather surprising and one rarely even considered by most companies. Yet, this one mistake impacts the whole hiring process, including how candidates are sourced, where to find candidates, compensation, performance management, advertising, position title and what questions should be asked during the interview. Everything seems to go sideways … Read the rest

Trends That Will Change the Way You Serve Customers


You have no doubt noticed that technology is changing the “face” of customer service. Traditional ways we used to interact with customers, win their trust, and keep them coming back are becoming irrelevant. Here are three of the most significant trends in customer service, and how you can position your business to capitalize rather than capsize in response.

Trend #1 — Self-Serve Slavery

What apparently started with self-serve gas stations has now become the norm. Customers are now booking their own travel, doing their own banking and even scanning their own groceries at self-serve checkouts. There are pluses and minuses … Read the rest

Make Your Sales Team An Elite Sales Force


In every sales team, there are usually a handful of top performers — and then there’s everyone else. Imagine how much more successful your organization could be if every salesperson was an elite top performer. Think that’s not possible? Think again.

In other areas, we see groups of elite people who band together for a common goal or purpose: Super Bowl teams, Navy SEALs, top-rated college marching bands, etc. In any of these groups, you don’t see one or two people doing all the work, outperforming their peers, or being the lone superstars. Rather, everyone on the team is an … Read the rest

Finding and Keeping Reps


There’s a ton of information about everything to be found on the Internet — some of it good, some bad. Among the good was an article that appeared on a website entitled “State Start Up Nation.” It not only caught our attention because MANA was mentioned, but it also pointed out some fairly basic steps to follow in order to locate and sign independent manufacturers’ reps:

  • Be Impossible To Forget

Simply signing some sales reps to sell your product doesn’t mean they’re going to devote full attention to it. “Your job is to make sure you stay top-of-mind,” says Jayne … Read the rest

Places To Go,
Information To Gather


After the web site addresses for foreign trade development organizations appeared in Agency Sales last month, a MANA member suggested that we include other sites that may be of interest to readers. To start off such a list he offered a number of sites that he and members of his agency regularly visit.

According to the rep, who begins his business about 6:00 every morning, “Before attacking my work, one of the first things I do is access my hometown newspaper online. I’ve got to admit that I’m one of those people who said he would never adapt to reading … Read the rest

Welcome to the Credit Markets: The Sales Representative as Loan Underwriter (Part 2)


In the first installment of this article, I suggested a sales representative would do well to think of himself as the provider of unsecured credit to a principal. With that in mind, a representative should consider basic loan underwriting concepts when structuring an agreement with a new principal. The idea is to minimize the damage when the principal becomes unable to meet financial obligations to the representative.

At the contract negotiation stage, the need for the representative to think of himself as a banker providing credit on an unsecured basis applies most directly in the payment and remedies provisions of … Read the rest

Out With the Old, In With the New: Themes For 2013


A question I’m most often asked at the beginning of each year is, “Where do you see the Dow Jones Industrial Average heading this year?” The New Year always brings wild predictions from “experts” who have allegedly figured out what this market is going to do.

Some people have developed theories that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will close the year above 15,000, while others are positive that the market is doomed to fail, so it would be better to pack up and pull out. And the financial pundits and news media appear to be trying to tell the market … Read the rest

Joe Dimaria Wins Mel Barr Award

The National Marine Representatives Association (NMRA) recently presented the Mel Barr Award to Joe DiMaria, director of sales and marketing for Hubbell Marine. The award recognizes an individual who has contributed to the improvement of the industry and is named in the memory of marine rep Mel Barr, one of the founders of NMRA and its first president. Jonathan Sweet, editor-in-chief of Boating Industry magazine, and NMRA president Kathy Munzinger made the presentation.

“In 1984, Hubbell had only a few boatbuilder accounts. Now, with Joe’s leadership, it has a large percentage of the OEM market. He’s utilized all of Hubbell’s … Read the rest