It’s Not Just Business —
It’s Personal

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What’s the best way to identify an “ideal” principal from the rep’s perspective? How about “a principal who treats me so well that sometimes I spend more time selling that line than the commission actually justifies?”

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A MANA rep survey revealed that principals who get that kind of time from their reps generally share two common traits:

  • “They respect my rep company and my accomplishments.”
  • “They make me look good with my customers.”

The overarching message from the reps was clear, “It’s not just business — it’s personal,” and the ideal principal recognizes that fact, demonstrates that respect, and makes the rep look good with customers by:

  • Making the rep feel like part of the family — treating its reps with exactly the same courtesy and professionalism as it extends to its direct employees.
  • Communicating quickly and accurately with reports, quotes, samples, answers, and responses to quality issues.
  • Having a collaborative style and seeking the reps’ input before launching new policies or programs.
  • Paying commission on time, the same day of the month every month. After all, the principal’s employees are all paid on time, why shouldn’t the rep be paid on time too?
  • Setting commission rates and prices to allow the rep a reasonable return on the time he or she invests in the line.

Is that really all it takes to become an ideal principal? Doesn’t the ideal principal have to offer a unique product or an unbeatable price? Not according to most reps, who generally identify an ideal principal as one who simply has mastered the blocking and tackling of a rep-principal relationship.

Sure, a rep might enjoy having a product that sells itself or earns unusually high commissions, but that’s more than most reps actually expect. Reps are prepared to work to earn their commissions, and for most reps an ideal principal is simply a principal that consistently executes on the fundamentals.

And executing on the fundamentals isn’t just good business, it also sends a clear message to reps. When an accurate commission check arrives on the 15th of every month, it does more than just support the rep’s cash flow. It also sends a message: The rep is a valued partner, not just a vendor, and the principal would no more pay its reps late than it would pay its direct employees late.

The rep who said it best said that reps “just want LEIA, to be Loved, Encouraged, Inspired and Appreciated.” Because, as we’ve said all along, “it’s not just business — it’s personal.”

The “Ideal” Principal

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In the ’90s, I had the good fortune to be hired as the sales manager for a contract manufacturer who had a desire to build a rep sales organization in the United States and in adjacent countries. As I proceeded into that assignment I met, interviewed, hired, and trained several dozen rep companies — both single- and multi-person firms. They quickly taught me what they needed from me as their advocate to the manufacturer. I guided them to achieve the growth my boss desired. Working together, both the reps and the principal were successful.

Almost a decade later, I decided … Read the rest

Attributes That Identify the Professional Principal

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There’s a certain consistency in responses when reps are asked to define the term “professional principal.” It doesn’t take long to learn that there are several attributes that any principal that works with reps must possess — at least in the minds of reps — if it is going to comfortably fit into that “professional” category.

For instance, consider some fairly broad guidelines that one rep firm that’s been in business for about two decades offers: “Over the years that we’ve been in business our philosophy has always been to represent principals that produce good products, respond to customer needs, … Read the rest

Reps Weigh In With More Thoughts On Their Professional Principals

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While the previous article details some of the general thoughts reps have when it comes to describing what it takes to be a professional principal, the following is a bit more specific as reps describe what sets one principal apart from others.

The waste of time that is cold calling is one of the things Bryant Callaghan focused on when he considered the subject of what defines a professional principal.

According to Callaghan, Tri-State Marketing, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, and the former chairman of the board for MANA, “We just completed a sales meeting with one of our very best principals … Read the rest

Planning Change and Leading Change

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A senior human resources executive in a large company made the following comment at a meeting of the company’s leadership team:

“Well, the easy work is done. We’ve defined the changes we have to make. We’ve figured out our market and what our customers want, got deep into the minds of our competitors, come up with a few technology efforts that will get us ahead of both those competitors and new regulations, and defined a manufacturing and sourcing strategy that will give us a solid advantage. Now we just have to implement it. That’s what’s going to be hard.”

This … Read the rest

Keys To Peer Leadership:
An Unlikely Source

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As a small business CEO observed a window washer at the Atlanta airport one day, she asked what she thought to be a straightforward question, “What’s the secret to window washing?”

“No secret, ma’am,” the window cleaner said as he continued working. “I just focus on keeping on with my tools and my experience. I keep on going.”

The master continued working with repeated, slick motions, his tool remaining fixed to the glass, and leaving not one smudge. Then, true to his word, he kept on going.

When the CEO asked what was in the blue water, the cleaning professional … Read the rest

Prepare for the Inevitable: The Cornerstones of Career Insurance

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There is more to job security than mastering job search skills. There are plenty of books about resume writing, networking, interviewing, and developing a LinkedIn profile. These job search skills are important, but not sufficient in an age when companies and even entire industries are undergoing radical changes. Career Insurance fills the void by preparing people for what’s to come — before it arrives.

There are four cornerstones of Career Insurance; the organizing framework for putting together your own personal Career Insurance plan. These four cornerstones further solidify your survival in the turbulent waters of today’s economy:

How To Reject Bad Ideas — Without People Rejecting You!

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You’re in a meeting when a colleague brings up an idea that you think (or even know) is not so great. For many of us, our first instinct is to shoot the idea down immediately, one way or another, before it gains traction. How often have you suffered through this challenging situation?

When it comes to gaining influence, remember the law of reciprocity. The more you support others, the more they will support you. If you want people to adopt your ideas in the future, you need to be collaborative yourself. You need to support their ideas, or at a … Read the rest

So You’re Going To Present:
How To Engage Your Audience

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Most of us have one of two common, but quite opposite, reactions after making a presentation. We either think it went very well or we did a lousy job.

Such responses are certainly understandable since presentations are highly personal. When speaking before large or small groups, we put ourselves on the line — there’s no place to hide.

How many times have you heard someone say “I should have done better, but I didn’t have enough time to prepare,” “I wasn’t feeling well,” “The dog ate my presentation,” “I’m just not good at this” or “My personal style is better … Read the rest

Keys To Increasing Your Sales

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Whether you are relatively new, or simply want more new business, the following ideas will help you do it quickly and effectively. While some of these are more subtle than others, all are important factors when growing your business.

Finer Points of Increasing Sales

Spend three to four hours a day prospecting — Your most important activity when building a business is filling your funnel with lots of prospects who are ready, willing and able to invest in your product. While items such as closing, a solid presentation, and good follow-up are important, having lots of good, qualified leads is … Read the rest

Benefits of Considering the Big Picture

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A manufacturer with more than three decades of going to market with reps made the point recently that there’s more to evaluating the rep’s performance than just considering the bottom line.

According to this manufacturer, “From day one, about 30 years ago, when we first started working with reps, we’ve always made it a practice to evaluate their performance. Our philosophy has been that if we don’t cast a careful eye over what they’re doing for us, there’s no real way of knowing if this is the most cost-efficient way to bring our products to market.

“When we started with … Read the rest

A Fool With a Tool Is Still a Fool

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Any software you implement in your organization should enable or enhance a business process. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that the software or technology itself is the solution, when in reality, technology is at best 10 percent of the value equation — the other 90 percent is based on the human factor.

Knowing this, it’s no wonder 70 percent of technology implementations fail. In other words, seven out of 10 applications that are installed and that companies spend millions of dollars implementing aren’t being used one year later. Talk about wasted resources!

How does this happen? All too often, … Read the rest

Sticky Contract Issues Lead Jury To Wrap $8 Million Verdict Around Business-Producing Rep, Including For Future Commissions

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It’s an old, even classic dilemma for independent sales reps, but it continues to play out across the country. Fueled by his own sweat equity over long hours and on his own nickel, an industrious rep scores a big customer contract for a principal. Rather than treating the rep to a steak dinner and a pledge to honor its contract by commissioning the rep on this new-found business, a notice of termination is issued. The principal then brushes off the rep: “We’ll pay you everything we owe you as of today, and best of luck in your future endeavors. What’s Read the rest

The Benefits of Position Sizing

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The financial markets have been challenging recently, to say the least. Strategies that worked in the first part of the year had little impact weeks later. Still other segments of the market have experienced tough sledding for a year or longer.

In summary, it’s been hard to gain traction with any of your investments.

But as investors, we must play the hand we’re dealt. And right now that hand is one that offers short-term (and oftentimes fleeting) gains. Put another way, there are small pockets or sectors where strategies are working, but the time horizon requires a slight adjustment. One … Read the rest

MANA Offers a Hotel Discount Program for Members

CheckINN card by CLC Lodging guarantees 20% to 40% savings off select hotels’ Lowest Published Rate (LPR) and now MANA members can receive their own CheckINN card for free!

Just go to CheckInnCard.com and use Key Code/Referral Code MANA for waived registration fee. CheckINNcard will ask you to register the credit card you will be using for travel at that time, but you will not be charged for membership. You can also join by calling toll-free at 866-857-9747, select option 1. Be sure to mention the Key Code/Referral Code MANA.

Once enrolled, members have access to an online temporary voucher … Read the rest