Manufacturers and Agents: Professional Partners In Profits

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It started with a phone call from one of MANA’s manufacturer members. He had an excellent point. His concern? Most of the articles in Agency Sales magazine that describe rep-principal relationships, he said, seem to focus on bad relationship topics like:

  • Rep lands big account, gets terminated so principal won’t have to pay commissions.
  • Principal cuts commissions or takes house accounts.
  • Rep sues for unpaid commission.

After all, if bad relationships outnumbered good relationships the way that articles about bad relationships outnumbered articles about good relationships, the rep industry would be in terrible trouble. But the rep industry is thriving. So the manufacturer felt like those negative articles set a negative tone and was unfair to MANA’s overwhelmingly professional and fair-minded principal members.

After several staff meetings, some soul-searching, and a good, long, hard look in the mirror, we had to agree that we need to vigorously strive to maintain balance in Agency Sales magazine’s articles. Of course, we still need to share with reps those cautionary tales of potential pitfalls in their principal relationships, but MANA also needs to recognize and affirm that rep-principal relationships are overwhelmingly professional and cordial. For evidence that those relationships can last for decades and transform into lifelong friendships we need look no further than longtime MANA principal member Eriez Manufacturing, where six of its agencies have represented Eriez for at least 50 years and all six are MANA members.

MANA's new logoThen came the question: How do we best signal MANA’s recognition that rep-principal relationships are overwhelmingly professional, cordial, and mutually profitable? That question led to more meetings, more soul searching, and another good, long, hard look in the mirror, and we finally reached our answer. MANA has a new tagline: Manufacturers and Agents: Professional Partners in Profits. And we’ve commissioned a new, enhanced logo that incorporates that new tagline.

So, with prompting from the principal member who asked us to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror, we find ourselves circling back to one of MANA’s fundamental principles for MANA’s existence: To provide tools and educational resources that help reps and principals achieve mutually profitable, long-term relationships. Yes, we acknowledge that relationships will sometimes go bad and that we need to help all of our rep and principal members prepare for those situations, but we also need to acknowledge that most relationships are professional, cordial, and sometimes even spectacular. And, going forward, we have to be sure that MANA is at least as much about creating success as it is about avoiding failure.

Determining the “Ideal” Match

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Over the last few months Agency Sales has focused on the theme of “Ideal,” and this month the magazine concludes the series with a focus on the “Ideal” principal and the “Ideal” rep finding each other.

It reminded me of a conundrum we faced in our business a few years ago. We were on pace to have a record-setting year when we began thinking about our planning for the next year and beyond. With puffed chests and pride in ourselves based on past accomplishments, we began the process. As the books advise, we began with a SWOT analysis of our … Read the rest

How Reps and Manufacturers Find Each Other

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Due diligence, referrals and maintaining a solid business reputation lead the way for independent reps and manufacturers as they seek out each other to efficiently and professionally reach their respective markets. At least that’s the opinion of reps and manufacturers when they were asked to describe how they’ve been able to develop successful relationships and form effective marketing partnerships.

When he’s asked to describe some of the basics for locating professional representation for his company’s product line, Jeff Grubich, Scot Forge, Spring Grove, Illinois, points to referrals and his company’s involvement in MANA as main contributors. Agency Sales readers may … Read the rest

The Rep-Manufacturer
Rules of Attraction

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If there’s any single area of agreement between independent reps and manufacturers it’s that finding the right marketing partner is not a task to be taken lightly. Over the years the pages of Agency Sales have been replete with case histories and anecdotal testimony that long-sought-after matches turn out to be those that are hardly made in heaven. In addition, panel discussions and overheard conversations at industry meetings have detailed speed bumps in the rep-principal relationship and ultimately an understanding develops of how difficult creating a good match can be.

There is hope, however.

Considering the match-making process first from … Read the rest

Do You Get an “A” for Representing Your Firm?

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You earn a good amount of money representing manufacturers. You think you do a pretty good job at your job. But, how do you do at marketing and selling your own firm?

What goes into rep firm marketing and sales planning? The following article presents several key elements of rep firm marketing and selling. At the end you will have an opportunity to grade your firm’s performance in these critical areas of your business.

  1. Profile* presentation.
  2. Branch office services.
  3. Personnel training.
  4. Planning and coordination with principals.
  5. Revenue development and market growth.

* Your profile is a measure of your level … Read the rest

Aligning the Selling and Buying Processes

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Who’s in charge of the sales process? Today, it’s the customer. But six key steps in the emerging sales process help salespeople get a strong foothold in today’s buy-sell relationship and build better long-term relationships.

If you think your salespeople can control the way buyers buy — think again. The old adage that “people love to buy, but hate to be sold” has changed to “people know how to buy, and won’t be sold to.” But, that doesn’t mean it’s time to fire your sales force. With a little insight into today’s buying process, salespeople can understand how customers buy … Read the rest

Making Your Message Memorable: Tips That Add Value To Your Words

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Some presenters think that if they talk longer, they are giving more value or getting their point across more effectively, when in reality, audiences of any size, from five to 500, are eager for content presented as efficiently and memorably as possible.

One of my friends was a sales manager at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. He was a great salesperson one-on-one, but now he was facing a group of 10. “I’m very nervous,” he confessed. “How do I sell to so many people?” A professional association was debating whether to bring their convention to the city.

Below are … Read the rest

When Customers Ignore You: Business Building Tips That Cost Nothing

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Remember the days when people noticed good customer service, talked about it, and most important — rewarded you for it? Happy customers would return and spread the word. In today’s fast-paced world, however, people are so rushed moving to the next thing, or so distracted by their mobile device, that good customer service is overlooked. Fortunately, as I share in my seminars, there are several easy things you can do to enhance your service and boost your business that your customers will actually notice. Best of all, they cost you nothing. Here are a few starting points.

Be the Voice … Read the rest

How to Avoid Getting in Trouble With Colleagues and Customers

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For countless employees and business owners, the workday is life in a straight-jacket. There’s not enough time to get the daily tasks done, let alone find even a few minutes to think about anything other than what we must do next.

All of which explains why doing is a top priority in business, while thinking doesn’t get much attention.

It there’s any time left, it’s focused on how best to get through the next day, the next quarter, the next crisis or to fantasize about how to get to retirement.

Even so, thinking about some things can be rewarding: It Read the rest

Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Most Do in 12 Months

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In an effort to improve, most companies and individuals will search for new ideas and strategies. They will seek out new marketing techniques, sales ideas, cost‑cutting measures and customer service enhancements, hoping that these new approaches will deliver better results.

The number-one factor holding individuals, and entire companies, back from achieving what they are truly capable of is not a lack of knowledge, intellect or information. It’s not some new strategy or idea. It’s not additional training. It’s not a larger network of “connected” people. It’s not hard work, natural talent or luck. Of course all these things help, they … Read the rest

Revamping the Selection Process

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The timing couldn’t have been better for a conversation with a manufacturer who had recently undergone a sea change in its rep selection process philosophy. “I can’t help but think of the wisdom of that old definition of insanity,” began the manufacturer. “We were doing the same thing over and over again when it came to selecting reps and for some stupid reason we were looking for a different result. When I say we were looking for a different result, our past efforts were fairly abysmal. We were making poor rep selections and even when we thought we had aligned Read the rest

The Good, Bad and Ugly — Social Media’s Impact On Your Brand

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There’s no denying that social media has taken the world by storm. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter boast millions of users. Social media is a huge engagement, staffing, retention, and increasingly, branding tool. It’s at the foundation of what I call tri-branding. Tri-branding is when companies use social media to link both product and employment brand, and to get their customers to sing their praises or live their brand.

The Good

Companies need to proactively leverage social media to drive their tri-branding efforts. Companies should be leveraging social media to boost brand via tweeting, posting, and blogging. Posting recent wins, new … Read the rest

Understanding the Process of Negotiating the Settlement of a Sales Commission Case

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My firm is in the business of litigating sales commission disputes. That is virtually all that we do and we almost always represent the sales representative. Many times my client will ask me what we will be asking the defendant /principal to pay to settle the case. Obviously, that will depend on the case but our process is essentially as follows.

Calculate the amount of commissions which are due to date and those which will become due in the future.

This is generally the first step in the process. We calculate the amount of commissions due to date and then … Read the rest

IRS “Treats” You To Meals and Entertainment

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Well, we all know that the IRS seldom gives us treats. As usual, it’s a treatment. They felt that certain expense items needed clarification with regard to who is responsible for picking up the tab on the 50 percent of meals and entertainment that is not deductible. But this rule, it seems to me, is equally applicable to autos and other expenses incurred by individuals who represent a company that is responsible for reimbursing them. The problem the IRS addressed pertains to an employee or independent representative who pays for a business meal or for entertainment. He or she then Read the rest

Review of New Medicare Tax Health Care Reform Act

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One of the truly amazing things about the Health Reform Act is that new requirements will keep coming for about the next six years. Some are so onerous that we should all hope that they are changed before they are implemented. Companies with more than 50 employees should start now to become acquainted with some of the information filing requirements that will be implemented in 2014. We concern ourselves here with income tax laws already in effect for 2013.

The first concern is an excise tax of 2.3 percent on the sale of medical equipment to medical facilities or doctor’s … Read the rest