The new regional manager for my best line is a recent grad from a well‑respected business school. Our first meeting consisted of me explaining the rep function. Repeatedly.

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Why don’t they learn about reps in business school?” asked one rep. MANA is working on that! MANA’s outreach to raise the visibility of reps in business schools recently connected us with Professor Craig Wortmann of the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business MBA program, a school that consistently earns top‑10 rankings in every major business school listing. Wortmann is a superstar on Chicago Booth’s faculty, where Inc. Magazine rated his Entrepreneurial Selling class among The 10 Best Entrepreneurship Courses of 2011.

Wortmann agreed to a MANA video interview that is now posted on MANA’s YouTube site, www.youtube.com/MANAspeaks.

In the video, Wortmann notes that reps “are entrepreneurial — meaning they go out and create opportunities for businesses,” and they bring a distinct advantage over direct sales forces. “Manufacturers’ reps by definition bring more solutions to the table so they are able to not just talk about one thing but line up complementary products or services around each of those things, have a broader conversation, and look for opportunities.” That’s very different, he notes, from a manufacturer who is trying to sell one particular product and is “trying to find a very specific instance to solve this customer’s pain with this particular thing.” Because reps bring a line-card-based set of solutions to the table, says Wortmann, “once they engage in that conversation, it tends to be a broader, richer, conversation.”

Wortmann also acknowledges the question facing principals who need to recruit the right rep: “How do you look for and determine the skill and discipline that a certain group of manufacturers’ reps or manufacturers’ agents brings to the table?” But skill and discipline are not enough, says Wortmann. A principal’s due diligence also needs to include questions like: “Are they domain experts? Do they come from the right associations? Do they belong to the trade associations where you are doing business…like the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association (MANA)?” Skills and discipline, and belonging to trade associations like MANA “go sort of hand in glove,” says Wortmann.

If you have strong ties to a business school, MANA can help you reach out to its faculty so they can learn more about reps. Call MANA at (877) 626-2776 or write to us at mana@manaonline.org.

New Sales Manager —
Now What?

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When a principal changes its regional sales manager or general sales manager it can spell trouble for the independent rep firm. What can you do to accomplish these changes in a non‑threatening manner?

One major caveat — I don’t believe the title “regional sales manager” is an appropriate title for people the manufacturers send out to work with a rep sales force. If a rep firm needs a factory sales manager to be supervising them, something is wrong. The rep firm is the branch office of the factory. The rep firm should be supplying its own management of its sales … Read the rest

The Need to Train Manufacturer Sales Personnel

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When a manufacturer makes the decision to work with a network of independent manufacturers’ reps to market and sell their product/services, sad to say there’s no switch that automatically can be flipped that allows all the pieces of the partnership to fall into place. As a matter of fact, from the outset one of the most important things for the manufacturer to get done is to have its sales managers and other sales personnel have a clear understanding of what it takes to work with reps.

That’s the opinion of attendees of MANA’s most recent manufacturers’ seminar and some other … Read the rest

A Japanese Manufacturing Company Has Contacted You to Rep Them. Now What?

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Over the years, there have been several articles in Agency Sales magazine about international companies coming to the United States and what an independent manufacturers’ rep should do to make it a successful partnership — if they contact you. Many of these articles discussed what should be done even before meeting prospective principals.

Reps are advised to learn all they can about the company, the products they want to sell, and the differences or complications that can come with conducting business with international companies new to the United States.

These are all great articles on what you need to think … Read the rest

Expecting the Unexpected — Four Tips to Safeguard Your Business

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January 15, 2009: US Airways Flight 1549 was on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina, when, two minutes after takeoff, a flock of Canada geese flew into the aircraft causing both engines to fail. The passengers braced for impact. As the plane fell from the sky, the freezing waters of the Hudson River came into view and Flight 1549 hit the water at 150 mph. Dave Stockton, a businessman on the plane, said later in a television interview, “When you think you’re going to die, you start thinking about your life… your family, little league baseball, things like in a

Read the rest

Work With Intention —
The 3 Components of Performance Time

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Everything you want to accomplish in life requires an investment of your time, so when you want to improve your results, you must consider the fact that your supply of time is limited.

Even in this era of innovation and technological advancement, time, more than any other resource, is the limiting factor. Let’s face it, everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. Even more vexing is the fact that the supply of time is completely inelastic. No matter the magnitude of demand, the supply is fixed. Moreover, it’s perishable. And yet, time is perhaps the most squandered … Read the rest

Get What You Need From Your Company’s Marketing

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The sales function is built into the DNA of every business. It’s as basic and unquestioned as a “great steak” at a company sales meeting.

The story with marketing is quite different. It’s often viewed as a “side dish” to the sales “entrée,” nice but not necessary, particularly when the economy is either very good or very bad. When things are humming, who needs it and when the economy tanks, “we can’t afford it.”

There’s something of a “congenital” ambivalence about marketing; wanting it but not really trusting it. Even more to the point is a pervasive doubt that it’s … Read the rest

Keys for a Successful Content Marketing Campaign

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Online marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) used to be all about banner ads, paid link building, e-mail campaigns, and pay-per-click. While those things are still used, to be truly relevant to today’s consumer, you must add strategic content marketing in the SEO space to the mix.

SEO refers to anything Internet-related that is based on organic results. In other words, it’s when someone goes to their favorite search engine and types in a keyword or phrase related to what you offer, and your company or product appears naturally in the results. Making sure your information is visible in the … Read the rest

Keys to Filling Your Pipeline With Tons of Qualified Prospects

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While a lack of sales can be caused by something other than not having enough prospects, generally speaking, most salespeople who miss their numbers do so because they have far too few selling opportunities, which is usually caused by having far too few qualified prospects. Following are some ideas to ensure you never have this problem again.

Ideas to Get All the Prospects You’ll Ever Need

  • Spend at least four hours a day prospecting.

Yes, four hours, that’s not a misprint. In order to get a sufficient number of leads, you need to spend a significant amount of time prospecting. … Read the rest

Defining the Ideal Rep

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When a group of manufacturers got together at an industry meeting earlier this year, the topic of conversation very quickly veered in the direction of defining the ideal rep. One manufacturer was especially ready for this discussion as he reached into a manila folder and pulled out an old, wrinkled piece of paper with notes on it. He explained that he first came across what was on the paper years ago at a MANA seminar for manufacturers. On the paper was a list of attributes that the ideal rep ought to possess if the partnership between rep and principal was … Read the rest

Conducting Business With
“High Touch” While Dealing With an Avalanche of “High Tech”

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Years ago the great sage John Naisbitt coined the phrase “high tech and high touch” in his classic work, Megatrends. The idea was that we should embrace both.

Fast forward to today.

Now we have an abundance of technology that is integral in our lives. Most independent manufacturers’ reps today use mobile technology to get more done from just about anywhere. Most reps and manufacturers wouldn’t think of trying to get through a business day without employing some sort of touch points with technology.

So, how can a rep use the technology today and still maintain the sense of “high … Read the rest

Litigation is Expensive.
So, How Do I Afford It?

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You are a representative who has been terminated even though your written contract states that you cannot be fired until a certain condition precedent has occurred. Or you have improved or created a product or process, and your principal or your customer is marketing it as their own without providing you with any credit. Your friends and colleagues tell you that you should hire a lawyer and do something about it — and MANA has several excellent lawyers on its roster from which to choose — but you fear that any litigation would be too expensive to pursue. So do Read the rest

2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act — Overview

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After weeks, indeed months, of proposals and counter-proposals, seemingly endless negotiations and down-to-the-wire drama, Congress passed legislation to avert the tax side of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The American Taxpayer Relief Act permanently extends the Bush-era tax cuts for lower- and moderate-income taxpayers, permanently “patches” the alternative minimum tax (AMT), provides for a permanent 40% federal estate tax rate, renews many individual, business and energy tax extenders, and more. In one immediately noticeable effect, the American Taxpayer Relief Act does not extend the 2012 employee-side payroll tax holiday.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act is intended to bring some certainty to … Read the rest