Give Back to the Rep Profession,
Just 15 Minutes Per Month

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It’s not an unlikely scenario.

There is a manufacturer out there whose products would be a great fit for your line card and is actively recruiting for a representative in your territory. He or she hasn’t found you yet, but you’re listed in MANA’s RepFinder, so it’s only a matter of time.

This principal chose a batch of candidates from the Repfinder, sent each brochures by postal mail, then followed up with an e-mail and a phone call. And received no responses.

After repeated attempts to contact other representatives and getting no responses whatsoever, the manufacturer abandons this search and you never connect.

Representatives often tell me how good this profession has been to them and ask me how they can “give back” to the profession that has served them so well.

Here’s a great way. When a manufacturer whose products would not fit your line card contacts you, take a few minutes to send a friendly reply to their e-mail or voice mail. Thank them for using the representative system of selling and encourage them to continue their search for a representative who would be a great fit for their products.

Give back to your profession by taking 15 minutes a month to help every manufacturer who reaches out to you to maintain their enthusiasm for the representative system of selling and continue their recruiting process, so we can keep them in the pool of companies that use manufacturers’ representatives. And eventually some other representative will give encouragement to the line you’d really like to have and that manufacturer won’t give up before finding you.

This editorial was prompted by an e-mail from Dragan Stevanovic, sales manager at Capital Industries.

“Our reason for joining MANA was to find manufacturers’ representatives to partner with our company to help us grow our business as well as their business. I was a member of MANA back in the ’90s when I had a rep agency. At that time, when a company reached out to you, you responded quickly to vet the offer and see if there is value in building such a relationship.

“From your member listing, we identified a number of companies in Indiana and the surrounding states, (18 matched our business). We sent them letters and e-mail overtures expressing our interest in pursuing such a business relationship. I cannot express enough my outright disappointment in the fact that not a single company of all those we reached out to bothered to respond in any way. I even reached out to a few companies and left messages for call backs. Still nothing!

“I’m sure that many members of MANA who are the manufacturer’s representatives are professional in how they work with all business opportunities. In any business environment, one always stakes out a professional way of doing business. I’m still amazed that those we reached out to were anything but professional.”

Line Profitability Analysis


image from Hannover FairAbout 10 years ago, MANA led a dozen manufacturers’ representative members on a trade delegation to the Hannover Fair in Germany. The night before the fair opened, we hosted a dinner for the delegation so they could get to know each other. We asked each to get up and say something about themselves and their manufacturers’ representative business.

One told us he needed to find several replacement lines, that’s why he came. He went on to say he participated in the Manufacturers’ Representatives’ Educational Research Foundation’s (MRERF) Certified Representatives’ Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR) program. One course taught him how to … Read the rest

Analyze Lines to Determine Profitability


Independent manufacturers’ representatives and their principals might be in for a bit of a surprise if they would take the time to closely examine the time, money and effort it takes to represent a given line.

That point was best made at a meeting of manufacturers and agents — both sides being members of a national representative association — a few years ago when during a break, one of the agents present mentioned the existence of the process known as line profitability analysis. At the very mention of the term, the manufacturers raised their eyebrows in interest and asked, “What’s … Read the rest

Planning Ensures Field Visits Serve a Purpose


Several years ago, a MANA member firm in one of the country’s warmer climates contacted Agency Sales to describe one of his pet peeves. According to the agent, “Without even checking the weather, we can always tell when there’s a miserable winter in the Midwest or Northeast. That’s when many of our principals decide it’s time to schedule field territory visits with us.”

“Normally joint sales calls to our important customers are an important tool in our arsenal; but when a full complement of these scheduled calls (none of which have an important or specific reason) is scheduled primarily between … Read the rest

Strategies to Increasing Win Rates and Profitability


The old adage “People love to buy, but hate to be sold” is rephrased from the seller side to “Salespeople love to win, but hate to lose.” Sales management might say, “I want to help salespeople win, but win the right business.” The key is, the hot pursuit of a win can backfire if salespeople are going after deals that aren’t profitable.

So how can salespeople, sales managers, and organizations increase win rates and reduce no-decision rates? The short answer — discipline. If you want the longer answer — discipline in articulating the opportunity, discipline in the analysis of the … Read the rest

Becoming the Most Effective Salesperson


One seminar leader opened a workshop for property and casualty insurance agents by asking this question: “Why do people buy insurance?” After the participants offered a variety of responses, he says there’s only one right answer: “To take care of claims.” What seems rather intuitive to most consumers may not be quite so clear to insurance salespeople.

How could they miss something that seems so obvious? It’s easy. Insurance salespeople are knowledgeable about analyzing and managing risk. This is their job; it’s what salespeople know. It’s ironic that the strength of knowledge shifts to weakness when they blindly approach solutions … Read the rest

Jumpstarting an Agent’s Career While Still in College


It’s well documented that a majority of independent manufacturers’ representatives gravitate to their agency careers after enjoying solid tenures elsewhere in sales or marketing with manufacturers. In addition, there are any number of representatives who have found their calling after spending years in completely disparate careers such as educators, FBI agents, and even as professional baseball and basketball players.

Add to that list the experience of Frank Brady who got his first taste of sales and marketing while still in college and before he even had a chance to begin his career. Brady has parlayed that initial experience into a … Read the rest

Would You Like Fries With That?


While you may not have recognized it, the last time you ordered from a fast food restaurant or went to the post office, there is a good chance you experienced some type of cross-selling or up selling.

Cross-selling and up selling are well-established and highly effective marketing practices utilized by a wide variety of industries. Shortsighted salespeople are often quick to suggest that customers get irritated by attempts to cross-sell products and perceive cross-selling as an aggressive sales technique. Interestingly enough, consumer research indicates that the reverse is true. The majority of consumers surveyed actually preferred a full range of … Read the rest



Long-time friend of MANA Bob Reiss has graciously allowed Agency Sales magazine to serialize his book Bootstrapping 101: Tips to Build Your Business with Limited Cash and Free Outside Help, available now on The book looks at surprisingly effective low-cost and no-cost ways to acquire the resources you need to run your company. Whether your company is an existing enterprise or a start up, a manufacturers’ representative company or a manufacturer, this book will introduce you to innovative ways to cut your costs and drive more of your income into bottom line profits.

What is the one thing … Read the rest

How to Connect With All Personality Types


It is said that, on average, every seventh person you meet won’t like you. For some of us it’s one out of two, for others it’s one out of 100. Whatever the case may be for you, when two relatively decent human beings meet for the first time and feel an instant disconnect, it is typically due to a difference in personality types. In this article I’ll discuss how to have the best shot at getting along with all types.

Major Steps for Connecting With Any Personality Type

Know the Different Personality Types

The truth is, there are as many … Read the rest

Tipping the Scales


A manufacturer recently related what he considered to be a daunting task as he sought out agencies to represent his line of products in new areas of the country. According to the manufacturer, “We already had a solid reputation and good sales in the eastern part of the United States. Our next goal was to expand to the Midwest. Our initial efforts identified three prospective agencies to contract with. After we interviewed the first two, I have to admit I really didn’t know how I could choose one over the other.”

It was the interview with the third candidate, however, … Read the rest

Success Principles Learned From Zappos


I’m always looking for great ideas to share with you about how to be more successful in your business and personal life. Well, I hit a bonus when I recently visited the headquarters for Zappos, the online sensation selling shoes and many other items. This is a company that is known for its dazzling customer service and the outstanding leadership of its CEO, Tony Hsieh.

It was Gina, my partner, who came up with the idea. I thought it was not bad, but we’d be too busy. Boy, was I wrong! What a great enlightenment we had from the moment … Read the rest

The Shareholder Agreement:
An Ounce of Prevention vs. a Pound of Cure


It was Benjamin Franklin who once stated that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was telling us that it is better to try to avoid problems in the first place rather than try to fix them once they arise. For small entities serving as manufacturers’ representatives, an ounce of prevention may be found in a contract, often called a Shareholder Agreement, between its owners that specifies how the entity will be run and what happens when certain events occur. For entities with a small number of owners who are active in the daily business operations, Read the rest

A Day at the Races:
Stepping Up to the Betting Windows of Investing


With the 140th “Run for the Roses” fast approaching, my thoughts have turned to the Kentucky Derby and horse racing in general. During “Derby Week” the city of Louisville comes alive with the sights and sounds of rabid horse racing fans. If your only familiarity with horse racing is a weekday afternoon at your friendly neighborhood racetrack (many of which sit empty even on the weekend) then it’s probably difficult for you to picture exactly what the Kentucky Derby is like.

The place is filled to capacity. “Millionaires Row” is crowded with A-list celebrities. The grandstands teem with cigar smoke, … Read the rest

MANA Reaches Out to Academia

2014-05_WortmannCohonMembers often ask MANA to be more engaged with students and professors at business schools, and MANA recently had that opportunity at the full-time MBA program ranked #1 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“The Hard Sell” competition at Chicago Booth gives second-year full-time students the opportunity to pit their sales skills against their peers and gain real-world sales experience before graduation. The program is spearheaded by Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship Craig Wortmann (left), whose “Entrepreneurial Selling” course was featured in the Inc. magazine article, “The 10 Best Entrepreneurship Courses of 2011.”

MANA CEO and … Read the rest