This Issue of Agency Sales Magazine Focuses on MANA Members Leveraging Technology


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Two of the biggest technology challenges facing MANA members are:

  • Where do I draw the line, stop studying technology, and get back to selling?
  • When are tools that are “free and good enough” a better choice than tools that are “costly and excellent?”

One rep reported that he found himself obsessing so much about the latest, greatest, and hottest gizmo, app, and software that he had crossed the line from productively researching new tools to increase his selling time to spending so much time reading about technology that he was neglecting his sales calls. Spending prime selling time poring over technology instead of making sales calls took its toll on his sales, but he fortunately recognized the problem in time to take corrective action before any permanent damage was done. He now confines his studies of technology for technology’s sake to evenings and weekends.

One of the purposes of this issue of Agency Sales magazine is to provide MANA members with a curated list of technology best practices so they can avoid cannibalizing sales time to keep up with technology and leave the full-time study of technology to professionals like frequent Agency Sales magazine contributor Steve Turner of TurnerTime Management (

The other technology line MANA members are frequently called upon to draw is the line between technology that is “free and good enough” and technology that is “costly and excellent.” Let me share a recent example:

A MANA member called to ask MANA’s help in securing a better deal on online Business-to-Business databases. He wanted to search for sales leads in the online database of the industry leader in business data, but the $2,000 annual subscription cost was out of his price range. He hoped that MANA could negotiate a bulk purchase for MANA members. We spoke to the vendor and discovered that a bulk program could cut 80 percent of the cost. When we reported our findings to MANA Chairman Tom Hayward, he asked, “Have you looked at” is a service to which many local libraries subscribe. If your local library is a subscriber, a valid library card is the only thing you need to freely search a massive online business database. So the price went from $2,000 to $400 to free.

We hope that this issue of Agency Sales magazine will help you increase your productivity, and encourage you to share your technology best practices with other MANA members by writing to me at

Technology — Embrace It or Die!


It is to be expected that with any major change in the way the independent manufacturers’ representative conducts his business that change is going to be accompanied by negatives and positives. So it is with the continued impact that technology and the tools that travel in technology’s wake.

At one time (at the beginning of my career as a rep) the agent set forth from his office on a daily basis armed with an itinerary of sales calls that had to be completed that day. What he had in front of him was a full day of across-the-desk personal contact … Read the rest

E-Marketing Keeps More Feet on the Street


In past conversations, Bob Gerrard has often referred to the traditional role of the independent manufacturers’ representative as one where the “rep is expected to make calls and follow up.” And, in the course of that activity, he’s supposed to find new business opportunities. “Feet on the street,” Gerrard says, “has been the mantra of manufacturers’ sales managers for years.”

Has that view been altered in the face of rapidly and continually changing technological sales and marketing tools? Gerrard, of Gerrard & Associates, Mooresville, North Carolina, is quick to offer, “I’d answer that with a ‘yes’ and a ‘no.’

“Just … Read the rest

Tech Tools Support Agency Alliance


When the Identity Group joined with three other independent manufacturers’ representative agencies to form the MLR Alliance, LLC, it’s evident that the organization had plans to maximize the use of technology in its marketing and sales efforts.

Whether it’s the constant references to technological tools in its business plan or a portion of the organization’s mission statement (“Providing an innovative new business model designed to expedite entrance into the Promotional Products Market through technology, expertise and relationships”), there’s no missing the point the important role that technology and its accompanying tools will play in the organization’s operation.

When Agency SalesRead the rest

It’s All About Turning Customers Into Marketers


The idea that marketing is something that companies do is so ingrained in the business mindset that it’s impossible to think otherwise. Yet, that’s exactly what needs to happen.

It’s true that many marketers enthusiastically avoid the traditional marketing label with energetic efforts to recalibrate their careers. No matter what you call it, pull the curtain back and marketing largely remains an “activity” or a “function” with the mission of engaging customers for the purpose of selling them a product or service.

And, there’s the rub. Contrary to popular thought, the heart beat of a business enterprise is neither “making … Read the rest

Prospecting Tips That Work


It’s widely known that generating business with present customers is easier than converting a prospect into a new customer. In this case, the customer relationship represents a key sales role in order generation.

On the other hand, growing new customers ensures sales continuity and growth. As present customer bases change as a result of mergers, business failure, or consolidation, sales agents need to look to prospecting as a solution.

This article outlines techniques that have been successful for me and my colleagues for a good number of years in a number of industries. We believe that the intent of the … Read the rest

Adversity Gives You Strength!


How can you stay self-motivated and productive in the midst of turbulent times and a sluggish economy? How do you persevere as a salesperson when times are tough and customers seem to be holding on to every penny in fear of economic uncertainty?

Every challenge, setback and personal difficulty you encounter in life also brings with it the seed of equivalent or greater benefit! The key to overcoming adversity is to avoid the temptation of panic and instead, focus on finding the greater benefit. Adversity will never leave you where it found you; it will either strengthen your character or … Read the rest

The Human Side of Business Ethics: When Good People Make Bad Choices


“Never in my wildest dreams did I see this coming. When I first started ‘borrowing’ from the company I had every intent of paying back what I took. Heck, I did pay some of it back — at least at the beginning!” Those were the words Mark said as he confessed that the life he was living was, for the most part, an illusion. Truth be told, Mark, for all his legitimate successes, had over time become no more than a liar and a thief. His choices created consequences that he never dreamed were possible.

Mark’s account of his ethical … Read the rest

Special Offers to Key Customers


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.

Competition for customers in most industries … Read the rest

The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned About Selling for a Living


After more than 26 years as a successful salesperson, here is what I know to be true about sales.

Six Sales Lessons

1. If you’re looking for 9-to-5 and safety and security, sales is not for you.

Sales really is the hardest high-paying work or the easiest low-paying work. Top salespeople are extremely hard workers, they get in early, stay late, and most work the weekends. While it’s true that well-established salespeople sometimes cut back a bit on their hours and weekends, when needed, they are still able to call upon a great work ethic and put in the extra … Read the rest

Good Agents Don’t Need Motivation


When conversations of interest in MANA’s LinkedIn discussion room take place, we’re quick to bring them to readers’ attention, first, just for the true informational value; and second, we want to point out what a valuable resource the LinkedIn site is for sharing information and learning about best practices. That was the case recently when two discussions got our attention. The first involved the differences in principals motivating an independent sales force vs. a direct sales force. The second conversation involved how a principal should react when a rep sells in another rep’s territory.

A MANA agent member opened the … Read the rest

Tips for Maintaining Profitable Performance


Building mutually beneficial relationships is the best way to long-term profitable business growth. It goes beyond the quick fix and short-term. This is the mentality that ensures your business not only has a good week or quarter, but decades of business growth.

Several components are built into the model for establishing, building and maintaining profitable business performance. These components are integral in the process of what I call R-Commerce. It is not about the E-Commerce (the electronics). It is about the R-Commerce (the relationships). These relationships are the roots of your business tree which grow deep to produce the bountiful … Read the rest

“I’ll See You at Arbitration!”

By and

You may have arbitration clauses in your rep contracts and wondered what, exactly, do they mean? You may have been advised by a friend to include an arbitration clause in your contract without really understanding the consequences. Arbitration is very different from litigation which takes place in the courtroom. Which brings up the question — do I want an arbitration clause in my contracts? Like many questions, the answer is a definite maybe.

What Exactly Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a form of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) where the parties agree to have their dispute heard by an arbitrator rather than … Read the rest

What Business Owners Can Do to Plan Their Financial Outlook


Many small business owners lament that the past few years have been difficult financially. Yes, the recession hit hard and the recovery is going slowly. However, with the proper planning, any business can thrive no matter what the economic landscape.

Unfortunately, many small business owners are so busy putting out daily fires and just trying to stay afloat that they never take the time to plan. That’s a mistake! So if you’re ready to continue to make 2014 your best year yet, here are the key financial planning items to focus on for both the short- and long-term.

Reduce Your Read the rest

Entrepreneurship Demystified

After 25 years of teaching Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management in the MBA program at the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, Adjunct Professor Bob Calvin has started teaching a free online Entrepreneurship class at

The subjects covered include:

  • Key factors that separate success from failure for entrepreneurial businesses.
  • How to avoid growth busters to avoid.
  • Writing a business plan.
  • Obtaining proper debt and equity financing.
  • Product and service differentiation.
  • Identifying target customers and markets.
  • Pricing to maximize profits.

The online format lets students watch the classes at their convenience, and Calvin’s material includes many good ideas … Read the rest