Principal Visit Better Than Trip to Disney World


I just got back from what turned out to be one of my favorite business trips of all time.

Now, I have visited some amazing cities on business, including Tokyo, London, Stockholm, Salzburg, and Helsinki. So when I tell you that one of my favorite business trips of all time was Salina, Kansas (population 47,846) that should mean something.

Why is this trip one of my all-time favorites? Because I got to meet with a principal who really, really “gets” the representative system of selling and a representative network of the highest caliber.

image of Brian Burmaster and Charley Cohon

Brian Burmaster (left), Vortex Valves, joined with Charley Cohon, MANA’s President & CEO, to present an educational component for independent representatives at the manufacturer’s national sales meeting.

It started a few months ago. Brian Burmaster, Vortex Valves’ Vice President, Sales, contacted me to discuss adding a MANA educational component to Vortex Valves’ national sales meeting. Brian wanted to do more than just train his representatives on his products; he wanted to provide them presentations that would hone the skills they bring to bear on all of their principals’ lines.

Right away, I was very impressed. Whenever I deal with MANA principal members, I am usually struck by their commitment to the representative system of selling. But adding educational components that were not specific to his company’s products to a national sales meeting raises that commitment to a whole new level.*

Dinner with the Vortex Valves’ representatives confirmed that impression. Those representatives reported a decade, or two decades, or even three decades of association with Vortex Valves, and uniformly cited Vortex Valves’ professionalism in its dealings with representatives and the respect with which representatives were treated. One summed up the group’s sentiment in a single sentence: “If all the lines on my line card were like Vortex Valves, I would be a very happy guy!”

That’s why this was one of my favorite business trips of all time. I spent quality time with key executives of a principal that had earned the respect and admiration of its representative sales force, and with members of a representative network second to none. The icing on that cake: Vortex Valves and many of its representatives are MANA members. (As I pointed out to Vortex Valves’ representatives who are not MANA members, not being a MANA member is a correctable defect.)

A trip to visit a great principal and great reps is for me what a trip to Disney World is to a 10-year-old. So if you’re MANA’s CEO, Disney World is in Salina, Kansas.

* A tip of the hat to Charlie Ingram from Eriez Manufacturing, who also brought MANA into his international sales meeting for that same purpose in 2012.

Call Reports?


As a long-time MANA member, I have found that one of the most frequently discussed subjects is call reports. Jerry Leth, MANA’s Vice President and General Manager, and longtime liaison to the membership, recently told me he gets at least three calls a month regarding the subject.

Many years ago I was visiting a new principal for orientation and to discuss strategy for the product line. As we were wrapping up the meeting, the sales manager very nonchalantly said, “Oh by the way, we require call reports.” During the course of the day, I noticed a pile of call reports … Read the rest

Are Call Reports Effective?


What are most effective — detailed sales call reports or proactive communication on matters of true importance from agents back to their principals?

This is a subject that’s been the core of many discussions between agents and manufacturers — and it’s a discussion that never seems to go away.

Over the years as the subject has been addressed by MANA personnel, debated in manufacturers’ seminars, on the MANA LinkedIn discussion page, not to mention the pages of Agency Sales, a consensus has been reached.

From the manufacturing perspective perhaps these approaches — lifted from interviews with manufacturers indentified as … Read the rest

The Power of Word of Mouth


Give ’em Something to Talk About

Just having a satisfied customer and giving them service that is simply good enough will not get anyone talking. You’ve got to go above and beyond the call of duty if you want your customers to talk about you.

Word of mouth is instrumental in driving your company’s success. Verbal buzz about your business or product passed from one reliable person to the next is still the most cost-effective way to build a loyal following, expand your business, and reach new customers. How does it start? Give them an amazing customer experience and encourage … Read the rest

How to Get (Really) Good at Business Communications


It’s easy to roll your eyes and moan about the state of business communications — everything from incomplete, inaccurate and confusing e-mails and memos to meeting minutes and reports that don’t make sense. Ineffective business letters, most of which are peppered with the first-person singular pronoun, are fodder for the recycling bin.

All this results in errors, causes confusion, wastes time, creates aggravation, and puts even capable workers at an advancement and career disadvantage, not to mention the negative implications for their employers.

It’s any wonder that productivity, which is dropping, isn’t collapsing. However, it’s irrelevant whether or not the … Read the rest

The Top Excuses Salespeople Use


After more than 26 years in sales and sales management, I’ve heard many excuses from struggling salespeople. Here are the most popular ones and my thoughts on each.

The Top Excuses That Lead to Sales Failure

  • Our Prices Are Too High

First and foremost, if low price were the only factor, there would only be one company in business in each industry: the company with the lowest price. My guess is that you have many competitors. I’m also guessing that the lowest-price provider has the smallest segment of the market, or they’re really close to the bottom. This is because … Read the rest

Testing the Waters


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.

Oftentimes entrepreneurs — blinded by their … Read the rest

Powerful Prospecting Tips to Build Your Business


Why is it that some sales reps consistently earn a six-figure annual income while other reps, putting in the same hours, selling the same products, and trained by the same sales manager struggle each month financially to make ends meet? The answer to this question is painfully simple; the six-figure sales reps understand the importance of business development and never forget to ask for referrals.

Top-producing sales reps set high standards for themselves and spend the majority of their time either actively prospecting for new business or closing sales. Successful sales reps set productivity goals, establish priorities, and don’t waste … Read the rest

30 Seconds to Significant Sales


How to up-sell without turning off your customer.

If you and your employees aren’t trained on effective ways to upsell, chances are you either offend customers by being too pushy, or leave money on the table that customers would have willingly spent with you. Either option is costly.

When organizations bring me in to train employees on how to increase revenues from current customers, I often find that not enough attention is paid to up-selling.

Up-selling refers to when you help a customer decide to buy a little extra or “up-grade” slightly the final purchase. A car dealer, for example, … Read the rest

Taking Stock of the New Year


The New Year provides an opportunity for a fresh start — a chance to plan ahead, redouble efforts and strategize to improve over past performance. That’s exactly what independent manufacturers’ representatives do, just like everyone else. As the 12 months of 2015 loom in front of agents, several volunteered how they were viewing the upcoming months and described what they see as opportunities to take advantage of, challenges that must be met, problems to be solved and obstacles that must be overcome.

•   Firmly embracing a philosophy that there’s no sense in peering into the future before taking stock of … Read the rest

MANA Recognizes Long-Term Members

Thank you

MANA wants to recognize members who have been with us for many years.

Every January we list in Agency Sales those agent and principal members who celebrated their 65, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 year membership anniversary the previous year.

MANA thanks and congratulates the members we listed below for their long-term support and commitment.

Note: We also thank those long-term members whose longevity does not end in a “0” or “5.” Your company name was either published within the past three years or will be published within the next two.

Agent Members

65 Years

James … Read the rest

What to Like in a Principal


Just as manufacturers have a checklist made up of the attributes they’d like to have in their independent manufacturers’ representatives, so too do agents have a wish list. During an industry meeting last fall, a group of representatives at a roundtable were discussing what they’d like to have in a marketing partner. Among their considerations were these:

Manufacturer’s current market position — Since agencies spend a great deal of their time promoting new products, they want to know that a prospective principal is active in this area. At the same time, they need to be apprised of the manufacturer’s current … Read the rest

Gauging the Value of Social Media


If there is any doubt concerning the contribution that social media can make to the selling process, those doubts should be put aside. At least that’s from even the most casual reading of business books that come across the Agency Sales editorial desk. Even the smallest sampling of these books indicates that authors, educators and consultants see social media as a critical tool and one that independent manufacturers’ representatives ought to carefully consider.

For instance:

•   Technological trends that impact selling that manufacturers and representatives and others ought to be following include these: newsletters, video e-mails, website chats and Internet … Read the rest

Minnesota Agents Gain Added Protection via Recent Amendment to Minnesota Termination of Sales Representative Act


The Minnesota Legislature recently passed and Governor Dayton signed, a significant amendment to Minn. Stat. §325E.37, otherwise known as the Minnesota Termination of Sales Representative Act (“MTSRA”). The amendment passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support and essentially closes a loophole in the existing law. It will benefit certain independent contractor sales representatives as defined under the MTSRA.

Key Provisions

In the early 1990s the MTSRA was enacted in Minnesota. It was enacted to regulate the relationship between a manufacturer, wholesaler, assembler, or importer (referred to herein as the “principal”) and a sales representative, as defined under the MTSRA, with regard to … Read the rest

“Pound for Pound”


Comparing the Relative Strength of Humans, Horses and Your Investments

Have you ever heard the expression that describes an athlete as “pound-for-pound” the strongest, referring to the relative strength of that individual? This comparison phrase is what coaches use to measure strength levels for athletes of varying body weights.

For example, a large athlete may be able to lift a much larger amount of weight than a smaller athlete. However, the smaller athlete may be lifting more weight relative to his or her body weight than his larger counterpart. To help a coach figure this out, the “pound for pound” … Read the rest

MANA Member Honored for Sustainability Efforts

Michael F. Gibbons, FCSI, GRP, CCCA, was honored by the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) organization at their “Cities Alive” conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Gibbons received their Civic Award for his long-term involvement in the organization’s sustainability efforts promoting green (vegetative) roofs as well as his activities in writing standards for municipal, state and national governments, architects and landscape architects, and additional companies involved in the design and construction of green roofs. He was responsible for the recent publication of ASTM E2777-14 “Standard Guide for Vegetative (Green) Roof Systems.”

Gibbons founded long-time MANA member Architectural Systems, Inc., Dallas, Texas, … Read the rest