“Why Don’t They Teach About Manufacturers’ Representatives in Business Schools?”

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This year’s “The Hard Sell” drew 90 student competitors and gave MANA exposure to both MBA students and executives who volunteered as judges for the event. Cohon, at right, is pictured with Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship Craig Wortmann and Senior Coach, Leadership Development Alice Obermiller.

It’s a common question from MANA members, and one that has triggered MANA’s outreach to the academic community, most recently at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA program.

As part of MANA’s engagement with the academic community, MANA CEO Charles Cohon participates quarterly as a judge in that school’s Entrepreneurial Selling course, and annually in its “The Hard Sell” case-based sales competition where “teams of first-year MBA students try to sell themselves, their company, and their product to a variety of prospective customers.”

Wortmann’s Entrepreneurial Selling course was featured in an Inc. magazine article, “The 10 Best Entrepreneurship Courses of 2011.” Chicago Booth’s MBA program has consistently ranked in the top three schools in Business Week’s annual business school rankings.

“Experienced sales executives and professionals affiliated with sales are essential in helping participants process their learning during and after the competition,” according to Chicago Booth’s “The Hard Sell” judges’ instructions. “Two to three judges are assigned to a classroom to play the role of the customer during each of three different sales meeting scenarios.

“Teams of students pass through the classroom to attempt to sell the product to the prospective customer during these sales meetings. Directly after each meeting judges share one or two key observations on the team’s performance to help them calibrate toward the next round. Each team will be scored on how well they managed the meeting toward a successful outcome, including ‘closing’ the sale.”

Can MANA help your alma mater or a business school in your area to teach its students about manufacturers’ representatives? Use this link to share this article with that school www.MANAonline.org/2014/12/02/chicagobooth or send contact information for your school to ccohon@manaonline.org.

The Dreaded Word to a Rep: “We Are Going to Split Your Commission With….”

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There are primarily several types of situations where split commissions might pop up in today’s manufacturing world, including rep-to-rep split commissions and manufacturer-to-rep split commissions. No manufacturers’ rep particularly likes the discussion in either situation, but it is a topic that needs to be open for discussion.

Rep-to-Rep Split Commissions

We have all been approached by a fellow rep that has an opportunity that fits nicely in with one of our exclusive manufacturers. Keep in mind that I am not talking about an agency-sub-rep relationship. The conversation typically starts with, “I have a lead I’d like to throw your way,” … Read the rest

Concern With Split Commissions Never Ends

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The back and forth between principals and independent manufacturers’ representatives concerning the payment of commissions in cases where buying decisions have been made across several territories never seems to end. A recent conversation on the MANA LinkedIn discussion page points out that while some resolution has been made in some cases, it’s a matter that remains a constant for agents — and their principals.

When a manufacturer, who works with agents, introduced the subject, here’s how the discussion proceeded: “What is an appropriate way to address a rep that has a potential sale in another’s territory? Rep ‘A’ had a … Read the rest

Sales Strategies for Taking Charge of 2015

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Tactics constantly come and go in sales without making a significant impact on outcomes. On the other hand, solid strategies can make a significant difference in what happens. Here are several sales strategies that can have a positive influence on performance in 2015.

Define Yourself Clearly

Most people let others decide who they are, define their capabilities, and what they can accomplish. This happens without even knowing it. More often than not, the results are far from accurate.

Worse yet, such “labels” stick, unless we work to change them by having a clear picture of how we want to be … Read the rest

Contrasting the Rep Experience from Start to Re‑Start

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Comparing and contrasting the beginnings of a career as an independent manufacturers’ representative with the experiences of an established agent illustrate the fact that while challenges are plenty for both, opportunities remain abundant. To conduct that comparison let’s consider the respective careers of Rachel Hack and Rosanne Brunello.

Taking Hack first: A little over a year ago, Rachel Hack, followed up her graduation from the University of Wisconsin (Whitewater) with a move to the East Coast where she had accepted a position in technical sales with Matrix Technology, Inc. According to Hack, her entrance into a sales career was the … Read the rest

Hard Sell or Soft Sell?

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On the surface, this question may seem like a no-brainer, so let’s begin by defining both of these terms.

When I talk about hard sell, I’m not talking about hammering someone into doing something that isn’t right for him. I’m talking about being direct and getting the prospect involved in what he needs, cutting through fear, denial, and other roadblocks that can stop a sale.

By soft sell, I’m not talking about using touchy-feely language and letting the prospect completely control the process. Rather, I’m talking about listening with empathy and truly understanding your prospect and his needs, putting yourself … Read the rest

Identifying New Suspects

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Every sales organization and every sales process begins with identifying a group of suspects. Suspects are people and organizations you suspect may one day conduct business with you. They aren’t yet prospects, because you don’t know if they have a legitimate need for what you sell, or if they can make the decision and buy your product or service. That determination comes later.

But in order to get a group of prospects, you must begin with a list of suspects. Here are eight ways to acquire such a list.

1. Buy a List

This is the information age, and lists … Read the rest

Major Reasons Customer Service Slides

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When I’m asked speak at conferences on how managers can boost business, they often assume we’re going to focus on gaining new customers. Ironically, that’s the last thing we should focus on. Neglecting existing customers to chase new business is akin to gathering water in the proverbial leaky bucket. We can exhaust ourselves trying to collect more water when we’d be further ahead by simply fixing the holes. The more sustainable approach to growing business is ensuring existing customers are so thrilled that they’ll not only return; but they’ll also recommend you to new potential customers. The challenge is without … Read the rest

The Pros and Cons of Licensing

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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 Amazon.com. 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.

Normally the subject of licensing would … Read the rest

Effective Leadership vs. Management

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“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader it’s all about growing others.”

— Jack Welch

Everyone who has a job has a boss/manager, but does everyone have a leader? You never hear people complain about leaders, but every day someone somewhere complains about their boss or manager. First, leadership is action, not position. Just because someone is in a role of control does not mean the person is a leader. The best leaders are typically poor managers and the best managers are typically poor leaders. All managers have to do some … Read the rest

Looking at the Big Picture

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A manufacturer was hardly reluctant when it came to patting himself on the back as he detailed his success in choosing the independent manufacturers’ representatives with whom he goes to market. According to the manufacturer, “I’m hardly the biggest fish in the pond and never will be. What I’ve done in selecting reps, however, has been remarkably successful for me and them.”

“Here’s what I do. I take a look at the rep’s entire product offering and make a determination as to whether or not there’s a void in his line card. If there is, I make every effort to … Read the rest

Examining the Psychology of Social Media

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There are positive, negative and even in-between answers when independent manufacturers’ representatives are asked whether social media is for them or if they’ve found ways to use it to their or their agency’s benefit.

On the positive side, agents report the marketing benefits of keeping their agency’s name and brand in front of principals, customers and prospects through regular use of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. One agency in the Southwest reports success in announcing weekly and monthly specials on its Facebook page. A Midwest agency describes gaining attention through regularly posting Twitter communications of its agency’s activities and a third … Read the rest

Exercising an Ounce of (Legal) Prevention

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Sam Salesdude is a sales representative in Minnesota who recently was unceremoniously terminated by Wonderful Widgets, Inc. On August 31, 2014, Steven Sales Manager apologetically told Sam that the company had decided to go in a different direction and Wonderful Widget was terminating Sam’s contract effective immediately. In fact, the contract required 30 days’ written notice. When Sam’s September commission check arrived, Wonderful did not include a commission statement and Sam estimated that his commissions were at least $20,000 short.

Sam should:

  1. Cash the check and call Steven the Manager at Wonderful to discuss the shortage.
  2. Tell Steve just what
  3. Read the rest

Do You Have Time to Stop and Lace Up Your Sneakers?

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Did you hear the one about the two guys out camping in the woods when a big grizzly bear strolls into their campsite? As the one guy starts running, the other pauses to put on his sneakers.

“What are you doing?!” the first guy yells out. “You’ll never outrun the bear!”

“I don’t have to!” his partner replies. “I just have to outrun you!”

If you have been keeping up with my column you may have learned the theory behind my investing approach, which is sort of like the story above. One of the processes I use to manage my … Read the rest