Nobody Belongs to MANA*


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Nobody belongs to MANA. MANA belongs to you, its agent and manufacturer members. And because MANA belongs to you, it’s up to MANA to operate the association in your best interest.

The most obvious aspect of operating the association in your best interest is to be sure that your dues go toward the best programs and services we possibly can provide.

A more subtle aspect of operating the association in your best interest (and the subject of this editorial) is how MANA’s Board of Directors reviewed its own structure for maximum impact and productivity. For that task MANA’s Board turned for expertise to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

In its book Race for Relevance, the ASAE research reveals that Boards with many Board members tend to be unwieldy and struggle to conduct their associations’ business. To break that gridlock, most large Boards then create a smaller Executive Committee that gets the associations’ business done but often marginalizes Board members who are not on the Executive Committee.

ASAE’s solution? Bring Board headcount down to a practical size that allows the Board to be productive — and then disband the Executive Committee. After careful review and consideration, MANA’s Board of Directors took this very remarkable step, voting to reduce its own headcount to seven members and to disband its Executive Committee. And to insure a regular influx of fresh insights and ideas, it also reduced Board members’ maximum service from two three-year terms to two two-year terms.

ASAE also recommends recruiting new Board members based on needed skills rather than solely on geographical districts. What’s the problem with recruiting Board members strictly based on geographical districts? Says ASAE: “If you pick a baseball team by zip code, you may end up with nine catchers.” It’s not a hypothetical situation — MANA once was forced to reject a strong Board candidate who was 50 miles on the wrong side of a district boundary. By Board vote, MANA’s Nominating Committee now gives strong consideration to maintaining geographical diversity, but a candidate’s skills now can outweigh being 50 miles outside a geographical district.

MANA often counsels representatives to work on their business, not just in their business. To operate MANA in your best interest, your MANA Board of Directors took that same advice to heart, strategically choosing to work on MANA’s governance, not just in MANA’s governance.

Interested in learning more about how Race for Relevance impacted MANA’s Board of Directors? Visit

* Paraphrased from a quote from Jason Seiden, CEO at Brand Amper.

What’s the Value of a Rep Council in 2015?


It seems to me that many of our manufacturers have either done away with or for some reason have lost interest in having rep councils in the last 15 years. When I started in the rep business there were a number of our principals that had councils and it was often considered an honor to be part of one. Like all things, there had to be value added for them to continue so presumably someone (and maybe both parties) lost interest due to a lack of value to the participants. Many of us have likely been part of these in … Read the rest

Real-World Tips for Effective Rep Councils


With service on four rep councils under his belt, John Beaver is well qualified to offer his opinions on whether those bodies serve the needs of manufacturers and their agents — not to mention their mutual customers.

Beaver, president, GSA Optimum (, Oakdale, New York, works with a group of industries including aerospace, military, power supply, security, telecommunications and others. In that capacity he has been asked to serve — and serve he has — on four rep councils, including two that he presently chairs.

From the outset, he maintains, “The number-one benefit of the rep councils for me and … Read the rest

The Case for Rep Councils


If the previous article details some of John Beaver’s thoughts on the value of rep councils, it also provides an example of the validity of what MANA has been preaching for years.

A quick search of the association’s special reports and Agency Sales magazine’s archives will show that the message that has been consistently communicated is that rep councils can be a critical ingredient in the relationship between manufacturers and agents.

Not surprisingly, when manufacturers and independent manufacturers’ representatives who have experienced rep councils are asked their views, they are remarkably similar. For instance, when an agent in the southeast … Read the rest

Making Self‑Promotion Work for You


There’s nothing complicated about being successful in business. It’s simple and it goes like this: It’s all about making a name for yourself. That’s it, self-promotion. Getting known.

Whether it’s finding and impressing prospects, keeping current customers, or moving ahead in a career, volunteering has long been the platform for gaining visibility. For some, it’s serving on company committees and taking on extra assignments, or having a reputation as the “get it done” person.

In the community, self-promotion ranges from sponsoring or coaching youth sports teams, working charity fundraisers, belonging to a service club or fraternal organization, serving on non-profit … Read the rest

20 Point Profile Review Improves Agency Performance


The Dr. Revenue “Profile Review” is based on specific criteria for excellence in rep profiles. The accompanying checklist can be used to judge and improve your agency profile.

Score yourself and then plan improvements.
1=weak, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=better, 5=best

Hundreds of profiles have been evaluated using this system — you’ll find it helps.

Every element of the profile review is important. The presentation that your firm makes is critical to your current and future success.

When you begin the review process, think about how you use a catalog or brochure from one of your manufacturers. The rep firm profile should … Read the rest

Earning the Status of Trusted Advisor Key Principles You Need to Know

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While it is all well and good — even honorable, really, to associate selling success with being a trusted advisor, what does it take to earn that status with customers in today’s buying environment?

Research by CSO Insights, the Aberdeen Group, and others has shown that just telling salespeople to be trusted advisors has not worked: win rates have fallen, no-decision rates have grown. Customer behaviors seem to be saying that they don’t trust salespeople’s intent, and don’t see them as a credible advisor.

To address this concern, let’s explore key principles that point the way to becoming a trusted … Read the rest

Advantages of Franchising


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.

Franchising is a type of business … Read the rest

Key Factors That Determine Business and Sales Success


The factors on the following pages are critical to success in business and sales, and if you have these in place, your success is virtually guaranteed.

Factor #1: Mindset

Mindset is the most important element because with it, the other two will naturally follow. The most important aspect of mindset is having an expectant, positive attitude. Attitude will determine how far you get in life, how happy you will be, and even how long you’ll live. No one with a negative, defeatist attitude ever achieved anything great. Also, people want to be around and conduct business with positive, upbeat people … Read the rest

Best Practices for Handling Sales Reps’ Split Commissions


As a follow-up to an article examining split commissions that appeared in the February issue of Agency Sales, this month consultant Glen Balzer discusses best practices for both manufacturers and their agents to consider.

Until recent time a manufacturer was a self-contained entity. A company would design, develop, manufacture, and market a product in a single facility. That company would design a product in one corner of the facility, develop the product close by, place orders for materials in another corner, and manufacture finished products in the rear of the same facility. A salesman calling on the company would … Read the rest

Partnering vs. Controlling


In the midst of conversation between two manufacturers on the subject of how best to control the activities of their respective independent manufacturers’ representative sales force, a third manufacturer with more than 35 years’ experience working primarily with agents, weighed in with his thoughts on the subject.

According to the third manufacturer, “When it comes to the subject of control, manufacturers should recognize that control is not an objective in itself. Rather it is merely a management style. The key to top sales channel performance is to partner with rather than to dictate to the channel. This is true whether … Read the rest

Leapfrog the Competition With Creativity


Competition is abundant. Whatever field you’re in, there are competing forces offering your product or service — or a good substitute.

Price competition is often the way many choose to beat the competition. That is not the best way to compete. There is a much better and more profitable way to do business.

It wasn’t that long ago when many would joke about their “crackberries.” These were the ubiquitous Blackberry cell phones that inspired technology addiction jokes, and many felt that the Blackberry brand would always be the dominant force. No one could dislodge them.

Well, along came this uppity … Read the rest

Product Liability Claims: How to Minimize Your Exposure


Most independent sales representatives are not involved in the design or manufacture of the products they sell. Moreover, they don’t consider the products they sell to be inherently dangerous. As a result, many sales representatives are not overly concerned about product liability claims, if at all. However, ignoring the possibility of such claims can be a big mistake, for regardless of the rep’s “limited” role in the underlying sale, and despite the seemingly benign or safe nature of the products being sold, sales representatives can be, and often are, included as defendants in product liability lawsuits — which can be … Read the rest

Tips for Selling Your Business in 2015


The majority of business owners are planning on the proceeds from the sale of their business to fund their retirement. However, the 2013 State of Owner Readiness Survey revealed that more than 80 percent of business owners have no formal transition plan.

Historically, only 25 percent of businesses up for sale actually sell. Those odds are likely to become worse as millions of baby boomers attempt to sell their businesses over the next decade during the Exit Bubble.

Combine the lack of readiness with the historically low success rates for selling a business and you could be looking at the … Read the rest