Learning Sign Language


Just when I think I must have touched about every market that’s served by manufacturers’ representatives, somebody comes along and teaches me about a market I’d never seen before that is well-served by manufacturers’ representatives. Any time that happens, it’s a great day. And that’s what happened when Bill Yorston of MANA representative member Yorston and Associates called me a few months ago to teach me sign language.

No, not that sign language. I’m talking about the language of the sign industry, where Bill and other manufacturers’ representatives make a major sales impact on behalf of sign industry manufacturers and enhance the image of outsourced sales forces.

What kind of impact do companies like Yorston’s have on the image of representatives? A very positive impact, says Sales Manager-Sign Products Joe Walsh of Orange, Connecticut-based Voltarc. “I will say that manufacturers’ representatives’ professionalism has increased dramatically over the years. So when I meet a manufacturers’ representative who knows every sign company in a six- to eight-state area, the ins and outs of what they are working on, and their typical customers, I know that’s a professional. And I know that I’m unlikely to find a new hire as a direct employee who could match that expertise.”

Jim Perritt, North America Sales Manager, Product Assembly Adhesives, of Uniontown, Ohio-based Lord Corporation is quick to cite the advantages manufacturers’ representatives bring to his company. Says Perritt:

  • They have established relationships with local distributors.
  • They know the local end users for our products that are our distributors’ customers.
  • They are more local to the distributors and the distributors’ customers.
  • They understand the applications for our adhesives.
  • They help us achieve a lower cost of doing business than we could achieve with direct salespeople.
  • They create synergy with the lines on their line cards. Our adhesives bond to substrates, so if they have a customer for substrates that customer is a candidate to buy our adhesives, and if they have a customer for our adhesives that customer is a candidate to buy the representative’s substrates.

Perritt continued, “If we move into another market we will absolutely look for manufacturers’ representatives in that market. I really believe in taking our products to market with manufacturers’ representatives.”

Without Yorston’s call, I would never have known about this robust ecosystem of manufacturers’ representatives and manufacturers in the sign industry. Is your industry one with which most MANA members may not be familiar? Call me at (949) 427-3027 like Yorston did; I’d love to learn more!

Handling Disputes Between Manufacturers’ Representatives and Manufacturers


Most of the time, manufacturers’ representatives and manufacturers get along fine. Sure, there are minor issues, but the two resolve those quickly and life moves on. Sometimes disputes become major and disruptive, to the point where business activity significantly reduces while the two parties battle with each other — definitely not a desirable situation.

What approach works to settle the differences? That depends. Do both parties want to resolve the problem and move on? If, so can they discuss the issue unemotionally and look for an alternative to either side’s stand that meets the goals? Sometimes you need to be … Read the rest

Keys to Resolving Disputes


With a fair amount of justification, relationships between independent manufacturers’ representatives and principals can be compared to a marriage. After all, what both sides are seeking is a long‑term relationship, based on trust, that results in a good deal of mutual benefit.

Just as any marriage, however, whether it be successful or unsuccessful, there can be roadblocks to navigate as both sides work toward their mutual goals. When those roadblocks crop up, what’s to be done? That’s the question that was posed to several MANA members and Agency Sales readers and if the truth be told, their answers or solutions … Read the rest

Among the Major Benefits of MANA Membership: Networking and Advocacy


Even the quickest review of services provided by MANA to its membership uncovers a veritable menu of offerings that inform, train and educate independent manufacturers’ representatives and their principals concerning the intricacies of effectively working together. High on that list of services are the networking and advocacy efforts of the association that were evident late last year when MANA convened its annual attorney forum and then met with executives of sister representative associations to discuss association trends and best practices.

Association of Manufacturers Representatives Associations (AMRA)

One of the major benefits of MANA and other representative associations continuing their participation … Read the rest

Everyone — Including MANA — Loves a Compliment

Everyone loves a compliment and thankfully MANA has received more than its share over the years. For instance, here’s a sampling:

photo of John Davis“I am the second generation owner of my family rep business — an organization that has been a MANA member for many years. My plan for growth is aggressive, and MANA has been a fantastic resource for not only networking opportunities, but business planning and strategy as well. As my parents transition out of the business, they, along with MANA, provide an excellent mentoring source that helps me avoid many common roadblocks. The result of this support is faster, … Read the rest

Customer-Pleasing Marketing and Sales Ideas


There’s an oversupply of useless, wacky, and just plain dumb marketing and sales ideas. For example, if someone says the best time to e-mail customers is 10 a.m. on Thursdays, forget it. What if you’re aiming at teachers, lawyers, nurses, boomers or just about anyone else? One solution never fits everyone, even if they’re in the same market segment. So, forget about simple solutions to issues that require serious thought.

Right at the top, an idea that makes sense must pass the useful test; it’s only good if its works — if it gets the desired results. Here are several … Read the rest

Variables That Help Business Development vs. Those That Will Decrease Business


Often, I am asked globally about the things that can help “business development” in comparison to those that will help “grow the business.”

It is interesting that rarely am I asked about the things that will hurt a business, that is, prevent it from growing or surviving. Both are important for a business to grow and to survive.

When I teach, train, coach and advise about business development, I cover both the things that can be done to “grow business” and the things that can prevent business growth or hurt the business.

Consider for a moment an automobile: even if … Read the rest

Customer Service Motivation


Tips for Staying Up When Customers Wear You Down

Someone once said that life would be easy if it wasn’t for other people. Making a living however, usually involves interacting with humans. Your job may be fine when customers are pleasant and everything goes well. Sooner or later though, unavoidable delays, foul-ups and interruptions can make even good jobs turn into, well … work. To help you have more up days than down — even when things go wrong — here are several strategies I share in my seminars for making your job easier and your mood better. The bonus … Read the rest

What Makes a Successful Sales Meeting?


My friend Steve Lishanski has a saying that 80 percent of life is common sense but only 20 percent of people are using it. In my experience, a similar rule applies to sales meetings: 80 percent are a complete waste of time because simple common sense was never applied. Follow these rules for effective sales meetings and you will no longer find yourself in the 80 percent.

Rules for Powerful Sales Meetings

Rule #1: Keep Your Meetings Short, Positive and Energized

Most of the sales meetings I’ve been to are too long, and when people leave them they are tired … Read the rest

Converting Fixed to Variable Costs


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.

A fixed cost is one that … Read the rest

Multi Tasking, Focus and Other Stuff


I just had a conversation with a sales manager at my last seminar. The gist of it is this: he has so many competing responsibilities; it is difficult to spend time with his sales team. Sound familiar? It should. I have heard that idea expressed countless times by executives, sales managers and salespeople. In one way or another, sales professionals find themselves increasingly occupied by trivial tasks at the expense of the important ones.

It is an epidemic that is raging unabated in our economy. It renders people unproductive, and organizations operating at a fraction of their potential. It often … Read the rest

Questioning the Agent’s Role in the Marketplace


A Q&A session on MANA’s LinkedIn Discussion page recently struck at the heart of a subject manufacturers and their representatives have undoubtedly encountered several times in the past.

The question that kicked off the discussion was: “What can be done about customers who want principals to deal directly with them and remove the manufacturers’ representative from the relationship?

“For example, one MANA member recently told us he’s seen RFPs where the customer requests two quotes; one with the manufacturers’ representative and one without. A principal who recognizes the value the manufacturers’ representative provides would return that quote with a higher … Read the rest

Unexpected Ways Businesses Can Use Smartphones to Drive Profit


No matter the product, service or industry, mission or corporate philosophy, nearly every business is bottom line-driven. And, there is no shortage of ingenuity as to how companies try to glean more profit out of existing processes. Every so often, a new technology emerges that radically changes the productivity landscape and industry’s related profitability potential in kind. Some notable advancements, of course, have included the assembly line, telephone, fax machine and the Internet. Today, there is a ubiquitous technology poised to revolutionize how business is done: the smartphone — but not for the reason you may think.

While everyone concedes … Read the rest

Misunderstood Contract Terms


Many agents come to my firm with great confusion about the more “boilerplate” terms in their written contracts. There seem to be several universally misunderstood terms that just keep getting bandied about erroneously:

  • Venue
  • Jurisdiction
  • Choice of Law
  • ADR

Each of these terms, often referred to as boilerplate, should be included in your contract, especially when considering that your principals are often headquartered and operate in different states than you.

Venue is the place where a lawsuit or other form of dispute resolution will take place.

Jurisdiction means that a particular court has authority to hear a particular dispute.

Choice Read the rest

Mission: Impossible


Is It Really Impossible to Beat the Market?

For much of the last 25 years, most of the media and investment management world have promoted the idea that individual investors can’t beat the market. And it’s true. You can’t beat the market. That is, unless the stocks or mutual funds you own are, in fact, beating the market!

There is no way on earth you could ever beat the market if the stocks or mutual funds you hold are not keeping pace with the market, or with any luck, staying ahead of the market.

However, that’s what the majority of … Read the rest