Harnessing Wisdom


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When MANA members retire and leave the association, their knowledge of our industry and our best candidates to mentor aspiring representatives are lost to the representative community.

Says one rep: “I’m comfortably retired from my manufacturers’ representative business, but I want to stay engaged in my industry and make myself available to manufacturers’ representatives who want to discuss a business problem or opportunity with someone who has decades of experience.”

Until today, we had no way to exploit that experience, match mentors with mentees, and let retired representatives stay engaged with their industry. To solve those problems we proudly introduce MANA’s Wisdom Council (members.manaonline.org/wisdom-council) and its first two members, MANA Past Chairman John Roba and MANA Past Director Ed Reese.

What is the profile of a retiree member of MANA’s Wisdom Council?

  • Eager to remain connected to our industry, so they want to receive Agency Sales magazine and MANA’s e-mail newsletters.
  • Eager to give back to our industry, so they are willing to selectively accept e‑mails or phone calls from current MANA representative members who would benefit from their long experience.
  • No longer a representative and no longer accepting commission lines, so they have no interest in being listed in MANA’s online RepFinder database that helps principals find new reps.
  • Not looking for new lines to represent, so they have no interest in MANA’s LineFinder database of principals who go to market with manufacturers’ representatives.

MANA members who need to discuss a problem with a member of the Wisdom Council should visit members.manaonline.org/wisdom-council for a list of available mentors.

Retired or soon-to-retire representatives, please e-mail MANA at mana@manaonline.org for complete details about MANA’s deeply discounted retiree rate. If you are accepted, you’ll be listed in MANA’s database as retired and not accepting any new lines, so representatives whose companies are still active should not apply for the retiree rate.

Late breaking news: MANA Director Greg Bruno has asked if experienced active MANA representative members who continue to work in their representative companies as full-benefits, full-dues MANA members can also volunteer to serve as mentors on MANA’s Wisdom Council. Great idea, Greg! Non-retired MANA members who want to volunteer as mentors are also invited to apply by e-mailing us at mana@manaonline.org.

The Principal Is the Customer


“Exceed your customer’s expectations. If you do, they’ll come back over and over. Give them what they want — and a little more.” — Sam Walton

As unbridled entrepreneurs, manufacturers’ representatives naturally evaluate our business space to maximize our return on investment. We evaluate many areas to include the prospects at end user/OEMs, the effectiveness of our distributor/wholesaler networks, and the future with the principals we represent. We should not be surprised that each of these channel partners are evaluating us as well.

But an evaluation of the manufacturers’ representative is not typically a formal “review” type of process. However, … Read the rest

Agent-Manufacturer Evaluations Paint a Partnership Picture


Decisions can’t be made in a vacuum. That’s especially true in the agent-principal relationship. In order to provide decision makers with the best chance for not only making the correct decision when it comes to starting a relationship, but also on whether to continue the relationship into the future, a regular process of mutual evaluation is recommended. It’s also advisable to conduct such evaluations only after both sides have spelled out and agreed upon mutual expectations.

Independent manufacturers’ representatives and principals alike maintain that the best way to know and understand how well or how poorly your partner is performing … Read the rest

Facing Salesperson Retirements


You don’t have enough to worry about!

You are having lunch with Joe, your top salesperson. You have just completed a year — his 20th with the company — during which he made a ton of money. His gross compensation was well over $400,000.

He definitely earned every penny. He is handling the firm’s largest account, by far. He has built the account so that they are buying six of your best lines. Joe is a very solid salesperson and citizen. He is not a prima donna although at times he definitely trades on his great success.

Over lunch Joe … Read the rest

Examining Contrasting Views on Shared Territorial Development Fees


A conversation between an independent manufacturers’ representative and a prospective principal resulted in an e-mail trail that eventually wound up in front of Agency Sales magazine.

The conversation is interesting in terms of how each side views the subject of retainers or shared territorial development fees. In an edited form, here’s how the conversation evolved.

After an initial contact from the principal (who had terminated an agency in the territory) to the agent during which the principal voiced interest in establishing a relationship, the agent responded:

“At first glance it seems that your technology, the synergy with our existing lines Read the rest

Self-Marketing — the Salesperson’s Other Job


Even highly experienced and successful salespeople can have a blind spot. So intent are they on what they want to accomplish, it’s easy for them to ignore how others view them. And it isn’t always complimentary. “Oh, don’t take Sally seriously. Just remember that she’s in sales.” This is one reason why year-after-year salespeople find themselves on the bottom rung of the public’s trust ladder.

Going into sales can be like having three strikes hanging over your head every day: instant distrust, not being taken seriously, and getting more rejections than you deserve. What’s amazing is that so many stay … Read the rest

Beliefs That Limit Salespeople


The Problem With Passion

This is one of those pieces of conventional wisdom that no one seems to question: “It’s good to be passionate about your product.” Like so many of these conventional myths that ingrain themselves into our psyche, this one has the potential for frustrating countless thousands of salespeople, sales managers and chief sales officers.

Let me reassure you: It is not necessary to be passionate about your product or service in order to sell it effectively. In fact, your passion may be a detriment to an effective sales process.

Before you impale me on the skewers of … Read the rest



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.

Outsourcing in recent years has gotten … Read the rest

Successful Sales Follow-up


One of the biggest reasons salespeople don’t close more business is that they either don’t follow up enough or they don’t follow up properly. Here are the keys to close more sales by following up the right way.

Follow Up at Least 12 Times

The average salesperson follows up with a prospect once or twice. The majority of sales are made between the 4th and 12th contact. As a result, you need a step-by-step follow-up system that consists of at least 12 contacts. Two of the most important aspects of follow-up are consistency and commitment. Having and sticking to a … Read the rest

Trade Offs in the Relationship


During an agenda break at an industry meeting earlier this year, the president of a manufacturing company fairly new to working with independent representatives, posed the following scenario to one of his peers: “Here’s something I’ve run into several times. One of my reps did absolutely nothing to get an order, but he expects me to pay him the commission. I don’t understand his thinking.”

His fellow manufacturer, who admitted to having worked with an outsourced sales force for more than 35 years, jumped at the opportunity to respond. According to the second manufacturer, “You’ve got to realize that there … Read the rest

Back to the Future —
Wait, We’re THERE!


“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”
— Popular quote attributed to a Danish philosopher.1

This is 2015. It is a momentous year for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the very year that is celebrated by the greatest time travel movie series of all time — Back to the Future. That series starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doctor Emmett Brown.

In the movie, Back to the Future Part II, Marty, and his future wife Jennifer, are taken from 1985 by Doc Brown … Read the rest

Prove It! Why Reps and Principals Need to Keep the Evidence


“Oh yeah? Prove it!” Among schoolyard taunts, that one has a germ of truth. If you can’t prove you’re right, you probably won’t win. If you probably won’t win, there’s usually little sense in starting the fight — you’ll waste your time and money.

So if you’re an independent representative or a principal in a fight, how do you prove you’re right? Evidence. For lawyers, evidence is ammunition — if we have enough of the right kinds of evidence, we can win the battle for you. And if the other side understands that you have the evidence, a reasonable settlement … Read the rest

Did You Miss the Last Market Run-Up?


Here are two questions I’m frequently asked during the various keynote speeches I present to trade groups around the country:

  • “How do you make sure clients don’t miss the run-ups in the market?”
  • “How do you protect clients from another financial disaster year like 2008?”

Frankly those are two very tough questions that would cause most financial advisors to quickly turn and run.

Let’s face it. In 2008 the markets had a catastrophic meltdown that continued into the first quarter of 2009, with upwards of 25 percent added on the downside.

Then the markets turned on a dime and began … Read the rest

John Beaver and Danny Collis Elected to MANA Board of Directors

photo of John Beaver

MANA is pleased to announce the election of two exceptionally well-qualified MANA representative members to MANA’s Board of Directors. Each will serve a two‑year term that starts May 1, 2015. Please join us in congratulating them.

If you are a representative member and are interested in serving on MANA’s Board of Directors, please e-mail Susan Strouse at sstrouse@manaonline.org to request the necessary forms.

John Beaver earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Long Island University, and at age 26, in 1984, founded Optimum Metro Sales, Inc., which joined MANA in 1990. Beaver brings 30 years’ experience as a representative … Read the rest