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MANA representative members shouldn’t spend any time selling. And I hope that none of the salespeople working for MANA’s representative members spend any time selling either.
Are MANA representative members in front of prospects and customers as zealous promoters of their principals’ products every business day? Absolutely. Do they put in even longer hours preparing for those sales calls and fulfilling the action items those sales calls trigger? More than any other sales force I know.
But the most successful ones don’t spend any time selling, they invest time selling.
When I make that distinction, I’m not trying to be cute. I am absolutely deadly serious. What happens if representatives who spend time selling make a sale? Once that sale is made and the commission is received, the representatives are right back where they started, with nothing more to show for their efforts than a single commission payment.
When representatives invest their time selling one of their principal’s lines, they look at a much bigger picture than just the commission on a single sale, things like these:
- How will this sale build our relationship with this principal?
- How will this sale enhance our relationship with this customer?
- How will our strategy for this principal and this customer affect the other principals on our line card and other customers in our territory?
That’s why a top representative’s list of principals isn’t just a line card; it’s a line card portfolio in the truest sense of the word portfolio. And they have the same strategy for their line card portfolio that they have for their stock portfolio: “Buy and Hold.”
It’s true what they say about the stock market. The fastest way to get to a $5 million dollar stock portfolio is to start with $10 million and try to time the market. MANA’s most professional representatives invest time in their line card portfolio that same way a buy and hold investor invests money into a stock portfolio. They carefully choose companies they believe in and make consistent investments in them every month.
Sure, they may occasionally change out a single company in their portfolio, but they don’t go flitting from one bright shiny object to the next each month. They deliberately create a long-term strategy and work that strategy for the long-term. After all, for both the money they invest in financial instruments and the time they invest in their principals and customers, they are investors, not day traders.
A principal’s new product launch can be exciting, time-consuming and expensive for both a principal and a representative.
Ultimately, everyone involved wants the launch to be successful and profitable. Getting to these goals takes planning and careful execution. The additional potential for new business that a new product launch offers the sales representative can be exciting, but success with it requires preparation, training, market research and information. I believe that these four things are at the root of what a representative wants and needs to succeed.
I asked a number of experienced representatives to think about their experiences with launching … Read the rest
When tracing the career paths that have brought MANA members to where they are today, it’s not unheard of to find individuals who have begun as educators, law enforcement professionals, and even former professional athletes. Closer to the point, however, is the fact that the majority of independent agency owners began their careers on one of the lower rungs of the sales ladder.
So too with George Murphy, who heads G. Murphy Sales, LLC, St. Paul, Minnesota. Murphy readily explains that “Just as so many professional salespeople, I sort of fell into it. I had previously worked in the advertising … Read the rest
Since they’re the ones on the receiving end of manufacturers’ new product launch efforts, independent representatives are more aware than anyone that there’s a right way and a wrong way to get the job done.
Speaking to that subject, Bob Cangemi, Straight Up Consulting, Washington, New Jersey, maintains that the mistake too many manufacturers make when introducing new products is that they push a new product because they’ve made the decision ahead of time that customers need it. “What should be done,” he stresses, “is to have the company marketing department lead the sales department. If the decision is made … Read the rest
Many executives put such a premium on hiring and training the right people that they assume the job stops there. The truth is, that’s only the beginning. Leadership is a relentless obligation, and business executives must be resolute in ensuring that their confidence and conviction are continually on display, even with — especially with — members of their own team.
That’s a mistake I see all too often. I’ve watched manufacturing sales executives — seasoned professionals who know their products inside and out — address members of their sales team, whether to roll out a new product or review existing … Read the rest
If MANA VP and General Manager Jerry Leth had any thoughts of retiring 15 years ago, he quickly put them to rest when a mailing from MANA alerted him to the fact the association was looking for someone just like him.
Leth, who completes 15 years of service at MANA July 31, explains that after more than a decade as an independent manufacturers’ representative serving principals and customers in the nuclear industry in the San Francisco Bay area, he and his wife Betsy were considering retirement and a move east to be near family.
“The more I thought about it, … Read the rest
“Digital disruption makes a nice headline,” said an insurance executive, responding to a news report that insurance agents are being “squeezed” by the Internet. “The realities of the insurance business are a bit more complex than that,” he said, assuring insurance agents that digital is no threat to their business.
We like to think that what we do is impervious to disruptive forces. But the tipping points come and the longstanding pillars begin to crumble. Some try to hold on for dear life.
Somehow or other, we believe we can beat the odds, that the storm will miss us, it’s … Read the rest
The biggest issue I see with salespeople, by far, is a lack of confidence. While most salespeople deal with this in quiet desperation, there are also the loud ego-maniacs who, while seeming to have too much confidence, in reality also don’t have enough and are simply overcompensating. This lack of confidence and belief leads to a fear of making phone calls, knocking on doors, and otherwise doing whatever it takes to be successful.
Rules for Increased Confidence
Rule #1: Stop making excuses and instead, develop your sales skills.
Two days ago someone told me the only reason he lost a … 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.
The bootstrapping strategies in this book … Read the rest
After 40 years focused solely on customer service I continue to devote my time and energy to helping businesses create a service culture. I have written hundreds of articles and seven bestselling books that are focused on customer service plus I just released Coaching for Success, my 22nd customer service program.
The point I try to get across to everyone is — you are in the service business. Most companies think they’re in manufacturing and retail. It’s a paradigm switch. Amazon is successful because it understands it’s a customer service company that just happens to be the largest internet-based retailer … Read the rest
Teamwork and its importance to the principal-independent sales agent business model brought to mind a basketball game late in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.
In two instances, the center (a very large import from Europe) for Gonzaga University successfully negotiated no-look passes to a teammate that resulted in easy baskets against UCLA. Both times the announcers marveled at the player’s unselfishness and
dedication to teamwork.
This is noted at this time because early this summer an industry consultant was using basketball as an analogy for the principal-agent relationship. According to the consultant, “Think for a moment about that basketball player. … Read the rest
If there’s any doubt that experts tout the benefits of using social media and its accompanying tools, those doubts can quickly be put to rest with even the quickest perusal of the latest sales books.
Four of those books recently came to the attention of Agency Sales, and while each of them offers a slightly different take of the value of social media, all of them highly recommend its use by independent sales representatives.
First up is a past contributor to these pages, Mark Hunter. In his book, High-Profit Selling (published in 2012 by American Management Association, 274 pp., … Read the rest
Contracts with your co-owners, investors, employees and independent contractors are important to establish the guidelines and protect the relationships within your company.
1. Business Structure and Buyout Agreements
The documents establishing your business are themselves contracts among the owners. Articles of incorporation, by-laws, operating agreements of limited liability companies — all are contracts establishing the terms of the investment, and dividing profits, losses and responsibilities.
Whatever your form of business, if there is more than one owner, you should consider a “buyout agreement.” This will help avoid an unwanted and often disruptive change in ownership. Such crises can occur when … Read the rest
MythBusters is an increasingly popular TV show on cable’s Discovery channel that uses entertaining science to uncover the truth behind well‑known myths and legends. From determining whether it’s possible to beat police radar detectors to whether a bull really can cause destruction in a china shop, the hosts mix scientific method with good old-fashioned ingenuity to separate fact from fiction and set the record straight on our mainstream thinking.
Perhaps MythBusters could make a visit to Wall Street, since there’s been a lot of market talk lately that really makes it hard for everyday investors to separate fact from fiction. … Read the rest
Sometimes I get a letter that just knocks me back on me heels because it’s so perceptive and well-written!
I received just such a letter from Steve Anderson, Anderson Agency, Inc. Steve’s manufacturers’ representative company has been a MANA member since 1987.
With Steve’s permission I am reprinting his letter here. I hope you will find it as insightful and inspiring as I did.
— Charles Cohon, CEO, MANA
I formed my rep agency approximately 34 years ago at the ripe old age of 27. At that time, and for many reps like me, our youthful, wild-eyed, exuberance gave … Read the rest