I Don’t Know Who You Are


I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product….
Now — what was it you wanted to sell me?

McGraw-Hill Magazines
“Man in the Chair” ad, 1958

I don’t know what a rep is.
I don’t know what services you provide.
I don’t know how your firm adds value.
Now — why should we keep sending you commission checks?

Recent Business School Graduate
Just hired as a key executive at your most important principal

Why do MANA and other manufacturers’ representatives associations reach out to business schools? Because someday the graduates of those business schools will be recruited to become the regional sales managers, sales managers, sales vice-presidents, or even presidents of the companies our members represent.
What happens if those recent business school graduates show up for their first day of work without already knowing what a manufacturers’ representative is and the value we add to their companies? That manufacturing company’s representatives risk ending up as collateral damage when these uninformed executives’ learning curves include ill-advised decisions to cut commission rates, take house accounts, or move to a direct sales forces.

Who suffers when business schools graduate students who don’t understand manufacturers’ representatives? Everybody suffers!

Manufacturers’ representatives suffer when principal relationships sour and commissions fall.

Customers suffer when a manufacturer’s new policies impair customers’ ability to access the manufacturers’ representative expertise they’d come to rely upon.

Manufacturers suffer when disgruntled customers defect to new suppliers.

That’s why I spoke at Harvard Business School in October, at Columbia Business School in April, and maintain close ties to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ Entrepreneurial Selling course. (Video of the Harvard presentation is online at www.bit.ly/MANA_HBS.)

Are you ready to join us in getting out the word about manufacturers’ representatives? Then help us reach out to academia! Contact your alma mater and offer to speak to a business class, or introduce us to key academics and we’ll schedule a MANA presentation there. Let us know how we can help!

Walter Tobin, Charley Cohon, Liz Beerman and Ken Hooper.

Special thanks to three other representative association executives on hand for MANA CEO Charles Cohon’s Harvard Business School presentation. Pictured with Cohon (second from left) are Electronics Representatives Association CEO Walter Tobin, Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation Executive Director Liz Beerman, and National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association CEO Ken Hooper.

Get Away From Being Sales Focused — for a Moment


By the time you are reading this, Groundhog Day has likely already come and gone for this year. This somewhat unusual, yet arguably charming, “holiday” is an annual reminder that a season’s change is upcoming. Maybe spring will come sooner, maybe later? But the upcoming change is inevitable — and hopefully it is sooner.

Sometimes change is naturally accepted and sometimes not. If change happens to us, typically we get to work right away as we must adapt and survive. For manufacturers’ representatives, if we lose an employee, we get to work right away on finding a new one. Same … Read the rest

Be Prepared!
A Sound Business Model


Have a plan! Always be prepared!

Those two sentences might very well serve as a mantra for independent manufacturers’ representatives. At least that’s what Bob Black believes.

What happens to the typical agency when an evolving technology changes the way the market responds? What happens when an agency loses its largest line? How does it respond? How does it recover?

Black and partner Rick Tabone, who head MANA-member The Identity Group, Colleyville, Texas, have asked and answered those questions as it has now moved from the independent representative side of the desk to the manufacturer’s side (Hadrus Vinyl Graphics Manufacturing, … Read the rest

Reps From Varied Industries Find a Home at MANA


It would appear that there are more similarities than dissimilarities between BP Associates and its fellow independent manufacturers’ representative firms.

Where BP differs, naturally, is in its product mix. BP Associates, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, is an independent manufacturers’ representative agency that serves manufacturers and retailers in the bike, outdoor, and winter sports business. That profile offers quite a contrast to typical MANA member firms which are largely OEM-oriented.

A quick look at the company profile (www.bpassociates.com) shows the wide range of products that the agency represents — everything from cycling, hiking, outdoor and winter sports. But that’s just … Read the rest

Nobody Believes Us:
Why Are We Still Telling Customers What to Do?


Even though we know that “telling isn’t selling,” we can’t stop doing it. It’s become “second nature” to tell customers what to think, believe and buy.

In a sense it is, since most of us were raised to “respect authority,” whether it was the police, teachers, clergy, bosses, doctors, accountants, politicians, reporters, bankers, business leaders, coaches and news anchors.

It worked well for selling just about anything, but not now. The air has gone out of respect for authority, including marketing and sales.

Even so, playing the authority card continues. From actors in TV ads wearing white coats with stethoscopes … Read the rest

When the Going Gets Tough


Life in the dynamic and unpredictable business world means that sometimes things will not go according to plan. When a business is in crisis, it is easy to become trapped beneath a mountain of problems, but in order to succeed, individuals must be motivated and be able to sustain performance during a crisis and times of stress.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

A lot of people believe that the true leadership capacity of … Read the rest

Selling With Your Personality


Anyone can sell if the price is cheap enough or if what is being sold is something people can’t live without. However, for the vast majority of us, neither of these luxuries are part of the scenario in our sales strategy.

The difficulty of selling is compounded by the fact that most customers have a wide range of options available to them regarding what they can buy. Therefore, in order to close the sale, it becomes necessary for us to stand out from other salespeople. One of the best ways to be different is by displaying a confident personality.

A … Read the rest

The Definitive Answer to Why You Should Cold Call


There continues to be controversy as to whether or not cold calling works and whether or not you should do it. First, yes, it does still work. Second, yes, you should still do it. Here’s why and here’s how.

Why You Should Cold Call

Cold calling is the most difficult sales task, and that’s exactly why you should never stop doing it. It’s simple, if you can effectively contact people cold and get results, you’ve conquered the most difficult sales task and you can learn and do any other part of the sales process.

The reason why the vast majority … Read the rest

A Realistic Perspective on Closing the Sale


There is not a salesperson in existence who hasn’t repeatedly heard of the need to “close the sale.” Every new sales manager must view the process of encouraging his or her sales force to “close the sale” as an initiation into the profession. If you’re going to be a sales manager, you, therefore, must improve everyone’s ability to “close.” Doesn’t it come with the job?

The sales training literature is awash with advice, some of it tedious and trivial: “If he says this, you say that.” Other advice is grandiose: “35 new sure-fire closing techniques.” Still other is harmful. “Overcome … Read the rest

Think Like a Marketer


Because you are a business unto yourself with your own brand to promote, it is only logical that you should think like a marketer.

Personal brands are symbolic embodiments of an individual professional that publicly distinguish that person from all other competitors. A brand is a trademark, a distinctive name, and a combination of images that creates associations and expectations in the minds of audience members.

Marketers of products and services are obsessed with branding. Companies hire talented marketers to craft strategic plans for each of their brands and then carry out the communication tactics that are part of the … Read the rest

Preparing for the Move to Independent Sales


As reported by one manufacturer, making the move from a direct to an independent manufacturers’ representative sales force is hardly as easy as flipping the light switch on a wall. According to the manufacturer who made that move seven years ago, there’s a good deal of preparation that goes into the change.

“Here’s the process we went through,” he continued. “First of all, the preparation for such a switch from direct to independent agencies should actually begin even before the final decision is made. It’s commonly maintained that a major reason for using agencies is that they reduce a manufacturer’s … Read the rest

Hashtagging Your Way to Social Media Relevance


Not so many years ago, many people probably paid little attention to that pound sign on the computer keyboard. You know, the one that looks like this: #. Then along came Twitter and what we have come to call the “hashtag,” and social media marketing was changed forever.

Yet not everyone takes advantage of hashtags the way they should, and that’s unfortunate because if you are not using hashtags you are missing out on exposure for you and your brand.

When you are on social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram, your goal should be to become part of … Read the rest

E-mail Missteps Every Online Marketer Must Know


Boring the Audience

There are a ton of ways online marketers can bore their audience, from lackluster subject lines to verbiage-laden text-only e-mails, to e-mails that only talk about the company and provide nothing of tangible or even perceived value — the all-important “what’s in it for me” factor. While e-mail can feel one-sided, it is really intended to be a conversation — the start of one. Savvy marketers understand this. For a better success rate, provide an enticing offer and certainly an eye-catching subject line to encourage positive open rates. Design colorful and well-branded graphics to appeal to our … Read the rest

Questions to Ask Your Lawyer When You Have a Bad Day


Imagine you have represented a certain manufacturer and provided increasing product sales for a number of years, if not decades. Then one day, you unexpectedly receive a termination notice from the account along with a dictate from the principal as to how the relationship will be wound down. After reading your contract, you disagree with this dictate. Worse yet, you then discover that your key salesperson (who has recently resigned from your company) has been identified by the principal to be its new representative in the same territory! It’s been a bad day! You decide to seek legal advice.

MANA’s … Read the rest

Do You Have a Cookie-Cutter Retirement Plan?


5 Need-to-Know Items as You Approach Retirement From a Holistic Financial Planner

If you’re 10 years out from when you expect to retire, then now is the time to get serious about a retirement plan.

No matter what stage you’re in, there’s never a bad time to take responsibility for your financial destiny. However, a decade away from retirement should signify to pre-retirees that it’s really time to get a comprehensive plan if you want to enjoy retirement.

In recent years, retirement planning has received plenty of attention. In 2011, the first of the baby boomers reached what used to … Read the rest

What’s the Most Important Factor in Keeping Your Retirement Money Safe?


Don’t Assume Industry Standards Are Always What’s Best

Don’t be so quick to simply accept what a financial advisor offers for your retirement — that’s the takeaway from multiple red flags since the 2008-09 economic crisis.

First, there’s an important difference between advice that’s “suitable,” called the suitability standard, and what’s best for an advisor’s client, called the fiduciary standard. As reported in PBS’s Frontline, just 15 percent of financial advisors met the “what’s best for the client” standard as recently as 2013. The majority fit into the suitable category — the bare minimum in professional qualifications — which … Read the rest

MANA Thanks Director
Greg Bruno

Past MANA Board Chairman Tom Hayward extends MANA’s thanks to MANA Board member Greg Bruno
Past MANA Board Chairman Tom Hayward (left) of United Sales Associates extends MANA’s thanks to MANA Board member Greg Bruno of Midlantic Enterprises, Inc., for his insight and commitment to MANA’s mission during Bruno’s two terms of service as a MANA Board member.… Read the rest