Thank You, Dallas!


Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the nature of the rep business. But over my five years as MANA’s CEO, every year I’ve seen less and less appetite for face-to-face education and networking from MANA members.

Until February.

When Dallas MANA members wowed me by turning out 30-strong for a “PowerPoint-Free Zone*” lunch at Dunston’s Steakhouse, where I facilitated a conversation on topics in our industry that were of interest to that particular group of MANA members.

image of Dallas meeting

MANA members gather for the “PowerPoint-Free Zone” lunch in Dallas, Texas

Thank you, Dallas MANA members, for demonstrating that there can still be exceptions to that trend and that there are still opportunities for MANA members to meet face-to-face to exchange ideas and support the representative system of selling.

At press time we’d just sent surveys to attendees to find out what kind of appetite there is for another Dallas meeting. But even if Dallas MANA members decide to meet only once or twice a year, it will still be reassuring to know that our industry, which hangs its hat on selling the value of face-to-face meetings with customers, puts its money where its mouth is and occasionally invests time in face-to-face meetings among peers.

And the same week this issue hits your mailbox, I’m facilitating another rep conversation in Cincinnati. The topics that interest attendees in Cincinnati will undoubtedly be different from the topics we discussed in Dallas, but what will be the same is that members of our industry will be sitting down together for a meal, sharing common problems and concerns, and having frank discussions about ways to solve those common issues.

Interested in bringing this conversation to your city? If you’re ready to volunteer as MANA’s “boots on the ground” to find a venue and stir up local interest, reach out to me at (877) 626-2776 or

Conversation  not Presentation

NOT Presentation

* What, exactly, is a “PowerPoint-Free Zone?” It means no PowerPoint allowed. No projector. No canned speech. It means conversation instead of presentation. We start with a quick scan of the topics in MANA’s 18-page “Benefits of Membership” booklet to find the topics that are of greatest interest to that particular group, and then open the floor for facilitated conversation.

The Purpose-Driven Salesperson


One of this month’s articles deals with the relationships manufacturers’ representatives create with customers. As I read the initial draft of the article, it brought back memories of when I had my manufacturers’ representative business; specifically, what happened right after I signed an agreement with a new principal.

I graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree. My first job was as an assistant to the plant engineer at an instant coffee plant. Thirteen years later, I left the coffee business and began a sales career. In 1988, I started my own manufacturers’ representative business.

Shortly after I signed an … Read the rest

Putting College Lessons to Work During a Career


Being able to call your own shots, not to mention being rewarded commensurate to your efforts are just two of the reasons that Alan Lupton II was attracted to a career as an independent manufacturers’ representative. That initial attraction has served him well as he finds himself today as president of Lupton Associates, Canandaigua, New York.

As he looks back at the career path he has followed Lupton notes that “Growing up I watched my father being in a position where he decided what he was going to do and being compensated for his efforts. That’s what got my attention.”… Read the rest

The Importance of Defining Relationships


Success for the independent manufacturers’ representative is directly related to an agency’s ability to establish, nurture and maintain relationships with customers. In order to achieve those three lofty goals, it’s critical for the agent to have an in-depth knowledge of his customers and then be able to more than meet their needs.

It’s a little bit like the meaning behind the words sung on Broadway by Julie Andrews in The King and I. “Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you.” That all sounded great, but the question remains how does the agent “get to know” all … Read the rest

Building Rapport With Customers


I enjoy meeting people and helping people, not for what it can get me but for what I can learn about others. I try to always be authentically me and represent my business honestly and build genuine relationships with my customers. When I stick to this strategy, the financial rewards flow.

  • Be more interested in your customers and you will build rapport. Your focus should be on finding something in common. Make friends first. Your goal is to make customers feel that you are someone they can trust. Someone they can believe. Someone they can do business with.
  • Learn to
Read the rest

Passion as a Sales Tool


We all know that sales is really all about “closing the sale.” There is not a salesperson alive who does not use a variety of techniques to help them be successful with customers. However, I believe passion is the most underrated and underutilized sales tool in our arsenal, because it is too hard to measure and no one has found an effective way to teach it.

Why don’t more people use passion to their advantage? It’s simple. Passion exists in those who are humble, focused and unlikely to advertise their expertise.

Passion is an effective sales tool because it isn’t … Read the rest

What Stops Salespeople From Moving Forward?


No matter what we sell, there are times when the brakes are on. Something is holding us back, keeping us from moving forward.

Then, we feel even worse when hearing about someone who gets ahead by overcoming unspeakable adversity. “You can do it. Just change your thinking.” It sounds easy and most of us have tried it dozens of times. And it works — for about five minutes.

As most salespeople know, moving forward is tough, but changing our behavior can help knock down obstacles. Here are eight ideas to get the wheels moving in the right direction:

1. Get Read the rest

Sales Is Rigged in Favor of the Hard Workers and Self‑Disciplined


Lately I’ve heard several politicians saying that America is rigged so that only the rich can win. They’re dead wrong. America is still rigged for the people who are willing to roll up their sleeves, work extremely hard, and sacrifice short-term pleasure today for long-term gain tomorrow. It’s rigged for those willing to stick a hand out to help others vs. those looking for a handout. In the largest economy ever created on the planet, America is still the land of opportunity. And life will still pay whatever price you ask, but it’s not just going to hand you the … Read the rest

Do You Have a Selling System?


“I have my own style of selling.”

That is a remark I have heard a number of times, usually from relatively inexperienced salespeople. What they usually mean is something like this: “I don’t have any real system to what I do, I don’t want any scrutiny, and I probably am not going to learn anything from you.”

How valid is this position? Does every salesperson have a unique style of selling? Are they just trying to hide from accountability under the cover of individual “style”? Or is there some other explanation?

More important, should your company allow every salesperson to … Read the rest

Company Sales Meeting: Great Opportunities but — Preparation and Control Are Key


After attending one independent sales agency’s annual “all hands” sales meeting and talking to several other reps about their plans for company sales meetings there are a few thoughts that emerge front and center.

Where Makes a Big Difference

The nature of the facility and the quality of service provided by the place that is playing host to your meeting makes a huge difference. I have attended more sales meetings than I would like to count. The difference facilities and services make is huge.

Food Counts

Our armies travel on their stomachs. The quality of the lunch and break service … Read the rest

Making Effective Use of Sales Meetings


“We’ve always done a good job of providing product information to our network of independent manufacturers’ representatives especially during our annual sales meetings. But after that, experience has shown us that our sales meeting content sort of falls flat.” That’s how one manufacturer described his company’s experience when it came to providing information for their outsourced sales force.

In an effort to counter a good amount of wasted time during these sales meetings, he went on to explain a couple of things he incorporated into the meetings that have really paid dividends “for both us and our reps.”

“In addition … Read the rest

How to Work Less and Get More Done


In the days before e-mail entered our lives (up till the mid-1990s) the most pervasive interruption for the average manager was a ringing phone.

Even then, most managers had secretaries who screened their calls. Then along comes e-mail. Managers now receive dozens of messages from anyone — including spammers. The problem gets worse as employees who are sending e-mail messages within a company can easily send copies, no matter how trivial, to everyone else — including to other managers. The end result is that with the advent of e-mail it’s easy for a manager to spend an entire day reacting … Read the rest

Your Best Principal Was Just Sold. Now What?


Planning for Changes in Control and Welcoming Opportunities With the New Owner

Your best principal was just sold. Hearing those words is generally not welcome news to the established rep. In some cases, new relationships are forged and a mutually rewarding situation continues for the rep and new owner. In other cases, the new owner takes the business in a “different” direction, putting future sales and the rep’s commissions at risk.

In recent years, principal ownership changes have increased consistent with the trend of increased merger and acquisition activity. The purpose of this article is to provide guidelines and a … Read the rest

Game-Changer Investing


Stick With the Plan, Stan

Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, will once again play host for the 2016 Masters Tournament, slated for April 7th. If you’re a golf fanatic like I am, I’m sure you’re anxiously anticipating the showdown between the sport’s newest generation of superstars like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.

The Masters Tournament challenges its vaunted participants by forcing them to develop a disciplined playing strategy that is centered on their individual strengths and weaknesses. A winning game plan that the golfer can trust even after the dubious double-bogey on the famous 13th hole. … Read the rest