Thank You Cincinnati!


A couple of months ago I thanked Texas MANA members for their warm welcome and hospitality when we met for lunch and conversation in Dallas. Now I have the opportunity to extend those same thanks to Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky MANA members, and members of the Manufacturers’ Agents of Cincinnati (MAC) who met me for a joint MANA/MAC lunch and conversation at the Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati.

MANA/MAC lunch

A good turnout at the joint MANA/MAC lunch.

Why were Dallas and Cincinnati some of the best meetings I’ve ever had? I think it’s because we established a “PowerPoint-Free Zone” for our meetings. No projector. No screen. Just informal questions, answers and conversation about topics important to representatives, and some friendly networking.

There are still topics best communicated with formal presentations, but it seems that there is less appetite for a classroom setting and more of an appetite for conversation. The message I’m getting is, “Talk with me, not at me.” Message received!

MAC ( is an association focused on representative and principal best practices much like MANA, except that, as the name suggests, it focuses its attention on the area surrounding Cincinnati.

A special treat for me during this visit was the opportunity to meet with most of MAC’s Board of Directors, MANA past Chairman Tom Hayward, and MANA Board member John Davis before the meeting. Getting together face-to-face to share ideas and best practices with other associations that share MANA’s interests is a very important part of MANA’s role in promoting the representative system of selling.

My biggest takeaway from Dallas and Cincinnati is that my role at those meetings has been to get the conversation started, and keep it on track. The combined experience of 20 or 30 representatives in the room brings more expertise to the table than any MANA CEO could bring.

So, again, thanks to Dallas and Cincinnati, and I’m looking forward to an upcoming (at press time) “PowerPoint-Free Zone” in New Jersey. Where’s next? I’m open to suggestions, e-mail me at

Left to right: Jeff Witt, John Davis, Larry Roy, Chris Schnetzer, Charlie McDonald, Dick Harvey, Tom Hayward, Rick Pierce and Charles Cohon.

Attendees at the MAC Board meeting (left to right) Jeff Witt, John Davis, Larry Roy, Chris Schnetzer, Charlie McDonald, Dick Harvey, Tom Hayward, Rick Pierce and Charles Cohon.

The Carrot Is Mightier Than the Stick


I’ve often said that principals who use “crack the whip” tactics on their rep sales force are essentially exercising the most expensive (and least efficient) management tool possible.

This is because principals who “crack the whip” on rep sales forces ultimately have to pay more commission just to keep their reps on board compared to other principals who treat their reps well.

Cracking the whip should be reserved for situations where one of my best customer’s orders is running late — just kidding.

All kidding aside, principals need to manage rep sales forces mostly with carrots and rarely resort to … Read the rest

Manufacturers Marketing to Agents


Honesty begets trust. Trust begets performance. That’s how Stephen Fowler opens a conversation about how manufacturers ought to be marketing themselves to independent manufacturers’ representatives.

To emphasize his point about honesty and trust, Fowler, Process Equipment Resources & Consulting, Bridgewater, New Jersey, refers to the 1885 Winslow Homer painting “The Fog Warning.” In this work, the artist depicts a fisherman who has been successful with his day’s work. The halibut in his dory attest to the fact he’s done his job — but the most difficult task lies ahead of him as he must successfully navigate his way back to … Read the rest

An Agency That “Gets It” for More Than a Century


MANA-member H. Clay Moore & Associates can trace its roots all the way back to the end of the 19th century when the agency represented a chimney construction company. Today, more than a century later, the Atlanta, Georgia-based agency continues to serve a variety of customers in the Southeast including electric utilities, pulp and paper mills, municipal waste water treatment plants and general industry.

In addition to its rich history and lengthy tenure in Atlanta, Agency Sales was urged by one of the firm’s manufacturers to follow up on a 2001 visit because in the words of the manufacturer “This … Read the rest

What Salespeople Can Learn From the Presidential Race


While the presidential race is showing us many qualities of politicians that we don’t want to emulate such as: bad-mouthing the competition, vacillating on the issues, and bending truths, there are several other qualities that we can emulate to make ourselves super-successful as salespeople.

Qualities of Politicians You Do Want to Emulate

  • Put Yourself Out There

The successful politicians who get their name out and are heard through the noise, are great at putting themselves out there and letting everyone know they are there. They seem to have mastered the primary fear that stops most salespeople: the fear of rejection. … Read the rest

The Need for Speed


“Customers want high quality at low prices and they want it now.” — Bill Gates

When it comes to customer service, we all want to “get out” quickly and get back to our lives. Generally speaking, just about the only time customers are going to contact you is when they need help, so speed counts in getting them where they’d like to be.

Customers Value Speed … Amazon! “…if you wanna do more of something, make the friction less. If you wanna do less of something, make the friction more.” — Jeff Bezos

Amazon has such an immense number of … Read the rest

Have You Sold Yourself?


You will always be your number-one customer. It’s not the big account you service, nor is it the hot new prospect you just uncovered. It’s you. The reason is simple. If you’re not completely confident in what you’re selling, you will never come close to maximizing your sales potential. Your sales motivation will always lag behind what it really could be.

The current sales environment makes the need to sell yourself even more important. If you think you’re the exception to this rule and you’re not completely confident in the products or services you offer, ask yourself this simple question: … Read the rest

Are You Ready to Meet the CEO?


It’s the meeting for which you’ve been waiting.

Finally, you’ve been able to secure a meeting with the CEO of the company you know you can help. For the past year, you’ve been researching the company and developing relationships with as many people as possible.

In particular, you have gotten to know the two gatekeepers who have been up to now blocking your way to the CEO. Last week your call to the administrative assistant finally hit home and you’re on the CEO’s calendar in three weeks.

Now is the time to get ready.

The degree to which you prepare … Read the rest

Common Mistakes When Identifying Customer Needs


When managers plan their business strategies, common sense dictates that these game-plans should be in line with customer needs. The first step in planning is therefore to identify customer preferences. Unfortunately, most conventional approaches to determining customer needs are flawed.

Here are five of the most common methods used to gather customer opinions along with their drawbacks. Keep these often-made mistakes in mind when planning your business strategy.

Mistake #1 — Counting Cash

One way to find out what customers think — indirectly at least — is to look at revenues, the assumption being that if revenues are increasing then … Read the rest

It’s All About the Risk!


Sometimes it is so frustrating. You know you have a better product than that which your prospect is currently using. Your price is attractive, your service is outstanding. If the prospect would switch to your solution, you know they’d be delighted. You’d save them money, smooth out their processes, reduce their inventory and generally make their life simpler.

So, why won’t they switch? Are people really that stupid? Or, is it you? Did you do something to put them off?

While there are some circumstances where the answers would be yes to the questions above, the most likely answer is … Read the rest

“What Do You Mean, Think?
I Have Work to Do.”


If you want your associates to roll their eyes, look at you as if you’ve lost your marbles, or walk away shaking their heads, tell them that thinking is the best business tool ever made.

Like oil and water, Tom Brady and Roger Goodell, and culture and the Kardashians, thinking and business are usually at odds with each other. Taking action is the key to success in business, not sitting around thinking.

“I will act now,” Og Mandino, the venerated sales guru urged in his bestseller The Greatest Salesman in the World. To make his point, he repeated, “I … Read the rest

Allaying a Manufacturer’s Concerns


While in the process of establishing its network of independent sales representatives for the first time, a manufacturer sought some advice from a non-competitive manufacturer that had years of experience working with agents.

According to the manufacturer, “We’re right at the point where we’re close to choosing our agents. While we’re doing that we’ve become acutely aware of the potential benefits and even the negatives that might accompany going to market with reps.”

He then went on to describe his exchange with the manufacturer he sought advice from.

“One of our worries was that we’d have to train our new … Read the rest

Using Technology to Serve Customers


Customer service is paramount for success in business. When you find a technology that helps you serve customers better and save money at the same time, that is a great combination. This is especially true when you’re looking to go global.

In this article I want to share two technologies that give businesses the ability to connect with customers in a very powerful, helpful way — all while cutting costs and expanding profitability.

Reaching Customers Globally

You know that global opportunities are enormous. For many companies, expanding globally helps them to temper negative local economic conditions. To connect with customers, … Read the rest

Reps Should Not Always Turn the Other Cheek

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Every experienced rep has stories like this to tell, most often from a relationship with a manufacturer who is not a MANA member.

Two and a half years invested in developing an account while receiving zero compensation, a rep meets with the first stirrings of success. The customer finally agrees to receive samples, and the rep happily reports this development to his partner, the manufacturer. The response is swift: termination. The samples, meanwhile, are on their way directly, and the deal with the customer closes soon after.

After enduring an uncertain relationship for years with a principal who pays late, … Read the rest

Separating Your Paychecks From Your Playchecks

Avoid Retirement Complaints With Four Tips for Perspective

As droves of Baby Boomers continue to enter retirement, a startling finding was reported this year —  only 27 percent of them are confident that they’ll have enough money to last through their retirement, according to an Insured Retirement Institute study. About 36 percent said they plan to retire at 70 or later, an increase from 19 percent in 2011.

“As time marches on and boomers have other financial stressors, they’re realizing that they need to really focus on strategy, which for many includes postponing retirement,” says Joshua Mellberg, founder of J.D. … Read the rest

A Proven Way to Pay Less Taxes


Manufacturers and independent manufacturers’ agents are unknowingly overpaying their income taxes and severely cutting their profitability. 

Let’s face it, it’s not the revenue that matters, it’s not even your paycheck that matters. What really matters in the end is how much income stays in your pocket. You can control your direct and indirect expenses. You can control your costs. You can control which products to manufacture or which lines to sell. You can actually control just about every aspect of your business. You can choose your customers because not everyone that wants to buy from you will be a good … Read the rest

MANA Continues Its Outreach to Business Schools

Charles Cohon, Vickie Pedersen, Arno Marcuse, Richard W. Sinclair and Gary Naumann.MANA’s outreach to bring the concept of manufacturers’ representatives into business schools continued recently with presentations to two classes at Arizona State University. Joining MANA CEO Charles Cohon (left) for the event were MANA members (left to right) Vickie Pedersen, Pedersen Group, LLC; Arno Marcuse, AGM Technical Solutions, LLC; Richard W. Sinclair, Applied Process Equipment, Inc.; and Professor Gary C. Naumann, W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University. Would your alma mater benefit from a MANA presentation? Reach out to MANA CEO Charles Cohon at… Read the rest