Yes, There Will Always Be Reps


Yes, the Internet has changed the role of manufacturers’ representatives. We no longer deliver boxes of catalogs into the hands of customers eagerly awaiting printed notification of our newest products, or communicate by postal letter or fax.


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Which has led some pundits to predict that Internet selling will eventually replace manufacturers’ representatives completely.

I’ve always known that those pundits were wrong, but I’ve struggled to articulate exactly why they are wrong — until now, thanks to a brief description of human psychology that I share below.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said.

No sustainable advantage in “what you’ve said” for manufacturers’ representatives over Internet selling. We’ve all met with customers and carefully described the features and limitations of our products and secured a sale — and then gotten the call after the sale complaining about the absence of a feature we never offered or the existence of a limitation that we carefully described before the purchase. Whether it is something we said, or something presented on a web page, customers forget or misremember what’s been said or posted on a web page.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said.
People will forget what you did.

Again, no sustainable advantage in “what you did” for manufacturers’ representatives over Internet selling. The memory of our in-person product demonstrations often will fade before the customer makes a buying decision, just as the memory of an online video demonstrating the product also soon fades.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

That is why there will always be manufacturers’ representatives. Because human beings don’t remember what you said, or what you did, but they do remember how you made them feel. A website can reproduce everything that a manufacturers’ representative could say during a sales call. And a website can offer a credible reproduction of the product demonstration a manufacturers’ representative did during a sales call.

But a website can only be a feeble imitation of person-to-person engagement when it comes to how the customer feels about a purchase. All of us have to purchase things that call for special expertise; things that we would be anxious about buying if we did not have an expert at our side. Or purchases where knowing that our business is highly valued reassures us that we will get special attention when we need it.

Manufacturers’ representatives’ roles may change, but they will always be a crucial part of commerce — because customers make buying decisions based on how they feel, and the most powerful way to impact how people feel is face-to-face.

The More Things Change, The More They #staythesame


In the October 2016 issue of Agency Sales, Charles Cohon — MANA CEO — provided an excerpt from MANA’s Executive Secretary, P. Edwin Thomas (MANA Minute — “MANA Featured in Billboard Magazine”). I am glad that Charley quoted Mr. Thomas for two reasons: (a) I learned a new word (multifarious), and (b) I felt a connection to my rep brethren of the past in that I — and I think it is safe to say that many, if not all of us — share the same concerns that Mr. Thomas cited in his essay. The international role and responsibility Read the rest

Rep Turned Manufacturer Depends on Reps


Several years ago Agency Sales published a lengthy series of articles that explored the subject of what constitutes a “Perfect Principal.” The series ran over three years and by the time it was finished more than 30 manufacturers were interviewed and profiled.

Since that series concluded in 2006, several MANA members have suggested we take another look at the manufacturer-rep relationship and examine it especially from the manufacturer point of view.

This month, we begin that effort again. If readers would like to recommend a principal that they work with for consideration in this continuing series, they are asked to Read the rest

MANA Changes With the Times to Meet Member Needs


Elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales, a MANA member invokes the age-old adage, “The only constant is change.” If we can accept the wisdom in those words, they are probably the best way to describe the products/services offering of MANA. If anything, what MANA provides for its members can be termed a moving target in that as members’ needs and wants change, the association is there to assist them.

That’s the message contained in conversations with MANA’s top executives Charley Cohon, president & CEO, and Jerry Leth, vice president and general manager.

Among the many activities that MANA … Read the rest

Long-Standing MANA Members Tout the Benefits of Membership


Even the most rudimentary search of MANA’s membership uncovers an unusually high number of association members who have seemingly been members forever. When asked why they’ve maintained their memberships over so many years, their answers serve as a primer for why independent manufacturers’ representatives ought to maintain relationships with their peers and access the many products and services that their association provides.

For instance, consider what Bill Yorston, Yorston & Associates, has to say about his MANA membership.

“Considering that I have been a member of MANA for the past 20 years, I could write a long list about why … Read the rest

Using Others’ Talents to Accomplish Your Vision


Team-building is a delicate and time-consuming process. Anyone can put together a group of talented people, but it takes a dedicated team leader to bring everyone together effectively. One of the most important considerations you must make is whether or not an applicant fits into your company’s culture. The right person will build upon what you’ve created, but the wrong person can bring it all down very quickly — and culture can take an awfully long time to rebuild.

Learn to Conduct the Orchestra

In the following series of lines from Aaron Sorkin’s already famous screenplay, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak … Read the rest

1-2-3 Plan for Making Your Business Work


The “I’m too busy” excuse can sink your independent manufacturers’ representative business. The problem is an epidemic. Reps never seem to have time to work on their businesses. There is always something in the way. If it’s not a principal visit, it is a trade show, or manufacturer training program.

Agents need to figure out a way to focus their attention on their own business. Here is a simple solution — three things to think about that you have to do if you want to be successful as you move forward.

Line Card Analysis — Commission Income Review

Your business … Read the rest

Protecting Good Accounts From the Competition


We all know the feeling. Your key contact in one of your good accounts sheepishly admits that they have moved some business to a competitor. No problem with your service, it was just a price issue.

Nothing is more discouraging. You’ve spent years developing this account, building relationships, working hard at meeting their needs, and then, in the blink of an eye, you lose the business to a price-cutter.

Is there anything you can do to prevent this? Of course. Here are four proven strategies that will help you prevent your hard-earned business from disappearing into the hands of price … Read the rest

What Leadership Needs to Know About Sales


In the leadership role you probably already get that sales is the primary key to massive success and prosperity.

As you know, the most successful companies sell better and more than everyone else. Starbucks doesn’t have the best coffee, they’ve simply sold an enormous number of people on doing business with them. That said, to ensure colossal success for your company, here are the sales facts you want to ensure your company is living by.

Fact #1: Sales Has to Be at the Top of the Food Chain

Everything starts and stops with sales. Without sales, there is no service … Read the rest

How to Mess Up a Business Without Breaking a Sweat


No matter their strengths, businesses, like people, are always at risk. Some dangers are so blatant they dare being ignored. But others, far less obvious, cause untold — and even fatal — damage, eating away and undermining a company’s best efforts. Their work is insidious and relentless, going unnoticed until it’s too late. And it all happens without anyone breaking a sweat.

Even so, there are clear, but unseen, indicators that a business is in trouble. Here are several to consider:

Wanting to Believe Everything Is Going Great

Business people don’t like bad news. They reject it as they would … Read the rest

Telephone Turnoffs


How to improve telephone communication.

Like you, there are times in my work when e-mails and texts aren’t efficient and I actually need to phone someone and have a real conversation. In my case, it’s when I’m preparing for a training session or to speak at a conference that requires interviewing senior managers and key employees. I’ve made literally thousands of calls over the years and — since I pay particular attention to customer communication — I’ve created a list of Top 10 Telephone Turnoffs. See if you can relate to them, which I’ve rated from least annoying to worst. … Read the rest

Information From the Field


It wasn’t the first time — and probably won’t be the last — when a manufacturer asked the MANA community for feedback on a matter that concerned him.

According to the manufacturer in question, manufacturers are constantly on the lookout for “insight on what our reps are quoting and when they can expect to land orders.” He admitted that based on his and many of his peers’ experience, “reps like to keep their cards close to their vest.” The importance of having such information available to principals, he continued is that “From a manufacturing standpoint, it helps us better forecast … Read the rest

What is Your Agreement’s Term?


Can you be terminated today for no reason?

Lawyers are a lot of things, but we are not magicians. Most times, we cannot make language in your agreement appear different than it actually is. The basic rule in contract interpretation, which is generally followed by the courts, is to give the words in a contract their plain and ordinary meaning. And if your contract lacks a term, then there is simply no term, expressed or implied.

One of the most common calls that I receive from independent manufacturers’ representatives is the one where she or he has just landed the … Read the rest

The Benefits of Exchange Traded Funds


To best explain what an Exchange Traded Fund is, let me first explain what a mutual fund is. Mutual funds, like ETFs, are a basket of investments typically made up of stocks, bonds, commodities and/or currencies.

When you invest in a mutual fund, you’re investing in terms of dollars, not shares. The reason for this is that you never know exactly what price you’re going to pay because you get the closing price of the fund on the day that you buy it. So you say, “Okay, let’s put $10,000 into this mutual fund.” You don’t say, “Let’s buy 217 … Read the rest

Sell Out Crowd at MANA Manufacturer Seminar

Ever increasing in popularity, MANA’s October 13-14 Manufacturer Seminar Best Practices With Reps, Planning With Intent sold out every available seat. First time presenter Charlie Ingram, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Eriez Magnetics, wowed the assembled group when he discussed his first-hand experience managing rep councils.

imageIngram joined veteran presenters (left to right) Kris Hefley, Associate Professor, Johnson & Wales University; Hank Bergson, President, Henry Bergson Associates, LLC; and Charles Cohon, CEO and President, MANA.

This event will repeat in October, 2017. Watch in June, 2017 for complete details and a registration link.… Read the rest

AIM/R Honors Hall of Fame Recipients in 2016

The Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives (AIM/R) announced the AIM/R Hall of Fame on Wednesday, October 19th, at the 44th Annual Conference in Miami, Florida. The association honored three individuals in 2016.

The AIM/R Hall of Fame was established to recognize and honor those outstanding independent manufacturers’ representatives who have walked along side AIM/R in the plumbing, HVAC, PVF, kitchen, bath-related industries. Through their passion, leadership, integrity and entrepreneurial spirit, they have helped create awareness of the manufacturers’ representative and their role in the sales and marketing process. Because of their dedication and volunteerism, AIM/R continues to be the leading … Read the rest