Welcome to the Rock!


A manufacturers’ representative walked into the gift shop of the former United States Penitentiary at Alcatraz. Among the various souvenirs offered for sale, he came across a copy of the Institution Rules & Regulations issued to each new inmate, written by Warden Paul J. Madigan.

image of "the rock"

© Dima_Rogozhin | stock.adobe.com

Leafing through the facsimile of the original 19-page mimeographed pamphlet, he paused to read Rule Five, titled “Privileges,” which states: “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else that you get is a privilege. You earn your privileges by conducting yourself properly.”

“Sweet deal,” he murmured quietly to himself, softly enough so the other tourists couldn’t hear him speak. “In manufacturers’ representative agreements you aren’t entitled to anything, and you have to earn everything.”

That manufacturers’ representative summed up the reason that MANA members are really the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneurs. Because this is the group that heard the offer, “Who only wants to eat what they kill themselves?” and swiftly, confidently replied: “Sign me up for that deal! I will do better looking after myself than I would ever do working for somebody else and expecting them to look after me!”

Which is why it is such an honor and a pleasure to be CEO of an association built around that special breed of entrepreneurs and the companies that use those entrepreneurs who take their products to market.

There is one more reason that it’s such a privilege to be the CEO of MANA. It’s because our industry is so welcoming to industrious individuals who are determined to build a business but have little more than just their own individual drive, ambition and perseverance to make it happen.

Unlike other more capital-intensive businesses, a successful manufacturers’ representative firm can be built with just a strong work ethic, a serviceable car, a cell phone, a laptop, business cards, and just enough savings to squeak by and pay expenses during the first year while the new firm builds its book of business.

The best predictor of which firms will succeed is how hard the founder works and how lucky the founder is. And the harder the founder works, the luckier the founder seems to be!

What a pleasure it is to be surrounded by entrepreneurs who at some point in their lives just said, “I can do this.” And then they did.

It’s rarely easy, but it’s almost always rewarding. Because when it comes to manufacturers’ representatives (with apologies to Dr. Robert H. Schuller for paraphrasing the title of his book): Tough times never last, but tough manufacturers’ representative firms do.

The Importance of Principals Having a Professional Approach to Prospective Reps


When a manufacturer approaches a prospective manufacturers’ representative, the manufacturers’ representative wants to learn two things. First, does this company supply a product or service my customers need? If yes, the next thing they want to learn is, do they understand the professional way to work with us?

What do we mean by that?

Before coming to MANA, I owned a manufacturers’ representative business. Prior to that, I worked as a sales manager for a company that sold through independent manufacturers’ representatives. That experience, along with what I learned here at MANA, taught me there are three kinds of principals. … Read the rest

Principals Should Tailor Their Approach to Prospective Reps


In the previous two issues of Agency Sales, the importance of presentations has been examined. The February issue studied the importance of the independent manufacturers’ rep’s presentation to the customer. That was followed in March by an examination of how the rep should tailor his approach to a prospective principal.

This month the “presentation” focus shifts to how a principal should craft its presentation to a prospective independent manufacturers’ representative.

In an article that follows this one, individuals who have been involved in the principal-to-rep presentation offer their views. Among the opinions offered by those individuals, there’s a consensus … Read the rest

Honesty — the Best Start for Any Relationship


From the very start, honesty is the best policy to pursue in the manufacturer’s contacts with prospective independent representation. That’s the belief of Charlie Ingram, vice president of sales and marketing for Eriez Magnetics, Erie, Pennsylvania. And, he’s not alone in following that philosophy.

Ingram and Eriez, who have been working with an outsourced sales force for years, maintains that “Honesty in all your representations is definitely on the ‘do’ list as a manufacturer solicits a prospective rep. While there will always be some guarded information about your company, there should absolutely be no misrepresentation about anything that you are … Read the rest

Synergy and Coverage Attract Admix to Independent Reps


Synergy and effective geographical coverage might best be described as the twin magnets that attract Advanced Mixing Technologies, Inc. (Admix) to an independent manufacturers’ representative firm.

“When we’re looking at a prospective rep firm, we always consider synergy from a marketing standpoint,” explains Keith Cherise, director of sales and marketing for the Londonderry, New Hampshire, manufacturer of innovative stainless steel mixing technologies. The company’s mixing systems accommodate customers’ mixing, blending, and particle-size reduction needs and Admix specializes in in-tank batch mixing, inline mixing and milling, and powder reduction.

Cherise explains that the company’s products ensure that there are no unmixed … Read the rest

Manufacturers to the Rescue


“I’ve been a manufacturers’ representative since 2001. Looking back, I consider the move to become a rep one of the best decisions I ever made. I represent some great companies and they are like family to me.”

That’s how Mike Gorman, who recently joined MANA, introduces himself, and it’s fitting that he heaps praise on the manufacturers that he represents. As he relates what happened to him, it’s understandable that that praise he directs toward his principals is well deserved.

But first, here’s how and why Gorman, MFG Tool Sales, Piqua, Ohio, became an independent manufacturers’ representative.

“I don’t know, … Read the rest

Your Best Bet for Success…Hire the Right People


All of your locations are up and running. You’ve done all you could do to advertise and get a jump on your competition. So now, the only thing you have left to do is the hiring. Plus you must retain good employees.

Success includes retaining good employees. Turnover creates inefficiencies that cost companies major dollars every year, so it’s important to pay employees for the efficiencies they create and for staying with the company. Success is hiring and retaining good employees and — training them.

Treasure Your Best Employees

In 1994, Cary Albert and his wife Jacquelyn began Schlotzsky’s. At … Read the rest

Why Companies Can’t Get Marketing Right


Marketing rarely fails because of a lack of interest, ideas, or even adequate resources. However, it always fails when it doesn’t turn prospective buyers into believers.

Marketing derails when it’s little more than a series of loosely strung together and uncoordinated “tactics”— e-mail campaigns, promotions, presentations, blogs, social media engagements, charitable support, newsletters, collateral pieces, webinars, events, and all the other stuff intended to “get the message out.”

While this is a high-activity picture, it’s also a fruitless one. It helps explain why marketing budgets are cut and market managers last a year or two and move on. Then, the … Read the rest

Pre-Gaming to Increase Sales Success


So often in sports we learn about how one team prepares for the other. They watch the films and listen to the interviews that are conducted by the media to see if they can pick up a couple of clues or tendencies that will lead to a victory. In some cases, teams have been accused of filming their opponents’ practice to see if they can achieve a competitive edge.

Most individuals have tendencies; they are predictable. People are comfortable with what they know and tend to follow a pattern. In selling, the goal of a top-level performer is to uncover … Read the rest

Master Versatility to Drive Sales Results


Applying social styles to gain access, increase close rates, and protect your customer base.

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

  • A salesperson returns from an important client call with no new information or insight into the customer’s need or problem.
  • You have a surprising sales loss at the proposal stage because of an undisclosed need or concern.
  • A customer cut a meeting short or doesn’t return the salesperson’s calls.
  • A salesperson uses an approach with one customer to great success, but the same approach with another customer causes them to become impatient and tense.

The common factor among … Read the rest

Blast From the Past — Legal and Legislative Review

MANA 70th AnniversaryThe year was 1947. Harry S. Truman was president, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and on October 17, 1947, the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association joined the community of not-for-profit trade associations.

To celebrate our 70th MANAversary year, each Agency Sales magazine through October will include a “blast from the past” article from the early issues of The AGENT and Representative magazine, which eventually became Agency Sales.

These nostalgic looks back at how our counterparts from seven decades ago conducted their businesses and their lives are really eye-opening, in some cases because they conducted their business so differently from … Read the rest

Reps to the Rescue


Call it gathering support from the field or a backdoor approach, it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that one manufacturer sales manager counted on his outsourced sales force to back him on a variety of marketing efforts — and his approach worked.

Here’s how the sales manager explained the situation: “I had a number of marketing ideas that involved my network of independent manufacturers’ representatives. The problem was the top executives of the company didn’t buy in. Rather than give up on what I thought were effective methods to expand our brand in a number of territories, I … Read the rest

Tech Tools for Successful Salespeople


Ask any independent manufacturers’ representative or manufacturer who has several years’ experience under their belt what they feel is the greatest change in how they conduct business and chances are they’ll point to technology.

The constant change and the accompanying growth of the tools that they use to perform their jobs have transformed all of their interactions between themselves and their customers. While some might bemoan the fact the technology to some extent has impersonalized business (i.e., high tech means less high touch), the majority will maintain that today select technologies provide such an enormous leap that we wouldn’t think … Read the rest

Protect Your Company: Understand Product Liability, Indemnity and Insurance


My client, an independent sales representative, was named as a defendant in a product liability lawsuit. Admittedly, that’s not the norm, but this article should serve as a cautionary tale to consider issues of product liability, indemnity and insurance when negotiating contracts with your principals.

My client’s rep firm represents manufacturers of commercial office and restaurant furniture. Not particularly dangerous stuff, right?

Her firm solicited an order from a restaurant for the sale of bistro chairs and tables. Five years after the restaurant received the furniture, a restaurant patron took a seat on a bistro chair which overturned, severely injuring … Read the rest

Chasing the Cash


I recently received an interesting text from a client which inquired “In your weekly ‘Two‑Minute‑Tuesday’ video market round-up, you stated that your main intermediate indicator had shifted from ‘Offense’ to ‘Defense.’ Given the election last fall, I’m nervous. Should we just sell everything and go to cash?”

The short answer to that insightful question is “No.”

You see, selling all of your investments and converting to 100 percent cash is an aggressive move. But for me to make this bold move, there would have to be absolutely nowhere to hide and no hope for the any of the six primary … Read the rest

Announcing the 2017 MANA Board of Directors Election Results

MANA’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce its new Chairperson and that two highly qualified candidates have been elected to MANA’s Board of Directors for a two-year term starting May 1, 2017.

MANA’s new chairperson of the board is MANA Director John Beaver of GSA who assumes Ken McGregor’s role as chairperson May 1, 2017.

MANA’s new directors are Michelle Jobst, CPMR, and Charlie Ingram.

Jobst owns manufacturers’ representative firm Jobst Incorporated. Jobst has been a MANA representative member since 1989. Ingram is vice president, sales & marketing, for Eriez Magnetics. Eriez has been a MANA manufacturer member since … Read the rest