Making the Short List


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Getting “found” by manufacturers who need representation. It’s one of the benefits of membership that MANA representative members mention most.

But getting from being found to earning an interview takes time and savvy. So how do you make it from the manufacturer’s long “these firms might be possibilities” list to the short “we need to interview these firms” list?

When a manufacturer searches MANA’s RepFinder database, he or she might find five potential representative firms — or 100. When the list is long, how do manufacturers decide who makes it from the long list to the short list?

Some manufacturers have shared ways they narrow down their long list. If you could put those manufacturers in a conference room, the discussion might sound like this:

“It’s interesting,” noted Sam. “Usually I have no problem finding enough reps in the RepFinder, but sometimes I find too many. When I start with a really long list, I have some rules of thumb I use to shorten the list.

“The first thing I do,” Sam continued, “is look at their websites and see if their other lines are complementary to our product. Reps that don’t have a website are the first ones I cut from my list.”

“My rules of thumb include how they use e-mail addresses,” said Cindy. “Now, remember that when I hire a representative, I am usually placing several million dollars with that firm,” she added, “so I feel I have the right to be extra picky.

“One of my pet peeves is representatives whose MANA profile doesn’t have an actual person’s e-mail address. They just have or info@ When I send an e-mail, I want to know who I’m sending it to, so firms with generic addresses get the boot.

“And the same goes for firms that won’t invest $40 per year to have an e-mail address that matches their web domain,” Cindy continued. “They may be hanging onto their AOL account or Gmail account for a variety of good reasons, but if they don’t have an e-mail address like, to me that’s a red flag.”

“Interesting that you mentioned red flags,” added Jim. “When I see a rep profile where the entire profile is in lower case, or has spelling errors, or lists their phone as 3125551212 instead of (312) 555-1212, that firm doesn’t make it to the short list.”

Are these rules arbitrary? Are they unfair? Perhaps. But since the cost to make these fixes ranges from free to $40, why not update your MANA member profile today to help your representative firm make it from the long list to the short list?

Is There Such a Person as a Perfect Rep?


As I consider my 23-year history as an independent manufacturers’ representative, I’ve got to admit that I’ve really never encountered one! I’ve seen very successful reps — but not perfect ones. Wouldn’t achieving perfection lead to more compensation? Why can’t we get there?

Shouldn’t striving for perfection be in the DNA of a great rep? But what does perfection really mean? Is it someone who is ideal, flawless, faultless? There are so many words we could use to describe perfection; but I’ve got to admit that I’ve never been labeled with any of these adjectives.

As I consider the concept … Read the rest

Revisiting: The Perfect Rep


More than 15 years ago, long-time MANA-member Harry Abramson authored a series of articles for Agency Sales magazine focused on the importance of perfection. Before he was done, Abramson, who founded Electronic Salesmasters Inc., more than 40 years ago, had tackled the subject of perfection from the vantage point of the rep, principal, customer and other perspectives. While Abramson retired from his agency in 2015, he is still “hands‑on” in his capacity as a consultant to ESI.

Beginning this month and following up in June and July, Agency Sales will be revisiting the subject of perfection as it applies to … Read the rest

A Rep With a View to the Future


A visit to Coastal Technology Group’s website has an interesting notation under memberships. The agency’s owner, John Ahlering, is not only a long-standing member of MANA, he’s also active with the Association of Professional Futurists. A conversation with Ahlering quickly shows that membership in that organization is hardly an afterthought. Thinking about the future is an integral part of what he does for a living.

photo of John AhleringEstablished in 1999 by Ahlering, Coastal Technology Group ( is a technical sales and business development organization located in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina, with a virtual office in London.

Ahlering maintains … Read the rest

Working in a Rep-Friendly Environment


HV logo on a flag“In my experience, there’s no more rep-friendly company than Harvey Vogel Manufacturing.” Those few words in an e-mail from a MANA-rep member directed Agency Sales to the Woodbury, Minnesota, manufacturer.

For close to two decades a cost-benefit look at using independent manufacturers’ representatives has made sense for Harvey Vogel Manufacturing (HV). The manufacturer of metal stamping, fabrication machining and more, currently takes its products to market via 23 rep firms and more than 50 independent reps.

photo of Matt MountainAccording to Matt Mountain, director of sales and marketing for the company, “We firmly believe in the rep relationship that has been so successful … Read the rest

Executive Calling:The Wisdom Behind Calling Higher


“In a 60-hour workweek, there are only so many 30-minute increments….” “It is amazing how many representatives call to get acquainted….” “I see them all once; then I select who I will see again.”

For several decades, sales leaders and managers have favored the practice of calling higher in customer organizations. Over the same time span, this idea has persisted, but the business environment has undergone many changes. Technology has changed the way we sell and the way our customers shop and buy. Recessions have given way to recoveries, and yet we still take it for granted that calling higher … Read the rest

Sales Force Management — The Name of the Game


Nothing is more important than managing your sales team. The headline says it all — you are in the sales business. That means that you are responsible for managing all aspects of the sales process.

Do you have a sales manager? How many salespeople do you have? What is the quality of your individual salespeople’s results? What do your principals think of your salespeople?

These questions along with many others are key to success in the independent rep business.

Your Salespeople — Your Principals

There is nothing more important than what your principals think of your salespeople. This is an … Read the rest

“It May Not Be Your Fault, But It Is Your Problem”


Companies may not be able to prevent all problems but they can learn to recover from them. A good recovery can turn angry, frustrated customers into loyal ones. It can, in fact, create more goodwill than if things had gone smoothly in the first place.

Opportunities for service recovery are numerous. If you are close to the customer and discover a problem, it’s your chance to go beyond the call of duty and win a customer for life.

Service Recovery

The surest way to recover from service mishaps is for workers on the front line to identify and solve the … Read the rest

Tips for Asking Effective Sales Questions


We all know the path to a sale is lined with effective questions. Most salespeople have a series of great, thought-provoking questions for their prospects, but deliver them in an off-putting way. Buyers recoil when you go too deep, too fast. They resent it when you ask them to fill out a checklist of predetermined questions without taking a personal interest in each response. They feel manipulated when you fire back solutions before delving deeper into their feelings and problems.

Conversely, when you are generally curious and thoughtful — even ask surprising questions — your prospects will respect you and … Read the rest

How to Be Your Company’s Most Valued Employee


If a company wants its brand to stand out from the competition, differentiating it from its competitors is the place to start. Subaru has done this more successfully than most. Its customers give new meaning to brand loyalty. Many are passionate if not downright fanatical in their allegiance.

According to Forbes, the Subaru brand has the most loyal customers in the industry, with the Forester leading the way.

Subaru customers are quick to say their cars are safer, handle flawlessly in all types of weather, and keep their value far better than other brands. All this flies in the face … Read the rest

Blast From the Past — Editorial Comment

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

The Positives of Proactive Communication


All too often when the subject of communication between independent manufacturers’ reps and their principals comes up the focus is immediately turned to call reports. That shouldn’t be the case. At least that’s what one retired manufacturing executive emphasized in a recent conversation. According to the former national sales manager, who left his position with more than 30 years’ experience working with reps, here’s what impressed him about reps that took a proactive approach to letting him know what was going on in the territory.

“Here’s one thing that always got my attention — the rep that let me know Read the rest

Business Apps to Improve Sales and Productivity


Today’s world is mobile-hot, and we now treat our smartphones and tablets like an extension of our bodies. Apps open the power of your mobile device like never before.

Many apps have the ability to increase your productivity, build relationships with customers more (great for relationship marketing), save you money, and make life a lot easier.

All of the apps I’m listing are available on iOS (my choice), and many are also available on Android. Check it out to see what applies in your unique situation.

Here are some that you’ll want to consider:

  • Waze

Crowd sharing road and travel … Read the rest

When the Hand That Feeds You Bites


Dealing With Conflict With Your Current Manufacturers

One of the most difficult situations faced by sales representatives is when a dispute arises with a manufacturer that the sales rep still represents and wants to continue representing. When a sales rep is wrongfully terminated or has not been paid commissions that remain owed after the relationship with the manufacturer has ended, the rep can pursue all available avenues of relief — including litigation — if necessary.

When the sales representative agency still represents the manufacturer, the situation requires more finesse. There are rare situations where a sales agency decides to sue … Read the rest

Boiling the Frog


We’ve all heard the old fable about the “Boiling Frog.” In the story a frog is placed in a large pot filled with cold water. He’s very content with not a care in the world. Then someone comes by and fires up the burner. The water in the pot slowly begins to get warmer and warmer. But the frog is not concerned, as he finds the warmth refreshing. The heat keeps gradually rising until the frog has become so relaxed he falls asleep, never to awaken.

This story reminds me of today’s investors, including individuals with IRAs, 401(k)s and other … Read the rest

ERA Announces Chapters of the Year

On February 28 at the 48th Management and Marketing Conference in Austin, Texas, ERA announced the chapters that have been selected as Chapters of the Year award recipients for their 2016 activities. The awards are based on four categories: Education, Membership/Member Services, Marketing Services, and Special Projects.

The award recipients are as follows:

  • Special Projects — New York for its first annual industry golf outing. MANA Chair John Beaver is also Chair of the ERA Metro NY chapter.
  • Education — Indiana-Kentucky for its program on cyber security.
  • Membership and Member Services — Carolinas for its re-establishment of the Dixie chapter.
Read the rest