© Zlatko Guzmic |

Many representatives report that a common quality of their favorite principals is that they “Let me figure out the best way to do my job and let my results speak for themselves.”

So when MANA VP and General Manager Jerry Leth came to me a little over two years ago with the idea that MANA should facilitate the formation of Special Interest Groups (SIGs), I took a cue from our representative members’ favorite principals and asked Jerry to spearhead the program, manage it as he saw fit, and keep me updated on his progress.

And progress is just what Jerry has achieved, with five robust Special Interest Groups in regular contact on topics that serve a particular subset of MANA members:

  • The Professional Development Council (PDC) focuses on professional development resources for our representative members, enhancing our current offering and giving guidance on the resources needed to complete MANA’s wealth of knowledge. Most recently the group helped draft an Agency Sales magazine article on what to do when principals ask for lengthy reports for their online CRMs.
  • The Manufacturers Educational Development Council (MEDC) mirrors the PDC, but from the manufacturers’ perspective. In addition to helping recast MANA’s Nine Steps to Being a Quality Principal Program, the MEDC also had helped guide the Agency Sales article on principal’s online CRMs.
  • The OEM Aerospace Special Interest Group (OASIG) shares knowledge and experiences of the group in dealing with the unique issues of the aerospace industry, such as its procurement practices and extensive industry/supplier consolidation.
  • The International Special Interest Group (ISIG) gives MANA members who sell into international markets or represent international principals the opportunity to discuss topics like the challenges of vetting international principals or being vetted by them, the added risk of having to collect commissions across international boundaries, and how to best communicate with companies where employees with English fluency are more the exception than the rule.
  • The Young Professionals Organization (YPO) is a forum where younger, millennial manufacturers’ representatives can share solutions and best practices to deal with the unique issues they face.

Although each of these SIGs addresses concerns of a very different group of MANA members, they do all have one thing in common. They exist because a talented and dedicated guy took ownership of the SIG program and ran with it. And because the CEO, like some of our representative members’ favorite principals, had the good sense to “let him figure out the best way to do his job and let his results speak for themselves.”

Special thanks to Jerry for launching and managing this very successful program. If you have a suggestion for a SIG that would add value to MANA members, you can reach Jerry at or (949) 600-6465.

Defining the Perfect Customer


I have to admit, when I was sent the prompt for this month’s “Editorial in the Field,” I was a bit jealous of the authors for the two previous editions of this column. Their columns were titled, “Defining the Perfect Rep” and “Defining the Perfect Principal.” Those are easy one line columns — the answers are, in order, “my agency” and “the one with millions in existing business, who pays on time and doesn’t ask any questions.”

I’m here all week, folks.

Joking aside, all three of these columns are equally difficult. The definition of good is entirely subjective — … Read the rest

Revisiting: The Perfect Buyer


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., over 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 in May and continuing through this month, Agency Sales revisits the subject of perfection as it applies to the rep, principal and customer … Read the rest

Defining the Perfect Customer in the Eyes of the Rep and Principal


The perfect customer must also have the perfect rep.

The perfect customer-rep relationship occurs when the customer and the rep have mutual respect. This customer is not necessarily the largest client of the rep. The key component is not the dollar volume, but rather the wonderful relationship that has been developed by both parties over a period of time. This relationship does take time and cannot be rushed into or faked in any way. The relationship must be authentic. Usually at the beginning of the business relationship, both parties “see” a potential wonderful business relationship. Both parties know they need … Read the rest

The Reputable Rep: Success in Sales and Life


This month’s article marks the first in a serialization of the author’s life and career as an independent manufacturers’ representative.

Reprinted with permission from The Reputable Rep, Success in Sales and Life, by Sig Schmalhofer.

The Secret Career

The biggest challenge in the manufacturers’ rep business is explaining to people outside of our world what we actually do. Why do we pack the trunks of nice cars with reams of brochures and odd-looking displays and samples that would never make it through airline screening?

When loading a truck with a barbeque, coolers, tables, and all the trimmings, my neighbors … Read the rest

Addressing CRM Online Report Requests

MANA hears from manufacturers’ representative members that principals want them to fill out reports in their online CRM software. Most tell us they find this time-consuming and costly, and the exercise provides little if any value to the principals, who often don’t have time to read the reports. A few tell us they find the reports helpful.

We asked the MANA Professional Development Council (PDC) and Manufacturers’ Educational Development Council (MEDC) to write this article to help our members deal with this issue. We wanted a solution that provides value for both them and their principals. High-quality manufacturers who appreciate … Read the rest

The “No Sale” Signals — Why Customers Won’t Buy From You


Salespeople are always alert for “buying signals,” those indications that the customer is ready to say yes. When this happens, the savvy salesperson knows it’s time to stop talking and ask for the order.

But salespeople often miss the warning signs that all is not well. Mostly unspoken, these are the “no-sale signals” customers send when they’re dissatisfied with a salesperson. Here are several of them:

  • You Don’t Connect With Me

You think you do with your small talk and feigned friendliness. It’s all an act, the same one you put on for every customer. Your efforts at manipulation are … Read the rest

The Importance of Continuous Training


I was looking for a word that describes the passion that I have and how to relate to companies what I believe about “customer service.” It’s what I firmly believe is necessary to operate in the world today. The word is “overt” or done or shown publicly and not secretly. I have been dealing with customer service in an overt manner for 46 years. It has been the focus of my entire adult life. Here’s what I have discovered and continue to share with companies.

It’s ALL About Training

Why do I believe in investing in continuous employee training and … Read the rest

How Do You Change the Behavior of an Experienced Salesperson?


Every client I deal with, in one way or another, eventually asks that question. The words may be different, but the question is the same. In this economic environment, it’s a universal question. If you haven’t confronted the issue yet, it’s only a matter of time before you will.

Here’s the context in which this question surfaces. The company needs to make some change that impacts the sales force: A new compensation program, a new automation tool, a new sales process, a new way of working with inside salespeople — a new something. Most sales forces are made up of … Read the rest

Focus on the Principal….


The principal’s foundation for rep success is reverse backselling. There are questions that manufacturers should be asking and questions that reps should be suggesting their manufacturers ask themselves.

Remember your independent reps work for you. They make a lot of money. So why should you be worrying about them and their feelings about your company?

Why should you care about the rep’s thoughts and feelings about your personnel? After all you are “the boss” and they’d better do a good job or they are gone — with 30-days’ notice.

That is often the attitude of a manufacturer about their reps. … Read the rest

Blast From the Past — An Invitation

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

One Manufacturer’s Thoughts on House Accounts


After completing a two-day rep council session where the subject of house accounts was addressed, a manufacturer had this reaction: “If you’re dealing with house accounts it’s really like being a little bit pregnant. Either you’re all in with your reps or you’re not. Either you use independent reps or you do not. Trying to do both is unfair, greedy, and plainly not what I’d consider to be the ethical way of conducting business. Having said that, manufacturers simply have to make decisions concerning how they want to serve the marketplace.

“If a particular rep group takes advantage of the … Read the rest

Steps to Get Attention for Your Business Today


Getting attention for your business and your ideas has become a priority for marketers today. Attention is the most precious resource that we have. Seems there are always more videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, articles to read and people who want to “pick our brains” all the time.

It seems to never stop. We are inundated with messages, all trying to get our attention. All of these wonderful marketers (okay, I’m being generous) are vying to get our attention and have us get involved with them and their products and services. Sometimes you just want to turn off … Read the rest

A Primer on Depositions

By and

Whether you find yourself pursuing a grievance in the judicial system or defending one, odds are you will become familiar with the deposition process. Either side in a lawsuit may take the deposition of the opposing side, as well as third parties who have some relevant connection to the litigation.

What Is a Deposition?

Simply put, a deposition is the process of asking face-to-face questions to elicit answers that are provided under oath. Typically, the deponent (the one answering the questions) is accompanied by his attorney to an office where the opposing attorney will be present with a court reporter. … Read the rest