“The Stars We Are Given.”

image of stars

© Noel Powell | stock.adobe.com

“The Stars We Are Given.
The Constellations We Make.”

— Rebecca Solnit

(And why this is important to you and your rep business or rep relationships.)

There really aren’t any constellations.

But, when you view the night sky from a particular hemisphere on earth, facing a specific direction, then unique stars are visible. And a creative stargazer spending enough time staring at the heavens from that particular vantage point will start to see patterns and ways to connect the dots.

The patterns form based not so much on the positions of the stars as on the patterns familiar to that viewer.

So, from ancient stargazers, we have been handed down constellations based on images familiar to ancient stargazers: a scorpion, an eagle, a ram, or a charioteer.

It’s just human nature to take those points of light in the sky and see patterns.

We still do it today, but instead of mentally organizing points of light in the sky to fit our preconceived patterns, we mentally organize data points to fit our preconceived notions.

How is this important to your rep business or rep relationships?

Our rep and manufacturer members are awash in data points. Value of products sold, amount of commission paid, percentage of sales leads closed, and orders shipped on time, among many others.

And when it comes to reps and manufacturers, that sea of data points is just waiting for each party to interpret them according to their own preconceived notions.

Viewing the same data points, one sees a great sales year, but another sees great growth for only a single customer. One sees commissions paid to a rep firm exceeding the manufacturers’ CEO’s income, the other sees that firm’s commission spread among 10 of the rep firm’s salespeople.

Once those dots are connected and those business-results constellations are formed, there is little hope of changing anyone’s perceptions. After all, the lines were imaginary in the first place. How can you change imaginary lines in someone’s head?

But you can change their preconceived notions before they form the lines.

Have a conversation about the importance of gross sales vs. the number of new customers brought on board. Let the manufacturer know that the money he or she invests with your rep firm goes to support the efforts of 10 salespeople instead of going into your own pocket.

Then when the data points arrive, the information you’ve supplied will be the framework in which those data points are stored. So, when the time comes, the lines your partners use to connect those dots will be seen as a value instead of a cost.

It’s up to you to give your partners context before they interpret your mutual data points. With context, you can prepare them to connect the dots of your data points into a charioteer instead of a scorpion.

Successful Partnerships


In October 2017, MANA celebrates its 70th Anniversary as the preeminent organization for the professional independent manufacturers’ representative. Congratulations! It took a great deal of hard work and commitment by a lot of people to grow MANA and maintain its relevance over these many years.

1947 was a good year for my company, Eriez Manufacturing, as well. It was the year our founder, Bob Merwin, and Dean Thomas, a sales representative of what is now Dominion-Carolina Sales, Inc., based in High Point, North Carolina, came to an agreement for Dean to sell Eriez magnetic separators for a commission. This was … Read the rest

MANA’s Record of 70 Years of Support


This month marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of MANA. Earlier this year, MANA President & CEO Charley Cohon noted that since those early days of 1947 “…things have changed, and changed for the better” for independent manufacturers’ representatives and their principals. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the constant need for a place where reps and their manufacturers can learn how to work more efficiently with each other. If the words of several long-standing MANA members can be believed, MANA is still that place.

Just as several other long-standing MANA members, Elry Cramer can’t necessarily take credit … Read the rest

Lessons Learned From Sports Paved the Way for Rep


Just as so many of his MANA-member peers, Tommy Garnett’s path to becoming a rep began with a family connection, but unlike many others he took a bit of a detour first.

In the past, Agency Sales magazine has described how professional basketball and baseball players have morphed into independent manufacturers’ representatives. However, Garnett, president & CEO of Garnett Component Sales, Inc. (GCS), Wake Forest, North Carolina, is the first professional golfer.

Departing the business of golf, where he was a member of the PGA of America, was hardly Garnett’s motivating factor for becoming a rep. “When I decided to … Read the rest

Amendment Strengthens Minnesota Rep Protection Act


Further protection for independent manufacturers’ representatives was realized earlier this year when an amendment to the Minnesota Termination of Sales Representative Act (MTSRA) was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton.

Demonstrating how the MTSRA, codified as Minn. Stat. 325E.37, has evolved over the years, this is the third time Agency Sales magazine has reported on this law and subsequent amendments. Each time, further refinements have been made to the law — which was originally enacted in 1990 — to protect Minnesota manufacturers’ representatives that are covered under the Act. Parties involved in the successful efforts to strengthen the law … Read the rest

The Reputable Rep: Success in Sales and Life


This month’s article is the fourth 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.

Asking for the Order

There are countless ways to make a deal, close a sale, or get an order. The one common denominator requires the strategy sales reps are reluctant to use: asking for the order. Asking for an order should never be abrupt. The conversation should just flow in that direction. This is the final step of the process. But, let’s rewind to … Read the rest

California Rep Stays the Course


A little over 10 years ago when Jon Crowley extended an invitation, we’re not sure he expected Agency Sales to take him up on it. But now, 10 years and seven months later, here we are.

At the end of a profile of his agency, Charles P. Crowley Company, he said “If you come back and visit us in just a couple of years, you’ll see that we’ve continued to grow and to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to us.”

Was he right with his optimistic prediction?

In the March 2007 issue of this publication, the … Read the rest

Ways to Make Customers Feel Valued


The famed author Thomas Merton said we value people, not for who they are but for their usefulness. This is the same mistake companies make with customers. They value them for their usefulness — for what they spend.

Customers see it differently — quite differently. As Gallup, Inc. researchers point out in commenting on the economy, “Consumers are spending money, but they’re more inclined to spend it only on businesses they feel good about,” not businesses they may like or where they’re treated nicely. In other words, their money is going where they feel valued.

Most businesses do a fairly … Read the rest

The Ultimate Survival Skill for the New Economy


We’re living in incredibly turbulent times. In spite of newspaper headlines proclaiming growing employment and a slowly growing economy, many business people admit to a pervasive feeling of uncertainty and confusion about their businesses.

The well-spring of this uncertainty lies in one of the characteristics of the newly-arrived information age. Business people are being buffeted by an increasingly rapid rate of change. Consider this: In 1900, the total amount of knowledge available to mankind was doubling about every 500 years. In 1990, it was doubling about every two years. Today, according to some, the rate of change is doubling every … Read the rest

Blast From the Past — So You Want to Become a Manufacturers’ Agent!

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

Maximizing Outsourced Sales’ Efforts


There are any number of MANA members who began their careers on the manufacturing side of the desk. At the same time, there are manufacturers who can boast a true appreciation for the rep’s view of the world because they were once reps.

It’s a case of the latter situation that got our attention recently when a rep-turned-manufacturer offered to discuss the concept of outsourced sales. According to the former rep, who’s been a manufacturer for a little over a decade, “There has to be a true understanding of the fact that outsourced sales are exactly that — outsourced sales. … Read the rest

“Upskilling” Paves a Path to the Future


We often hear the outcry of jobs being lost or sent overseas.

Many today are hurt by the loss of their job, and even more are stuck in dead-end jobs they tolerate only because they have to pay the bills.

Many say that the results of the last presidential election happened largely because people were scared of losing their jobs and tired of seeing a bleak future.

So what is the solution? Is it to bring back old jobs? Should we hope for a 1950s style workplace again?

This is not going to happen. We feel for the people who … Read the rest

Taking Charge! A Proactive Approach to Handling Legal Problems


After representing commissioned sales representatives for many years, I have come to recognize that perhaps the most daunting task facing a sales representative organization when presented with a serious legal issue is simply: “What in the heck do I do now?” The goal of this article is to provide a brief primer on how to be proactive, so you can avoid having to ask this question.

First and foremost, know your state law. So many reps think they are powerless, with no rights, and that’s simply not true. More than 35 states have enacted some kind of sales rep … Read the rest

What’s Motivating Your Financial Advisor to Help You?


Imagine this scenario: You haven’t been feeling well, so you decide that a trip to your doctor is in order. After the exam, your doctor writes out a prescription for Drug A. You then proceed to the local drugstore to fill your prescription.

Two weeks later, you discover that your doctor moonlights as a pharmaceutical sales representative for the same company that makes Drug A. So by prescribing Drug A for you, that doctor received a commission from the drug company.

What’s your first reaction? Is it one of skepticism? Do you question whether or not you really needed Drug … Read the rest

Letter to the Editor

Just a note to say I enjoyed this month’s iToolbox Newsletter. Thank you for the time you, Jerry and staff put into this. You have built a streamlined program that is very effective, and helpful!

It’s amazing to see how far MANA has come since 1967 (the founding of our first agency). I know my Dad (our founder) would be so proud of you folks for all you’ve accomplished and the timely support you give to today’s rep agencies. He was a religious reader of Agency Sales magazine and mentored me to do the same. That enabled us to grow, … Read the rest