A Cornucopia of Reps

image of a cornucopia

© Dan Kosmayer | stock.adobe.com

A cornucopia, often referred to as a “horn of plenty,” is one of the most popular decorations at Thanksgiving. It’s a symbol of abundance, often depicted as overflowing with produce, flowers and nuts.

But sometimes abundance comes with its own set of issues. And it’s the issues raised by abundance and the ways that MANA representative members can capitalize on those issues that are the topics of this Thanksgiving-month article.

MANA manufacturer members report that some searches in MANA’s RepFinder database result in a manageable list of five, 10 or 15 agencies.

But some searches return much bigger lists. A lot bigger: sometimes 50 or even 75 candidates.

Abundance is usually a good thing. But when it comes to a cornucopia of candidates to represent a line, manufacturers have to find ways to trim a list of 50 to eight or 10.

How does a MANA manufacturer member capitalize on this information? By learning how manufacturers trim their lists and positioning themselves to get onto the short list.

This is how manufacturers tell MANA they get to a short list of candidates:

  • Download the list of reps into Excel and sort by website. Firms without websites are cut from the list without ever even knowing they might have been in contention.
  • Eliminate reps with an “I’ll rep anything” line card, cutting reps whose lines card don’t demonstrate concentration on a particular market or product category. Representatives with lines that include castings, stampings, molded parts, scented candles, and garden tools don’t make the short list.
  • Reps whose e-mail addresses don’t match their websites may not make the long list. If a rep’s website is www.repcompany.com but his or her e-mail address is
  • @aol.com, it may be enough to keep that representative off the short list.
  • A MANA member profile that claims a representative firm with one or two employees covers 12, 20, or even all 50 states suggests lack of focus, and can eliminate that firm from consideration.
  • A MANA member profile that claims 20, 30, or even all MANA product categories are sold by one firm also suggests a lack of focus and disqualifies that representative with some manufacturers.
  • And a sloppy MANA member profile also can keep a representative firm off the short list. Capitalization and grammar errors may be held against a representative whose profile says “abc rep company sells machine parts to avionocs customers our phone number is 3125551212.”

The first step to getting on manufacturers’ short list of candidates is knowledge of how manufacturers create short lists. And the final, more important step, is acting on that knowledge.

Stop Labeling and Learn to Accept


What is a Millennial?

I’m not really too keen on labeling people or the generations that they’re a part of. That’s why I have trouble defining a Millennial.

I seems as if every conference or learning experience I have today is all about discussing what generation you are from. They tell me Baby Boomers can only do this and can’t do that. Generations X, Y, Z have this skill set and not that one. I hear people talking about the new generation being lazy. I have heard that the older generations are reluctant to change and don’t like to learn … Read the rest

Accept and Benefit From Millennials


Cultural and work-related differences among generations recently have been the fodder for many discussions among MANA members.

Specific to the conversations there has been an emphasis on the challenges that older generations face when dealing with members of what is referred to as the Millennial generation. For the purposes of this article, the generations in question are broken down accordingly:

  • Matures, born prior to 1946
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Gen-X, born 1965-1980
  • Millennials, born 1981-1999

When looking for tips or advice on how to deal effectively with different generations — specifically Millennials — Michael Roemen is quick to note that … Read the rest

Things to Stop Doing When Managing Millennials


The blogosphere has been rife with experts, many of them Millennials, advising people about how to manage — Millennials. As with the Baby Boomers of 50 years ago, they’ve been hailed as “the next great generation.” But in spite of their demographic size, the Millennials are no more special than any other group. As with each cohort, they’re just products of the times in which they’ve come of age. So rather than the five things you should do when managing Millennials, how about the five things you shouldn’t do? Here goes.

Number One: Stop Thinking of Them That Way!

They … Read the rest

Surviving a Series of Unfortunate Circumstances


When his bookkeeper failed to show up for work for a few days in a row, it didn’t take long for Richard Sinclair to suspect something was amiss.

A former MANA Board member, Sinclair heads Applied Process Equipment, Scottsdale, Arizona. While still an eight-person rep firm and a “budding” manufacturer, the company is also a distributor of pumps, tanks and water and wastewater treatment equipment servicing the southwest United States.

As he looks back at what turned out to be an unfortunate experience, Sinclair notes that “Over my close to 30 years as a rep, I’ve employed a number of … Read the rest

The Reputable Rep: Success in Sales and Life


This month’s article is the fifth 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.

Sales Preparation


In this, the age of instant communication, appointments with customers and clients are critical. Surprise hit-and-run sales calls are rarely effective. The exceptions, of course, are drive-by stops delivering samples, literature, etc.

However, as discussed in the previous chapter, cold calls on a hunch, mining for business, should be in every reputable rep’s playbook.


I grew up in the business … Read the rest

How to Make the Agency’s Annual Sales Meeting a Major Business Development Tool


The annual sales meeting will drive success.

Does your agency have an annual sales meeting? If you don’t should you?

My answer is an emphatic “YES!”

The meeting held late in the year or in very early January offers an agency many opportunities to plan, organize, and campaign for support for the following year.

It is the agency’s obligation, in my opinion, to put on a once-a-year meeting that sets up all of the employees of the agency and many of the principals for the New Year.

There are many elements that have to be addressed as a part of … Read the rest

Ways to Discover Great Sales Reps


There are many ways to find productive independent sales reps for your company including referrals from existing reps, industry-specific associations, customers, employment companies that match reps and manufacturers, industry magazines and trade shows, ads, social media, etc. All of these work. However, I have discovered another way for locating high-quality ones that you can’t just look for.

The best way to describe my experiences discovering this non-traditional rep avenue is to observe your environment and the people you come across — even a waiter in a restaurant with an upbeat personality who exhibits some smarts and a strong work ethic, … Read the rest



An illness we all can catch.

Victimitis is very contagious. It can be thought of as more contagious than the flu, and more devastating than an infectious disease. It can figuratively (and literally) destroy a person’s career, relationships and life. Yes, it is a made-up word; though rest assured the “disease” is real. It is real and it is dangerous. Like most contagious illnesses anyone is susceptible to contracting the victimitis disease. The key is to know how to avoid catching it and if you do catch it,
how to cure it quickly.

There are three key aspects of protecting … Read the rest

Teaching Your Organization to Learn


Are things changing rapidly in your business?

Silly question, isn’t it? Of course they are changing. Rapid change is the distinguishing characteristic of the millennium.

Take that rapid change and add to it growing competition, increasing complexity, consolidations at every level, and increasing demands from customers and you have the recipe for a business climate that will turn anyone’s hair gray.

This rapid change whirling around every company puts great pressure on organizations to change themselves. Not only must the organization as a whole change, but the individuals within each organization must themselves change, learn and grow more rapidly than … Read the rest

Blast From the Past — A Digest of Successful Selling Ideas

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

Left Out in the Cold


Reps, their customers and manufacturers applaud the use of manufacturers’ websites as marketing tools.

At the same time, however, some reps get the feeling that they’re being left out in the cold when principals fail to list them as the major sales contact in the field. In speaking to a number of reps, this usually happens in a couple of ways:

  • Failure to list all reps — Among some manufacturers, the trend of failing to list all of their reps continues. As one rep noted, “How do you think that makes us feel? As far as the customer knows, there’s
Read the rest

Marketing and Promotion Using Social Media


(The following is excerpted from the author’s second edition of Revealed! Smartselling Strategies.)

If you are an employee of a company, the primary marketing of your products will probably be handled by the company. However, if you are an independent salesperson and the responsibility for marketing is yours, or if you are new at sales, you may want to consider taking a short course in basic marketing.

There are many courses offered online designed to be completed at your own pace and in your own time. Also, explore new marketing strategies that will help you advance your market outreach. … Read the rest

Why Technology Alone Is Not Good Enough


I am so amazed by the miracle of videoconferencing. The fact that we have much higher bandwidth today to accomplish it, and brilliantly clear video and audio, makes using these wonders of technology ideal for collaborating, connecting and building community.

But the technology alone is not good enough.

I just returned from a business trip to Greece where I was able to see, for the first time, that country’s beautiful ocean-side communities, the marvels of ancient Athens with the Parthenon and the Acropolis, and even more. By “even more” I mean getting a chance to see what it is really … Read the rest

Settlement Achieved for Wrongfully Terminated Representative


A naturally skilled product promoter based near Detroit, “Larry” served several different manufacturing company principals as a commissioned sales representative for more than 20 years.

The commissions that Larry received on product sales he procured generally varied between two and five percent of net sales, and he generally earned around $100,000-$200,000 per year. Larry had an undergraduate degree in finance from Michigan State University, an impressive Rolodex of purchasing department contacts at most Original Equipment Manufacturer (“OEM”) automotive companies operating in and near Detroit, as well as their tiered suppliers, and the quick wit and big smile that most successful … Read the rest

Past Practices Just as Valuable Today

By means of a look to the past MANA-member Bruce Whitley lets Agency Sales’ readers know that paths paved years ago can still lead to business success today.

Whitley, Canacast Sales & Marketing, Ltd., British, Columbia, Canada, supplied a Code of Ethics followed by his grandfather more than 90 years ago. According to Whitley, “This was written by my grandfather, William Daniel Harris, who was at that time the president of ACT (Associated Canadian Travelers), a Canadian National Sales Organization. He lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. While this was written 91 years ago, it reflects the basis of how … Read the rest

Letters to the Editor …

“Thank you for letting me know of our 31 year membership in MANA. I know we have been a member for many years but didn’t know exactly how long. We joined after hearing Jim Gibbons speak at an AIM/R conference.

“MANA has been a smart business investment for us. Often we will discuss an article from Agency Sales for the same reason a veteran player returns to spring training — to hone the fundamentals. John Haskell’s articles come to mind. It seems I first heard him at an AIM/R conference, almost as long ago as I heard Jim Gibbons.

“Wishing … Read the rest