The Blank Check* — Part I


© Scott Maxwell |

The call came in early in the morning, long before normal business hours, but I picked up anyway. The caller sounded panicky, and I quickly discovered that his panic was justified.

“About 15 years ago I signed a blank check. No date. No ‘Pay to the Order of.’ No amount. Just my signature. I gave it to someone I’d just recently met, but he seemed so trustworthy. And for 15 years I kept making deposits into that account and never gave it another thought.

“Yesterday I found out that the check I signed 15 years ago was presented to my bank and the account has been cleared out. What can I do?”

OK, that is not exactly what the caller said. But it was close. Here is what the caller actually had to say.

“About 15 years ago I signed a rep agreement with 30-day cancelation terms. No extended post-termination commission. No ‘life-of-part, life-of-program’ clause. I’d only recently met the sales manager, but he seemed so trustworthy. And for 15 years I kept growing that principal’s sales, and never gave it another thought.

“Yesterday I found out that I’d been terminated and that all the commissions I would have received for customers I’d closed over the past 15 years will end in 30 days. This is my number one line and it’s 50 percent of my income. What can I do?”

For this contract and this principal, the only thing you can do is have a rep-savvy attorney read that contract line by line and review the laws of your state and the laws of the places where the principal does business to be sure you know this principal’s obligations to you.

For future contracts with new principals, learn from this experience and negotiate extended post-termination commission and/or “life-of-part, life-of-program” clauses before you sign any new agreements.

For other principals already on your line card, review your contracts to see how many other 30-day “blank check” agreements you’ve signed and watch for opportunities to get those agreements amended to improve your post-termination commission payments.


At the end of the last paragraph you probably shook your head in disbelief. “Really? You expect my current principals to renegotiate my post-termination commissions?”

Not often, but occasionally there will be times when asking to add extended post-termination commissions to an existing contract can be put back on the table. Which is the topic for “The Blank Check Part Two” on this page in the next issue of Agency Sales.

* Your legal recourse for a signed blank check may be better than your recourse for a badly written contract. This column is not legal advice; for definitive information, consult your attorney.

The Importance of Having a Disaster Plan for Your Agency


AKA: Thinking About the Unthinkable

In 1905, nine Morse code strokes established an emergency distress code (or procedural signal or prosing). Now we think of SOS or “Save Our Souls.” The key was the simplicity of the signal. Fast forward to 1968, the first emergency phone call, in Haleyville, Alabama, dial 911 and hear: “What is your emergency?” Again simplicity, speed, immediacy.

Disaster/emergency planning started — at least the initial contact step.

The sequence is:

  1. See/hear/feel the distress.
  2. Estimate the severity and your ability for self control or effort.
  3. Call/reach out as necessary.
  4. Execute your plan.

See the smoke, determine … Read the rest

Planning for Instead of Reacting to Disasters


As this is being written millions of Americans are wrestling with the wreckage wrought from the one-two-three punch delivered by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. At the same time, residents on the West Coast can hardly be blamed for casting a wary eye south to the damage resulting from Mexico’s second earthquake this year. And then there are the wild fires that seem to continually plague California and Washington State.

And, who knows if there’s more to come.

What this all leads up to is the subject of disaster preparedness. That’s a subject Agency Sales initially addressed in 2012 in … Read the rest

MANA Members Deal With Mother Nature


Late last summer and even into the beginning of fall, the United States mainland and possessions in the Caribbean — especially Puerto Rico — were buffeted with a succession of hurricanes that showed just how vulnerable citizens, their possessions and businesses were to the machinations of natural disasters. If anything, the experiences that were the focus of countless hours of media attention drove home the point that individuals and businesses had better plan ahead and be prepared to continue business if they hope to continue operating under the most unfortunate circumstances.

Taking a Look at the Houston, Texas, Area FirstRead the rest

Why I Love Cold Calling


I was at a sales leader networking event recently when during happy hour everyone was shocked when I said that I love cold calling. Their shock surprised me. I know it’s not a popular activity but you had to think some of these people would at least have some fond memories of cold calling. All I got was strange looks and people taking a step back. You’d think I was talking about the plague.

This caused me to reflect on a simple question: Why do I love cold calling?

The answer is not what you probably think. It has nothing … Read the rest

Proven Ways to Lose Your Next Sale (and How to Avoid It)


Behind their assertions of self-confidence and annoying arrogance is an undeniable fact: It takes guts to get the endless unknowns and oddities of customers. But that’s what salespeople do.

At the end of the day, it isn’t how many calls you make, appointments you go on, or proposals you prepare. It’s how much revenue you chalk up. Some sales are better than others, but every sale counts. After losing a sale, how many times have you said, “I can’t believe it. I was sure I had that one”?

No one sets out to lose a sale. But it happens. That’s … Read the rest

The Question Is the Key


Focus, focus, focus. That’s the phrase that I find myself repeating constantly in every sales seminar that I present. I believe focus is the greatest challenge for salespeople today, and the greatest single solution to their challenges. There are so many demands on our time, so many tasks calling for our attention, and so many opportunities available to us that we can easily become scattered and dissipated.

And in my 30 plus years of experience in the sales profession, I have identified several places where focus will gain you the greatest results. At the top of the list is focusing … Read the rest

Where’s Your Happiness Set Point?


Why do people sabotage themselves when things get too good?

Over the years, all kinds of people have postulated about the reason this happens. My favorite explanation comes from psychologist Marc Schoen, Ph.D., author of the book Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You. He writes, “Scientists have found that we each have our own happiness “set point,” the genetic and learned tendency to maintain a certain level of happiness, similar to a thermostat for your mental well-being. We can say the same is true of our discomfort set point — the genetic and learned tendency to tolerate a certain level … Read the rest

If You Can’t Say Something Nice About Customer Service — COMPLAIN!


In the customer service industry, we cannot avoid complaints. Complaints happen every day and when a customer complains it is usually for a good reason or genuine concern. They usually have made a purchase that did not meet their expectation — a product, service, or maybe a combination of the two. We must take care of the customer by listening to the complaint, and resolving it, to ensure a happy customer.

Fewer than half of unhappy customers will bring a complaint to your attention. Those who never say anything will tell an average of 11 or more people about their … Read the rest

The Biggest Mistakes Salespeople Make


Mistake #1: Thinking That Servicing Accounts Is More Important Than Selling New Ones

I once had a coaching client show me a stack of folders and say, “This is why I can’t be out calling on new clients.” When I asked what had to be done, she picked up the first folder and said, “I’m waiting for a number from the State of Rhode Island on this one.” To which I responded, “Really? A salesperson is sitting in the office waiting for a number from the State of Rhode Island? No one else can handle that?” That is akin to … Read the rest

The Reputable Rep: Success in Sales and Life


This month’s article is the seventh 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 Human Element

The Well-Liked Rep

Reps that are well-liked are not necessarily effective reps. I’ve known many reps who are very well-liked, but for a number of reasons are not able to leverage their popularity into concrete business. Well-liked reps say the right things and are agreeable. They find it impossible to say no! What gets them into trouble is saying yes when … Read the rest

MANA Recognizes Long-Term Members

Thank you

MANA wants to recognize members who have been with us for many years.

Every January we list in Agency Sales those agent and principal members who celebrated their 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 year membership anniversary the previous year.

MANA thanks and congratulates the members we listed below for their long-term support and commitment.

Note: We also thank those long-term members whose longevity does not end in a “0” or “5.” Your company name was either published within the past three years or will be published within the next two.

Representative Members
60 Years

Brian Middleton… Read the rest

Getting Used to Texting


Last month when Agency Sales explored the differences between the Millennial and other workforce generations, it was probably unavoidable that the subject of effective communications between principals and younger-generation reps came up. As one manufacturer put it, “Whenever I’m with younger people — my own employees and those that work at independent agencies — everyone is always on their phone, but they’re not necessarily talking. They’re either responding to e-mails or texting someone about something.”

The subject was further driven home when one manufacturer noted how several of his reps were suffering from “e-mail overload.” It wasn’t until one of … Read the rest

Using Tech to Effectively Communicate

There is a constant flow of sales and business self-improvement books that come across the desk for Agency Sales. A look back at two of those works found worthwhile tips on how to effectively communicate with clients in this rapidly changing technological world.

In the first, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Anthony Iannarino (Penguin Random House, 224 pp.), the author describes how one of his clients became a believer in the effectiveness of text messaging.

As the book details it: “In sales, as in life, the most important conversations should always take place face-to-face. That’s … Read the rest

Potential Ways Around 30-Day Termination Clauses — Part I


Let’s face it. When it comes to sales rep-principal relationships, sustainability often boils down to “What have you done for me lately?”

That answer, unfortunately, is oftentimes “Not enough.” Or, we sometimes hear the term that principals want “added value” from their sales reps, which usually comes up when an agent is earning their hard-earned commissions on a longer-term basis. Having previously written about expedited terminations of sales reps, and having recently litigated some of these issues, in various jurisdictions throughout the United States, there are two different possible means to protect sales reps who must sign representation agreements with … Read the rest

AIM/R Honors Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees

The Association of Independent Manufacturers’/Representatives, Inc. (AIM/R) announced two new inductees into the AIM/R Hall of Fame at their 45th Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington. The presentations were made in front of a record crowd during their Golden Eagle Award banquet.

The newest inductees include John Dwight “Jack” Eversoll of Cambridge-Lee Sales in Anaheim, California. Among his many contributions, Eversoll served as AIM/R president from 1980 to 1981.
The Association also inducted John Clendenning, CPMR, of the J.R. Clendenning agency in Royersford, Pennsylvania. Clendenning served as AIM/R president from 1991 to 1992.

The AIM/R Hall of Fame was established to … Read the rest