The Little White Lie

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“I am not taking on any new lines.”

Manufacturers sometimes tell me that’s what they hear when they call prospective representatives.

“Why do they even have a profile in MANA’s RepFinder database if they aren’t taking on any new lines?” ask those manufacturers.

When I get that call, asking the manufacturer some strategic questions usually reveals the truth.

  • Does your line have existing business that will be turned over to the representative, or is your line a pioneering line?
  • If it is a pioneering line, did you offer to share the costs of launching your product with some sort of shared market development fee?
  • If you have existing business, will that be turned over to the representative, or will you only pay commission on new customers?
  • Does your representative agreement allow you to terminate all commission payments on 30 days’ notice, or does it include a post-termination commission and/or life-of-part/life of program clause to let the representative recoup the start-up expenses that came from launching your product?
  • Have you worked with representatives before, or will this be the first time?

Honest answers to those questions often lead the manufacturer to an unflattering truth: “The representative hasn’t really decided not to take on any new lines. He or she just decided my offer was not appealing and said what was necessary to end the call quickly.”

There is no such thing as a representative who is not taking on any new lines:

  • If a manufacturer needs a representative to take over a $10,000,000 territory and receive 10 percent commission on all existing business calls, what is the representative’s likely response?
  • If a manufacturer needs a representative to take over a pioneering territory and bear all the expense of launching the product calls, what is the representative’s likely response?

For manufacturers who fall between those extremes, the difference between getting a “yes” or a “no” from a representative is usually whether or not the representative feels the manufacturer is looking for a mutually-profitable long‑term partnership.

To succeed recruiting representatives, craft an attractive package that emphasizes the opportunity to build that mutually-profitable long-term partnership. And then you won’t hear any more little white lies.

Parenting Your Business Towards Meaningful Succession

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The timing of this article could not be better — since I have just earned CPMR (Certified Professional Manufacturer’s Representative) status through MRERF, which I highly recommend, the topic of strategic planning is top-of-mind. In our world of 30-day contracts, it is easy to forget that our businesses are long-term entities — just because our contracts are 30 days doesn’t mean that our businesses have to be the same.

After all, the long-term promise to ourselves of building a legacy through our businesses is driven by our intent, rather than the whims of external actors.

Talking about succession may sound … Read the rest

Beat a Path to More Than Four Decades of Success

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Ask Jerry Bellar what practices or principles have guided him and his agency through its more than 40-year history and chances are he’ll pepper his response with references such as:

  • “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
  • “Don’t be the first to try something new or put the old aside.”
  • Quoting hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
  • And finally, “MANA has been a godsend to me and the agency.”

Bellar founded Agri-Sales Associates, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, in 1976 in order to provide a national sales force of … Read the rest

Relationships and Trust

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You often hear that “It’s not what you know but who you know.” There is some truth to this. It is human nature to favor people who are friends, who have helped you in the past, who are recommended by friends or by people you respect, etc. That is not to say that they will give you a job, place an order, or do other favors if they think you are incompetent, unprepared or lack integrity. Good relationships can open doors and can offer you new opportunities. Strong relationships can last a lifetime.

Good relationships are the key to effective … Read the rest

How to Build Relationships in Your Organization and With Vendors

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We all know relationships are important with clients. If you own the relationship with a client account, you most likely own the business. Just as important as client relationships are the relationships within your organization and with vendors who help your business run smoothly.

Problems in these relationships usually lead to problems in client accounts, which could result in lost business. You also spend a good amount of time with vendors and co-workers, so the better your relationships with them, the more pleasant your work life will be. All of that said, how do you ensure good, solid relationships within … Read the rest

Sales Force Management

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Do you have systems that force results? What should manufacturers be looking for?

Everyone in the rep business will agree that sales are the first responsibility of a rep organization; but, how many rep firms have a productive, professional system for assuring sales growth and development?

There is no question commission checks are the best evidence of selling, but there needs to be a lot more involved for an agency to survive and prosper.

If you are a “single shingle” one-man or woman rep firm none of this really matters. You have to “manage” yourself, period.

But, if you have … Read the rest

The Practice of Sales

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“Every profession expects the serious practitioner of that profession to continually seek out the best practices of that profession, and then to roll them into his or her routine with discipline.”

That statement comes out of my mouth in almost every seminar or keynote that I present. Sometimes I follow it up with the ironic observation that there is, apparently, one exception to that rule — and that is the profession of sales, where we don’t expect anyone to improve.

That is, of course, nonsense. The truth is that better salespeople produce better results. The best salespeople produce the best … Read the rest

Eleven Ways to Hook Customers

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The challenge is the same for every salesperson who gets an order. What it takes is capturing the customer’s imagination. The competition isn’t another brand or a better product or service. The competition is another salesperson, one who knows how to hook customers.

The primary task for every salesperson is getting customers to want to do business with them. Without that, customers move on, looking for someone, as they say, “who makes us feel comfortable.” This applies to everything from selling paint to political ideas. Here’s what it takes to do it:

  • Stash Your Sales Pitch

Of course, it’s important … Read the rest

The Reputable Rep: Success in Sales and Life

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This month’s article is the ninth — and final — 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.

Reputable Reps as Innovators

Read the rest

“Sioux Chief is a line for hands-on reps. It requires a pioneering effort. We look for reputable reps who are comfortable on the job site with boots and a hard hat. We look for reputable reps who use our breadth of product to find solutions and solve problems for contractors in the field. A reputable Sioux

Avoid Speed Trap Policies

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If you want to differentiate your company in the marketplace, then you need to show how you can dramatically deliver service and products faster than your competitors. Amazon does it. Apple does it. Why don’t you?

Recently, one of my employees was having a problem with an item shipped to her from Amazon. She needed to return the product and was not savvy to the info on the website to make the return and get her money back. So she called and talked directly to a human being. An empathetic and understanding rep sent her a return packing slip via … Read the rest

Nothing Has Changed

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When a manufacturer was marking its 30-year anniversary as a member of MANA, he mentioned something that for him is as true today as it was three decades ago.

“When I first joined the association I had occasion to call someone at headquarters when I was seeking some advice concerning how to maximize my relationships with what was then a brand-new rep network. I was told that paying commissions on time — all the time — was of paramount importance, but there’s more to the relationship. A few of the additional functions I had to be sure to pay attention … Read the rest

The Internet’s Impact on the Marketplace

It didn’t take long for authors Mike Lieberman and Eric Keiles to get your attention when they began describing how the Internet has impacted sales organizations. In their book, Fire Your Sales Team Today; Revolutionizing Your Company’s Sales & Marketing Strategy, they only take the reader to the first page of the first chapter before they describe how today’s buyer has leveraged the power of the Internet to change the dynamics that define the relationship between buyer and seller.

According to the authors, “Buyers have access to more information from more sources than ever before. They ask questions, get … Read the rest

Employment and Sub‑Rep Independent Contractor Agreements

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Getting together with other people who will be involved with a manufacturers’ representative (manufacturers’ rep) as an employee or independent contractor (sub-rep) should be done with forethought by both the manufacturers’ rep and sub-rep from the beginning when they are first considering an alignment of resources.

The manufacturers’ rep who will usually be the one who has the direct relationship with the principal should have a full understanding with the sub-rep and the sub-rep should know what is expected of him or her.

First, let us look at the relative experience the sub-rep has in the field the manufacturers’ rep … Read the rest

How to Create Enforceable Contracts to Minimize Liability

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In Canada, every employment relationship is governed by a contract.

Although some employment contracts are written, setting out the terms and conditions of employment, the majority are verbal, comprised of the terms explicitly discussed with the employee, such as position and compensation, along with other terms implied by law.

The terms implied by law are designed to protect the employee. They include the requirement to provide “reasonable notice” upon termination of employment, which can be a significant cost of doing business.

Contracts help reduce such costs, minimize liability, provide certainty, and are an opportunity to set out the expectations of … Read the rest

Letter to the Editor

Response to MANA’s REP MBA (Three-Minute Business School)

I have been enjoying the e-mail newsletters you send twice a month, and they have prompted me to share one of our experiences that other MANA members might find useful.

When we invested in order and commission tracking software we thought it would just be a time saver. Unexpectedly, we discovered it was more than a time save, we also discovered that the commissions we collected went up by $25,000 to $30,000 with that software in place.

Why did it go up so much? Once we installed the software, we were much … Read the rest

2017 Jess Spoonts — ERA White Pin Scholarship Awarded

The Electronics Representatives Association (ERA) White Pin Group announced that John Hutson, CPMR, of the Massachusetts-based MacInnis Group is the 2017 recipient of the Jess Spoonts — ERA White Pin Scholarship Award. Hutson will receive a $1,000 grant that can be used to fund his continuing education as a professional field sales representative. He was nominated for the honor by White Pin member Tobi Cornell, CPMR, of Kruvand Associates.

To qualify for this award, nominees must be from an ERA member rep firm, must have been involved in ERA activities and leadership roles on the local and/or national levels for … Read the rest