Hey, It’s the Candy Man!


It’s time to share my favorite backselling story.

image of candy bars

© grandeduc | stock.adobe.com

What is backselling?

It’s a word coined by John Haskell, a frequent contributor to Agency Sales magazine and author of Profit Rx under his pen name, Dr. Revenue®.

In my own manufacturers’ representative firm, I took backselling to mean, “Communicate with principals as if the line were in jeopardy even when it is not, because once the line is in jeopardy anything you say will sound like an excuse instead of communication.”

Here is my backselling story.

I had broken one of the fundamental rules of running a manufacturers’ representative firm. I had let one principal become more than 50 percent of my company’s income. Much more than 50 percent.

We were so busy selling the product that it just happened without us noticing it. Once we did notice, we needed to think about ways to make sure that this principal knew how much value we brought to their company; not just the local regional manager, but also the team at the principal’s headquarters. So, we asked to schedule a visit.

Apparently, it was the first time one of their reps had asked to visit headquarters, perhaps because the only way to get to their small town was to fly to Oklahoma City and drive 139 miles southwest or fly to Dallas and drive 141 miles northwest.

On that drive we realized we had come empty-handed. So, we stopped at Walmart and bought one-hundred one-dollar sleeves of “fun size” candy bars. Arriving at our hotel, I emptied my roller luggage and filled it with candy.

We visited customer service, product marketing teams, product engineering teams, and pretty much everyone we could see in the day and a half we’d scheduled. And at the end of each visit I opened my luggage and asked, “As a very small thank you for all you do, could we offer some candy?”

You would have thought we were giving away gold bars instead of candy bars. No one had ever come to headquarters to thank them for their help, and no one had ever brought them even a small token gift to thank them.

Each year our visits got longer and our discussions became more productive. Each year our bond with that principal grew stronger. And each year we gave away more sleeves of candy bars. I knew we had made our mark when we arrived for our third annual visit and saw a head pop up over one of the cubicle partitions and announce loudly, “Hey, it’s the candy man!”

The Importance and Effectiveness of Rep Councils


Just the other week, I was on an airplane traveling to a trade show. Given the close quarters of the typical airline arrangement, I could not help but overhear the conversation between the two gentlemen sitting behind me. One worked for a large consulting firm (you would know their name), and the other as a recruiter for a prominent business school out of New York City. Both men were senior in their positions, and were discussing what business books they had read recently, what talks they had attended, and the ever-popular discussions regarding the challenges of working with millennials.

I … Read the rest

Rep Firm Built on Personal Service


Joe Figueroa points to a singular event that sent him on his way to opening his own rep agency close to 20 years ago.

As the president of Latin America Sales Company, Inc., (LASCO) Middleton, Massachusetts, recalls it, “In 1997 a light went on when I was sitting in a sales meeting for the manufacturer I worked for. As they explained how they were going to answer customer calls, I knew I could do the job much better than they could.

“Here’s how they explained their plan: When customers called, a new voice mail system would ensure that we didn’t … Read the rest

Rep Councils Eliminate Us vs. Them Environment


Simple is always better and simple is just the way Charlie Ingram describes how and what a rep council is.

Ingram, vice president, sales and marketing for Eriez Magnetics, Erie, Pennsylvania, maintains that a rep council “is put together for manufacturers and reps to exchange ideas on how they can work better together to serve their mutual customers. In a nutshell, it’s all about discussing mutual challenges and deciding how best to improve your business practices.”

That was just part of the message delivered by MANA Board member Ingram and MANA-member Kurt Jacoby, Dempsco, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, as they participated … Read the rest

How to Avoid Losing Customers to Competitors


Many times you hear a salesperson say: “We service the heck out of our customers. They’ll never leave us.” But then a competitor walks away with an account. No one saw it coming or what went wrong.

You work hard getting new accounts, take servicing them seriously, and yet they still leave. Why? Think about it this way: you buy a new car — it’s just what you wanted. But after a year or so, you start thinking about the new models. That’s when little things about your current car start bugging you — it doesn’t have this-or-that, there’s a … Read the rest

Letters to the Editor

I was going through my mail this afternoon and I received a package from Morton Grove, Illinois. I thought who do I know from Morton Grove? Well Charley (MANA’s President & CEO Charley Cohon)…I received five copies of Agency Sales magazine with my picture on the front cover. Wow! What a pleasant surprise. I knew there was going to be an article on MANA’s “A League of Their Own,” but certainly did not expect to be on the front cover. Thank you so much! What an honor. It truly made my day! I never thought something like this would happen … Read the rest

In Memory of Ray Hall, ERA Executive

photo of Ray HallRaymond J. Hall, the retired executive vice president and CEO of The Electronics Representatives Association (ERA), died in November. He was 80 years old. Hall was the longest-serving management executive and a member of the association’s Hall of Fame. His tenure at the helm of the 83-year-old organization began in 1969 and extended to 2004 when he started transitioning into retirement.

Hall was a native of Somerville, Massachusetts, a Marine Corps veteran and alumnus of the University of Illinois. In his early working years, he owned and operated the Raymond J. Hall Company of Chicago, a management services provider for … Read the rest

Sales Managers’ Common Mistake #3: Lack of Training and Development


In most organizations, sales managers are the essential bridge between the company’s sales goals and the realization of those goals. The gritty day-to-day interactions between the salespeople and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of a sales manager on their way up the ladder. The aspirations and strategies of the company’s management must be imprinted by the realism of the sales manager as they come down from above. Sales managers are the conductors who carefully orchestrate the tentative entanglement of the salespeople with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job. Unfortunately, it is often the most … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the fourth in a number of articles serializing The Sales Force — Working With Reps by Charles Cohon, MANA’s president and CEO. The entire book may be found in the member area of MANA’s website.

Jim had never before made a major presentation directly to Bigglie’s president, so when the time came for his private meeting with David Buchanan and Harold Katz, Bigglie’s most senior VP, he was both excited and nervous. Katz’s formal title was VP of operations and manufacturing, but he’d been pinch-hitting some of the sales manager’s administrative responsibilities during the search for Edgeworth’s replacement. … Read the rest

The Top Factors That Cause Delayed Closings and What to Do About Them


Over the past three months, my wife and I have been up and down the east coast driving our son to and from baseball tournaments and college showcases. Invariably, each drive back home has taken twice the time it should have because of road construction. On Sunday, Waze, my favorite navigation app, said that the drive would take just two hours and 32 minutes. Four traffic delays because of road construction delayed us for another two and a half hours.

Delays, delays, delays. Nearly every coaching call with a salesperson is about a delayed closing. Nearly every coaching call with … Read the rest

MANA Recognizes Members’ Milestone Anniversary Dates

Thank youMANA wants to recognize members who have been with us for many years, those who celebrated their 70, 65, 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 year membership anniversary the previous year.

MANA thanks and congratulates the members listed here for their long‑term support and commitment.

Representative Members
70 years

Tim Gahan
Henry M. Wood Co.
West Chester, OH

Charles W. McDonald
Phister Equipment Co., Inc.
Cincinnati, OH

65 years

Timothy E. Marshall
Marshall & Assocs., Inc.
Pittsburgh, PA

60 years

Arthur B. Connolly
J. H. Green Sales, Inc.
Royal Oak, MI

Gregory W. Matthews
Keller Industrial Products, … Read the rest

Spelling Out Expectations


When there’s been a strain in the relationship between principal and rep, the cause of any friction may often be traced to a failure in communication. That’s the view of one manufacturer who noted, “I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard my fellow manufacturers say their reps claim they didn’t know what the manufacturer wanted out of the relationship.”

He explained, “I’d maintain it always comes down to keeping open the lines of communication. And to accomplish that goal, what has to be done? I’d maintain that it’s not all that difficult; but it does take some time … Read the rest

Help Your Small Business’s Sales Force Meet Goals On the Go


When it comes to the importance of taking your sales team mobile, the numbers speak for themselves. Did you know that outside sales reps are now spending 89 percent of their time selling remotely? And it’s no wonder why. Studies show that mobile customer relationship management (CRM) tools can increase productivity by nearly 15 percent.

Mobile CRM technology can certainly work magic — but not without a magician at the helm. After all, implementing a mobile sales strategy is no easy task. It requires planning, proper execution, and the right mobile sales tools.

Growing your business through mobile sales can … Read the rest

My Thoughts on Buy‑Sell Agreements for the Manufacturers’ Representative Sales Agency


I am a lawyer and not an accountant, so my approach to this topic may differ from attorneys who are also accountants or those who specialize in agreements for the sale of a business. Although this is a serious topic, I tried to have a little fun with it.

The Question

Occasionally in my law practice I am consulted by manufacturers’ representatives and their corporate lawyers with the request that I help them regarding the establishment of the value of an interest in a manufacturers’ representative sales agency for purposes of a shareholder buy-sell agreement or for the outright sale … Read the rest

Fantasy Football and Portfolio Management


As strange as it sounds, there are many parallels that can be made between savvy investing and fantasy football.

While it’s fun to piece together these make-believe teams and compete amongst friends, there’s a lot to be learned about controlling emotions and managing expectations through fantasy football, and how that ultimately relates directly to investment habits.

Allow me to set this scene: At the end of August you’ve drafted what you believe to be a stellar group of football players who together comprise the best team in your fantasy league — at least on paper.

But when it’s early November … Read the rest

News From the Territory

Visit to University of North Texas.

MANA CEO Charles Cohon recently visited the University of North Texas to confer with Ph.D. student Trond Bergestuen and his academic advisers Professor David Strutton and Professor Kenneth Thompson about an academic paper and Bergestuen’s Ph.D. thesis; and to speak to Lecturer Terrence Suber’s Professional Selling class.
Left to right: MANA CEO Charles Cohon, Ph.D. student Trond Bergestuen, Department of Marketing Chair Jeffrey Ogden, Lecturer Terrence Suber, Professor David Strutton, Past MANA Director John Sandifer, Professor Kenneth Thompson, and TTI Inc. Field Sales Manager Jon Cowley.

MANA’s 2018 Manufacturer Seminar

Ingram speaking

Right: Charlie Ingram, vice president, sales & marketing, Eriez Magnetics, … Read the rest