I Drink Your Milkshake!

milkshake image

yavi | stock.adobe.com

“Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy! Drained dry! I’m so sorry. Here: if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw — There it is. That’s a straw, see? Watch it — my straw reaches across the room, and starts to drink your milkshake, I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, 2007

Daniel Day-Lewis won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal ruthless fictional oilman Daniel Plainview.

Plainview bought up oil leases cheaply from property owners across Southern California during a late 19th and early 20th century oil boom. When a hold-out property owner finally comes to Plainview begging to sell, he delivers his famous speech. The property owner’s oil is long gone, gloats Plainview: “I drink your milkshake!”

Has someone got their straw in your milkshake? Here are some things to think about to help you protect the value of your rep firm.

  • Most principals would say that the value of your rep firm is your customer relationships. Do you only have relationships with today’s decision-makers? Or have you also built relationships with junior staff who will probably be the decision-makers in the future?
  • Principals also value your rep firm for your deep market knowledge of your territory. Do you continue to prospect for and build new relationships with new customers? Or have you become comfortable with orders you can secure from customers you already know well?
  • Are there services that your customers or principals need and other reps in your territory supply that you have been reluctant to supply?
  • When you start to think about selling your rep firm, the prospective buyer will value your firm more highly if you have deep relationships at all levels with your most important principals. Do you visit key principals periodically to build those relationships?

If a few key players at your customers retire, will your orders be in jeopardy? If a few key players at your principals retire, are you at risk to lose the line?

Whether you see it or not, there is always someone nearby, looking in your direction, holding a straw. To maintain the value of your rep firm, you must remain vigilant and keep their straw out of your milkshake.

Being a Good Soldier


You have another new regional or national sales manager — and the person is a rep’s worst nightmare. Whether it’s your largest line or a basic bread and butter line, what should you do?

Your first instinct may be to push back. Maybe just a little. Perhaps flex your relationships with senior management a bit, or remind them they don’t have authority to terminate your contract. After all, you are really irreplaceable and this person needs to find out who is top dog.

Well, you may be irreplaceable, or you may be married to the owner’s offspring, in which case … Read the rest

It’s Never Too Early to Plan


As he contemplates his and his agency’s experience over the course of developing and executing a succession plan, Corbin Gunstream reflects on the importance of the four Ds — Death, Divorce, Dissolution and Disinterest. While not the only guiding principles for an agency owner contemplating his or her exit strategy, they remain important considerations.

Gunstream, a partner in Engineered Industrial Products, Inc. (EIP), Santa Fe Springs, California, began working for the agency in 2005 and has been responsible for territory management in Northern California and Northern Nevada. He became partners with Kurt Fisher in 2017 and serves as CFO for … Read the rest

Rep Impressions of Regional Sales Managers


While hardly planned or even expected, an early morning golf match provided a recently retired independent manufacturers’ representative with the ideal opportunity to share his thoughts on the contributions that manufacturers’ regional sales managers can or should provide for their reps — and their customers for that matter.

According to this rep who came fully armed with more than 15 years of experience selling a full line of products through distributors, “The first thing you have to keep in mind about a rep is that he’s in business to make money. If whatever the regional manager does really doesn’t contribute … Read the rest

Letters to the Editor

Many thanks for your congratulations and access to the MANA certificates — I will make good use of these!

I’m very pleased to advise we have signed up with four manufacturers’ representatives, all of these were featured in MANA’s database — as Jerry Leth mentioned to me, a while ago: “Chalking up sales will take time.” And he was right, however, as of December 2018, we are seeing promising sales — 2019 will be the proverbial proof in the pudding.

I’m taking this opportunity to send a special “Thank you” to Jerry, whose guidance in the early stages of engaging … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the sixth 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.

People eating lunch in Bigglie’s break room tended to spread out one per table until all of the tables were full. By the time Henry Buchanan walked in to wait for his brother David to be ready to go to lunch no empty tables were left, so he had to sit with somebody. Henry recognized Jim from the company’s Christmas party, and gestured … Read the rest

Crack the Prospect Code and Win More Sales


Why do so many meetings with prospects fizzle out and go nowhere? Is it just the way it is, so we should just accept it? Or, is it possible that our “this is what went wrong” explanations are merely excuses for failing to turn prospects into customers?

As sure as Friday is pizza night, salespeople are drawn to prospects like kids to puddles of water. No argument. But what about the other way around? How much thought do salespeople give as to whether or not prospects are drawn to them? Is it possible that the drive to make the sale … Read the rest

Why You Should Take Sales Rejection Personally


All of us have heard, pretty much since week one of our sales careers — “Don’t take sales rejection personally.” You know the mantra: “They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting your product or service.” I have to admit, I agreed with that for my entire 31­‑year sales career until a recent experience changed my mind.

About two weeks ago I was calling insurance agencies to let them know about a sales seminar I was doing for one of the local state insurance associations. Typically this is a very warm call where I simply state my name, the name of the … Read the rest

Bizarre Reasons Customers May Not Like You


Whether fair or not, we are often judged on first impressions. This harsh reality is nowhere better seen than in today’s ultra-fast business world where customers size you up in a nano-second based on your personal image. Since their impression of you will determine whether or not they want to do business with you, the impact on your career and on your organization’s bottom line can be staggering.

Since it’s often awkward to confront employees on these sensitive issues, you need some ammunition to make the task easier. Here are some image-related reasons that customers may not like you or … Read the rest

Who Is the Sales Manager in the Manufacturers’ Representative Agency?


What does the sales manager do to build the business?

It used to be easy. Two guys went into the rep business. They got a few lines. They divided up the territory and perhaps split up the customers based on any number of things — previous experience each partner had with the account, specialized product knowledge, or something like friendship with an insider.

Now things have changed. The rep firm has 5-10 outside salespeople and 3-5 inside sales coordinators. Success is good. Commission income is approaching $2 million. But, no one is really running the business.

Both partners used to … Read the rest

Emboldening an Empowered Team


I love this saying by Lee Iacocca: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”


Iacocca, former president of Ford Motor Company, took over Chrysler when it was leaning towards bankruptcy. He asked Congress for a loan, arguing that if Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the government would have to spend more on unemployment compensation than on keeping the company in business. The loan was granted and a year later, Iacocca announced Chrysler’s first profit in many years.

During his turnaround of Chrysler, he brought the convertible back into fashion and introduced the minivan.

By leading in this fashion, Iacocca … Read the rest

Revisiting the Relationship


Point to a difference in cultures or an unfamiliarity with U.S. business practices, but whatever the case, an impediment to good relations developed when an overseas manufacturer began working with an independent manufacturers’ rep.

It was obviously a positive that the manufacturer was aware of the importance of communicating shared expectations and for the need of a written contract that insured the best interests of both parties. On the negative side, however, was the principal’s apparent lack of knowledge of how to establish, nurture and maintain good personal relations between his company (including his factory people) and his rep.

When … Read the rest

Speed Limits, the Flow of Traffic and Sales Pipelines


I don’t get stressed anymore when I’m driving.
All it took was for me to not exceed the speed limit. I’m not sure whether it was my navigation system repeatedly telling me to “obey all traffic laws” each time I started the car, or my wife reminding me that I needed to be a good role model for our soon‑to-be driving 16-year-old son. I admit that this was much easier for me to do after I gave up my Jaguar for a Lincoln Navigator. It holds much more baseball equipment!

There is an exception to not exceeding the speed limit. … Read the rest

The Importance of the Termination Clause


The negotiation of a manufacturers’ representative agreement is an essential step to begin the sales relationship of the principal and the manufacturers’ representative. While most every representative understands the importance of negotiating the terms concerning how their commissions will be calculated and paid, it is just as important to negotiate how the sales relationship can terminate. This is commonly referred to as a termination clause.

Negotiating the termination clause at the outset can be the most important term of the entire sales relationship for the manufacturers’ representative. Without a strong termination clause, a rep may find themselves with little to … Read the rest

Tomorrow’s Advice From Yesterday’s Advisors


What I really dislike about the first few weeks of the New Year is that everywhere you turn — from the front page of the newspaper to the business magazines to the financial channels on cable — you’ll probably be subjected to some wide-eyed “market expert” spouting ridiculous stock market predictions for the coming year.

Those financial gurus, talking heads and media pundits all begin with a comprehensive review of what’s happened over the course of the past year. Armed with that enlightening data, they then try to play Nostradamus and predict what will happen over the next 12 months.… Read the rest

FSMA Releases White Paper on: Why Agency Represented Sales Are More Cost‑Effective and Efficient Than Direct Sales

FSMA White PaperThe Foodservice Sales & Marketing Association (FSMA) has released a must-read, comprehensive industry White Paper, co-sponsored by its FSMA Foundation and ASMC Foundation, comparing the economic differences of agency sales and direct sales. The study provides a unique calculation tool to answer the age-old question of which sales method is the best for a manufacturer.

For more than 100 years, agencies have been the primary go-to-market selling source. The chief reason for the overwhelming preponderance (70-75 percent of U.S. food­service product volume) of agency sales is that they are significantly more cost-efficient and effective than direct sales. The study explains … Read the rest

Ingram Named to New Position at Eriez Magnetics

photo of Charles IngramMANA Board member Charlie Ingram has been promoted to the newly created position of executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Eriez Magnetics, Erie, Pennsylvania, effective January 1, 2019. Ingram served most recently as Eriez vice president of sales and marketing.

In making the announcement, Eriez President and CEO Tim Shuttleworth said, “Over his 25 years of dedicated service to Eriez, Charlie has played a key role in developing and executing sales and marketing strategies which have significantly contributed to our company’s substantial growth and worldwide success. He is an extremely effective, respected, and strategic leader in the industries … Read the rest