We’re Better Together

image of golf bag

© Photocreo Bednarek | stock.adobe.com

Golfers wouldn’t dream of hitting the links with just irons or just woods in their bags. Many manufacturers’ representatives feel the same way when it comes to the rep associations that support them in their profession. Let me explain.

MANA is a horizontal rep association, so we focus on rep and manufacturer resources that can be applied to any industry that uses outsourced sales forces.

Because MANA can serve all reps and manufacturers who use reps, we have thousands of members. Thousands of members means we have the budget, for example, to invest very heavily in RepFinder® rep/manufacturer matchmaking tools and print Agency Sales magazine every month.

Vertical rep associations focus on rep resources for one particular industry. Many times this is a conference specifically for reps in that particular industry.

Six vertical associations now purchase MANA memberships for all their rep members, giving their rep members the very best of both horizontal and vertical rep association resources.

  • AIM/R, Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives, Inc., plumbing, HVAC/R, kitchen/bath, waterworks, irrigation and related industries.
  • HDMRC, Heavy Duty Manufacturers’ Representatives Council, commercial vehicle supplier industry.
  • IHRA, International Home + Housewares Representatives’ Association, home, housewares, gourmet, giftware, consumer electronics & hardware industries.
  • ISA, Industrial Supply Association, the association for the industrial Maintenance Repair Operating and Production (MROP) channel.
  • NMRA, National Marine Representatives’ Association, marine industry.
  • PTRA, Power-Motion Technology Representatives’ Association, power transmission and motion control industry.

From all of us at MANA, hats off to the leadership of these six associations for having the vision to be sure their members have both irons and woods in their bags, to help them to effectively manage their professional manufacturers’ representative firms.

Continue to Explore


A recent film, Arrival, presented a tale of potential catastrophe from disruptive change requiring massive adaptation. Aliens have suddenly arrived on earth, their presence mysterious: potentially benign but possibly threatening.

Confronted with a new normal, we had to find the right people with the proper abilities to adapt. The aliens offered us a “gift,” but we had to translate their reality to ours. We argued among ourselves whether that the gift was a tool or a weapon.

Ultimately, in the movie, we learn the gift was a tool, and that tool was the alien language and alien sense of … Read the rest

For Reps — The Past Is Definitely Prologue


Earlier this year when TV reporter Ted Koppel took a quick look at the past, he brought to mind how much our world — and really by extension the world of reps — has changed in a relatively short period of time.

In a poem Koppel put together for the CBS “Sunday Morning” TV show, he points out that there was a time not too long ago when we all depended on roadmaps to chart our way before there was GPS available in our cars. Or, how about the fact that today when conducting research instead of consulting our trusty … Read the rest

From Teacher to Rep in Just a Few Steps


The fact that Peter Scholtens played with model trains as a child and stops at rail crossings as an adult does little to explain how and why he is today an independent manufacturers’ representative serving the rail industry in North America. Rather, he can point to an entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a desire to do what he truly wants to do for the rest of his life for bringing him today to where he heads Integrity Rail Products.

Founded two years ago and headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the agency’s products include locomotive traction control systems, locomotive electrical components, and … Read the rest

Book Review

This is the first of a series of book reviews by Peter Scholtens on subjects of interest to manufacturers’ reps that will occasionally appear in Agency Sales.

image of book coverEat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away From Your Competition
by Anthony Iannarino
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Portfolio (Nov. 6, 2018)

While the title may not indicate it, Eat Their Lunch is a book about how to deal with a sales world that is becoming increasingly polarized. Right now, the push in sales is to try to automate everything. Because the B2C world is thriving on making everything a click away, sales leadership … Read the rest

Sales Strategy: Don’t Let Low Hanging Fruit Hold Back Your Sales


When things aren’t going well, salespeople often give in to the quick and easy sale in an effort to get through the troublesome “dry spells.” Others become so addicted, they never reach higher. It’s easy to fall under the spell of the lure of low‑hanging fruit.

Yet, those who excel in sales develop skills that add value to their careers and enhance their confidence. They also know that going after low-hanging fruit prevents them from raising their sights, caps their capabilities, and keeps them from embracing challenges.

It also earns them a reputation they deserve, but not as members of … Read the rest

The Real Cost of Mediocrity


Have you ever wondered what the real cost of mediocrity within your organization might be? Has there ever been a time when a mess-up by someone internally, proved to be quite costly in both money/resources and time/energy? Has there been a time when a mess-up by someone in your organization caused a huge toll on an outsider, i.e., supplier or customer? Training, ego and attitude can be the answer.

In the world of selling, the real cost of mediocrity can be extreme.

In selling, there are generally two categories: hunters and farmers. The hunters are the salespeople, both inside and … Read the rest

Have Your Best Sales Year


Warning: If you’re looking for a shortcut or easy way to your best year, you probably won’t like this article. What I have to say is not what the majority of the population wants to hear. That said, it is what you need to hear if you want to have your best year this year.

Tip #1: Work Harder

This is the tip most people won’t like. Here’s the thing about hard work: the harder you work by making more sales calls, the more your sales will increase. Want to increase sales by 20 percent? Simple, increase your sales calls … Read the rest

Getting Lost Customers Back


Opportunities for service recovery are numerous. If you are close to the customer and discover a problem, it’s your chance to go beyond the call of duty and win a customer for life.

Too many executives think employees are born with good customer service skills. It’s important to develop a process that allows employees some latitude in serving the customer that also includes specifically defined steps that must be followed in providing service recovery. Doing so requires decision making and rule breaking — exactly what the employee has been conditioned against. Workers have been taught that it’s not their job … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the eighth 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 felt well-prepared for his visit to see Enrique and Maria Gonzales. Maria met him in the lobby and walked him to the distributorship’s conference room. “Jim, we appreciate your coming back to discuss how Bigglie’s compensation plan affects your distributors,” she said as they made their way through the bustling inside sales department toward the meeting room. Enrique joined them just as … Read the rest

Chili and Your Intuition: Ingredients for Making Better Strategic Decisions


As a business owner or manager, what you ultimately rely on most when deciding your company’s future is your intuition. The challenge with so many stakeholders relying on you to make the “right” decision, is ensuring that your instincts are reliable.

Effective leaders hone their intuition the way a chef cooks a pot of chili. Like chili, intuition needs to include the right ingredients and then be allowed to simmer a while. Here are several ingredients for you to stew on:

  • Get Customer Coaching

Even as a senior executive, you’ll end up making better decisions after spending some time at … Read the rest

Lessons Learned From Being a Manufacturer


One of the more common paths to follow on the way to becoming an independent manufacturers’ rep is to start as a manufacturer. Two manufacturers who followed that path compared notes at an industry meeting earlier this year and there were two areas in which they credited their former careers for providing them with some valuable knowledge.

In the area of being able to truly understand what the rep does, one rep emphasized, “One thing I’ll never forget is the fact that the rep owns the customer. That’s why when we made the move from a predominately direct sales operation … Read the rest

The Top Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson


If you’re young enough, some of the questions in the first few paragraphs that follow won’t apply because you haven’t experienced the world without the innovations mentioned below. Don’t let that prevent you from reading this, because after the milestones, we’ll get to the good selling stuff.

For those of you who are my age or older, do you remember the first time you saw color TV? For me it was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the early 1960s. Or the first time you watched cable with more than six channels and without snow? Wireless remote controls? OK, … Read the rest

Change of Control: How to Make Your Business More Valuable by Planning for Your Manufacturers Being Sold


In the 72 hours before I sat down to write this article, the owners of three different sales representative agencies called me with concerns because one of their manufacturers was being purchased. These acquisitions often take sales representatives by surprise, asking themselves what rights they have and what will happen next.

What to do and not to do when one of your manufacturers is sold will be the subject of a future article for Agency Sales. But the purpose of this article is to get you thinking about how to anticipate the possibility of your manufacturers getting sold, plan … Read the rest

ERA Honors Bob Evans, CPMR, of EK Micro With 2019 Tess Hill Award

At its 50th Anniversary Conference, held in Austin, Texas, February 24-26, the Electronics Representatives Association (ERA) presented the third annual Tess Hill Award to Bob Evans, CPMR, president of EK Micro in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Evans was recognized for his nearly 20 years of contribution to ERA at the chapter and national levels, his long-standing commitment to education as the current chair of the Chapter Leadership Council, and his service to both the Chicagoland-Wisconsin Chapter and the ERA Executive Committee.

This award was created in 2017 to honor Tess Hill, a long-time ERA staff member. It recognizes individuals for their … Read the rest