Can You Write Me a Business Plan?


Recently I’ve heard from reps who report hearing a new question during line interviews: “Can you write me a business plan?”


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Eager to outshine other reps competing for the line, these reps pulled out all the stops to be sure that their in-depth business plans proved their knowledge of their territory and market.

Their business plans detailed all the customers they planned to convert to that manufacturer’s product and the competitors’ products those customers were using. To really impress the manufacturer, sometimes they even reported the prices those customers were paying.

It seemed like a good strategy at the time. But when reps who submitted business plans didn’t get the line, they looked back at the process with mixed feelings.

“We wrote a business plan for a product we don’t currently have on our line card, so if the manufacturer uses that information to sell his products, it won’t actually take any money out of our pockets*.”

“At the time we had an internal discussion about asking the manufacturer to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but it would have thrown cold water on our discussions for sure.”

“In retrospect, we showed the manufacturer way too many of our cards way too soon. If I had it to do all over again, I would give a list of prospective customers but not share any information about the current brands they use or the prices they pay. I would give a total of prospective sales in the territory, but not break it out customer by customer. And I would include a polite footnote indicating that I would share granular details after the rep agreement is signed.”

Have you been asked to write a business plan when you were interviewing for a new line? Did you write one? Did it work out well, or would you do things differently next time? Please e-mail to let us know!

* Details may have been added, removed, or altered to protect the privacy of those who share their stories with us and to better illustrate the concepts discussed in this article.

How Blockchain Could Impact the Manufacturers’ Representative and Agent Profession


How many times have you encountered a manufacturer’s, customer’s or government’s process and asked yourself, “Why is this process so difficult? Why is this process so bureaucratic? Why is this process making our lives more difficult?”

I have yet to dig into any broken or lengthy process and find that it exists exactly as it was designed many years before. It is always the evolution of sometimes many years of tweaks and changes to cover a perceived weakness or loophole in the original design. Sometimes peeling back the onion and trying to fix it becomes impossible because of the tangle … Read the rest

TransAtlanticPass Named Hayward Award Winner


“When you’re no longer an employee of a company and you have your own rep firm, you don’t just get up every morning and go to work. Things are now a lot different. You’ve got to realize that you’re now running a business. You can’t ever turn yourself off, you’re constantly concerned about the business and thinking about how to get things done better.”

In a nutshell that’s how Nicolas Skrzypczak, TransAtlanticPass Consulting & Sales Agency, LLC, Waterford, Michigan, describes his transition from being an employee of an auto supplier manufacturer to the owner of a rep firm that this … Read the rest

Seminar Defines the Manufacturer-Rep Relationship


Ask Hank Bergson what manufacturers new to working with reps will miss if they don’t take advantage of MANA’s manufacturer seminar, “Best Practices With Reps, Planning With Intent,” in October and the rep-savvy consultant immediately opens a door to all the opportunities reps can provide their sales and marketing partners. The association’s next manufacturer seminar is scheduled for October 10‑11, Holiday Inn & Suites, Chicago O’Hare.

Bergson, president, Henry Bergson Associates, LLC, has been conducting the MANA seminars for several years. As a result of that lengthy tenure, there’s probably no question about rep-manufacturer relationships that the two men haven’t … Read the rest

Value Through the Eyes of Your Customer


Do you think your customers appreciate the value of the value-added services you offer?

  • If you think so, just how valuable are they to your customers?
  • What are the real dollar amounts that are assigned, by your customers, to the value-added extra you offer?
  • Have you told your customers the real-dollar value amounts that you have assigned to the value-added services you offer?
  • Have you even assigned real-dollar amounts yet?

Recently, in dealing with the issue of value through the eyes of your customer, I challenged a group of sales agents for an international manufacturing company to answer these questions Read the rest

How to Get Testimonials That Boost Your Credibility


The unspoken question in every customer’s mind.

“I want to believe you, but can I trust you?” is the unspoken question customers ask salespeople. The devil in every sale is customer doubt. Specifically, a salesperson’s lack of credibility. Slow down. Forget about “updating” your “professional profile.” Why? To put it graciously, too many are being “massaged” by salespeople who think they need to “enhance” themselves. But, customers aren’t fooled; bad experiences make them suspicious and they back off from saying “yes.”

The tool that helps bridge the “credibility gulf” is the customer testimonial. But wait a minute; don’t roll your … Read the rest

Virtual vs. the Brick-and-Mortar Office


Consider for a moment the following scenes:

  • The overheard cell phone conversation where some sort of a contractual agreement is being negotiated.
  • The business person huddled over a tablet scrutinizing numbers in an airport terminal.
  • The salesperson simultaneously working a cell phone and a computer in your neighborhood coffee shop.

These and innumerable other examples serve as reminders that the virtual office isn’t something of the future — it’s here (and growing) today.

Several conversations with reps and any number of current articles on the subject serve as reminders that while the days of the typical brick-and-mortar office aren’t necessarily … Read the rest

Building a Successful (Sales) Culture


You just hired the perfect person: great work ethic, positive and upbeat, they show up early, leave late, take 10 minutes of a 15-minute break, and do more than expected, and more than you ask for.

Now let’s take that person and put them into an environment where people are negative, aren’t held accountable, take three days off for a hang-nail, show up at 8:05 then spend 45 minutes “getting ready” for their day, start preparing to leave at 3:30 and leave at 5:00 like there’s a fire drill. What happens to that perfect hire? One of two things: they … Read the rest

Sales Reps + Sales Manager Teamwork Approach


Getting the sales manager to be a proactive part of the salesperson’s program pays big dividends.

Do you have a sales manager? If you don’t, should you have one?

My answer is a resounding “Yes!” Even if you are a small rep firm, you need someone to act as the leader of the sales force and supervisor of the salespeople. How can you expect salespeople to manage their business if they are not managed by the company they work for?

The most important part of a salesperson’s work is not making calls. It is planning their activity for their 10-20 … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the 11th 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.

It took only a few more weeks for Brocaw to gather enough supporting documentation to fire Jim. During that interval, Jim had continued without effect to scour the flange industry for employment opportunities. When the ax fell, Jim found himself facing two unpleasant alternatives — unemployment or working for a company that was known as the worst supplier in the flange business. When … Read the rest

Does It Really Pay to Focus on Exceptional Service?


My experience and persistent advice to companies clamoring for a top spot in their market and the road they take in life is — focus feverishly on exceptional service and you will be rewarded.

I have found that any company that can build a brand around exceptional service will increase its value by at least 25 percent. Frankly it could be 100-400 percent or more. Every now and then I run into service leaders that are an example of what I have been preaching for the past 40 some years; service leaders that truly understand the power of incredible customer … Read the rest

Valuable Input From a Rep Council


A manufacturer that has long depended upon the input it receives from the members of its rep council recently reported what it viewed was some critical advice on the subject of what attributes a manufacturer regional manager should possess. Here’s how the manufacturer stated the results of its most recent council meeting.

“We were at the point of selecting a new regional manager for our rep sales force. Since we have enjoyed such success with our rep council when it came to other matters of importance, we decided to put the question to them as to what they were looking … Read the rest

Robocalls Clog Lines of Communication


It wasn’t all that long ago when the bane of our collective existence was the proliferation of “spam” e-mail. At the time, there seemed to be nothing worse than the hundreds if not thousands of unsolicited e-mail messages would clog our personal and business e-mail boxes. Now that that annoyance has a diminished profile it seemed natural that something would take its place. Sure enough — now we have “robocalls.”

In its simplest form a robocall is a phone call using a computerized autodialer that delivers a pre-recorded message. Based on experience, it’s probably a pre-recorded message we don’t want … Read the rest

Don’t Cash That Check!


I settled a lawsuit recently which involved a problem that I thought would be of interest to sales representatives.

My client was a golfing buddy of mine from The Detroit Golf Club. He sold automotive production parts. My friend had a long-term relationship with the owner of his principal based in another state. They had been close friends for more than 20 years. The owner decided that it was time to sell the company and to slow down and retire. The assets of the company were purchased by an investment firm located in the Northeast. My client was making a … Read the rest