01010010 01100101 01110000


This is how a computer stores the word “rep.” Binary language. Nothing but ones and zeros. To human eyes, incomprehensible.

image of binary code

© Anterovium | stock.adobe.com

Something else about ones and zeros has been almost equally incomprehensible. Can reps earn commissions selling ones and zeros?

Let me explain.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a manufacturer of communication software used in manufacturing plants so employees on the plant floor can communicate more effectively.

The software manufacturer wants to sell his software using manufacturers’ reps. After all, he reasoned, reps who are calling on specifying influences for other equipment on the plant floor would be a natural to sell his software. Except….

Except that most reps I speak with are used to selling a physical product. The product ships from their principal to a customer, the customer receives an invoice, and the rep gets paid a percentage of the invoiced price.

But selling software is different. When a rep selling manufacturing software makes a sale, ones and zeros pass from the software company to the customer. No physical products move. If the software is sold as a subscription, there may not even be an invoice. Let me give you an example.

A rep convinces a customer to equip 100 manufacturing employees with productivity software. The customer pays $20 per employee per month, $2,000 total a month, and the rep gets paid commission each month the customer continues to use the software.

If the rep has negotiated a good contract, the rep will continue to be paid sales commission for as long as the customer uses the software. It’s the ones and zeros equivalent of a life-of-part/life-of-program agreement for physical products.

It’s the first month of a new decade. Has the time come for reps to embrace selling intangible products, or does the rep business model require physical products? Please write to me with your comments; my email is ccohon@manaonline.org.

Welcome to the Next Decade. Where Did the Last One Go?


During the last decade, we saw many changes. Our activity level substantially increased and how we communicate with each other continues to evolve (social media, texting). Like a “New Year Resolution,” how about creating some “New Decade Resolutions” to help adapt to these changes?

The challenge you face relates to your activity level increase. What motivates you to take time from your busy schedule to invest in making plans on what changes you need to make to adapt? To get you out of the rut in which you find yourself and on to a different path, one that leads to … Read the rest

Compensating for Trade Show Duty


First came an email from a MANA member asking for some advice about reimbursement for expenses they incurred while helping a principal man a trade show booth. In this case, there was no reimbursement.

Next was a conversation over breakfast with another association member who related his agency’s experiences over the years. “When a principal, especially one of our top lines, requests that we be in attendance at a trade show, we’re there. And there’s generally no reimbursement. It’s just expected that this is part of our job — and if we’re interested in maintaining a good relationship with the … Read the rest

Succession: Planning Makes Perfect


It’s no easy or automatic task to successfully plan an exit from an agency. Perhaps one of the more successful efforts in this direction can be seen in the experience of Steve Hanson, Western Safety Associates (WSA).

Established in 1974 and headquartered in Corona, California, WSA boasts more than 40 years of expertise in sales and distribution serving manufacturers in industrial safety, construction, medical, aerospace and industrial distribution marketplaces. The agency’s outside sales force is supported by customer service personnel, distribution staff and a warehouse distribution center in Corona. The WSA sales team is composed of representatives covering the Western … Read the rest

The Rule of Thirds: How to Truly Listen


“Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage,” wrote Publilius Syrus more than 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome.

Such wise advice from ages ago has never been more relevant. In the modern professional world, we are suffering from a listening crisis.

Actually, it’s a “lack-of-listening” crisis.

Whether your role is executive, managerial, sales or anything else, it’s critically important to your success that you listen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” wrote Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Too often we get that order mixed up. … Read the rest

Rules for Negotiating Representative Agreements That Last


There has never been a relationship between a supplier and a manufacturers’ representative that survived forever. With proper attention to detail when negotiating your next representative agreement, however, you may diminish the likelihood of a premature end to the relationship or costly litigation upon termination. Here are five rules to focus on when negotiating your next rep agreement.

Balance Pays Dividends

Sales reps and manufacturers sometimes seek to gain advantage over their partner by incorporating a bias into the rep agreement favoring the author and placing the other party at a disadvantage. This technique rarely enjoys the benefits desired. The … Read the rest

Mistakes That Doom a Company’s Marketing


Marketing has never been a laid back, trouble‑free game anyone can play. Today, it’s far more perilous than ever, particularly since prospective customers are moving targets. Just when you think you have them figured out, they’ve moved on. If you don’t know what they want and the way they want to get it, they’re gone. If you disappoint them by betraying their trust, they’ll strike back. Bank on it.

Today’s customers are touchy and unforgiving. They’re in charge and they know it. While marketing can play a key role in a company’s success, it’s a fragile function; its efforts can … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the 16th 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.

Harold complied, and said, “I’m going to add the words ‘commission system’ in parentheses underneath, because in every conversation we’ve had so far, commission has been the key element in getting the feedback you want.”

Jim agreed. “Harold, as long as we’re talking about things we want, you may as well write ‘more sales’ on the same page. And there’s something else on … Read the rest

Foundation for Top Sales Achievement


As the saying goes, “A house is only as strong as its foundation.” It takes a strong foundation to ensure sales success. Following are the several high‑achievement ingredients necessary to build that strong foundation.

Ingredient #1 for High Achievement: Be in Sales for the Right Reasons

The first thing I look for in a potential new sales rep is people skills. In order to have long-term success and become a top achiever, you must be able to understand and communicate with people while also having a great capacity for empathy. Genuine caring and a desire to serve and help people … 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 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

Darin Dankelson
Metal Parts & Equipment Co.
Northbrook, IL

60 years

Steve Meyer
Espey & Assocs, Inc.
Sheffield Village, OH

William S. O’Brien
The Buckland Sales Co.
Manchester, CT

55 years

Jeffrey T. Boyd
Custom Sales, Inc.
Tulsa, OK

Neil P. Schuld
JLS Industrial Sales, Inc.
Westlake, OH

Timothy … Read the rest

Paying Attention to Service Pays Off


The newsletter “Quality Assurance Report” states that only when a company knows exactly what kind of service its customers expect, delivers on those expectations 100 percent of the time, at a price that customers are willing to pay, while still getting an acceptable return, can the company claim to excel in customer service.

Northwest Delta Dental excels in the customer experience and enjoys an impressive annual profit. They’ve known for years that customer service doesn’t cost — it pays!

Each year I interview Northeast Delta Dental. They are the region’s most trusted name in dental insurance for companies of all … Read the rest

Considering Both Sides of a Story


A folksy bit of wisdom was forthcoming from a meeting of four manufacturers as they were considering relations with their reps. When the subject arose of mistakes that reps make in their dealing with principals, one of the manufacturers offered the following insight: “No matter how you cook a pancake, it always has two sides.”

That’s when he went on to offer a partial list of what he considered missteps principals can be accused of making in their relations with reps. On that list were the following:

  • A failure to clearly identify mutual expectations before selecting independent reps.
  • Failure to
Read the rest

Spotting Signs Your IT Is Out of Date


The evolution of IT technology is advancing at breakneck speed. This evolution not only keeps the IT department in a constant state of change, but also dramatically changes the way the overall business must adapt to stay competitive.

IT technologies have rapidly morphed, including the way users consume them. Companies slow or hesitant to adapt will quickly fall from market leaders to laggards depending upon how effectively they embrace digital transformation.

But how does a leader know if the company is leading or lagging, and if its IT is out of date? While there are numerous ways to evaluate, let’s … Read the rest

Our Contract Has Been Breached, What Now?


A Sales Rep’s Options if Their Principal Breaches the Contract and How to Prevent It

Part One

One of the most common and pertinent questions I get from sales reps is, “My principal breached one of the commission payment requirements of the contract but they are still paying me on other sales. What should I do?” That’s a very good question that depends on the circumstances. My intent in this article is to explore the various options.

You signed a representation agreement with a highly desirable manufacturer, and although it took several years to cultivate business, you landed the big … Read the rest

MANA’s Board of Directors Meet With Members in Atlanta

At MANA’s recent Board of Directors meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, MANA’s Board took questions from local MANA members and MANA CEO Charles Cohon demonstrated MANA’s new RepFinder® smartphone app.

MANA Board Chairperson John Davis, Paul Davis Automation, Inc., Chardon, Ohio, also thanked board members Stephen Fowler, Process Equipment Resources & Consulting Services, Bridgewater, New Jersey, and Ed Juline, Mexico Representation, Guadalajara, Mexico, for serving two two-year terms on MANA’s Board of Directors and thanked past Board Chairperson John Beaver, GSA Optimum, Oakdale, New York, for his service on the board and as board chairperson.… Read the rest

NMRA Elects New Leadership

The National Marine Representatives Association (NMRA) recently elected its 2019-2020 officers and board of directors. All are independent manufacturers’ sales reps who work in the commercial and recreational marine markets.

Patrick Churchman of Midwest Outdoor Marketing became NMRA president and Scott Kolodny of ComMar Sales is vice-president. Aaron Freeman of Tideline Marketing is the new treasurer and Mark Goodman of SGL Sales & Marketing is now secretary, after serving on the board of directors. Clayton Smith of Waters & David Company becomes the past president.

Robert Guerrieri of Atlantic Marketing, Jorge Montes of Brunger Export, and Mike Steiner of West … Read the rest