Ask Them!

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I’d like to share two quick stories about our experience asking MANA members what they want.

The first story comes from MANA’s Board of Directors’ preparation for its Strategic Planning session.

MANA has many member benefits. The Board knew it couldn’t build a roadmap for MANA’s future until they knew which of those benefits were most highly valued by our members.

So we asked them.

We discovered MANA members’ number one priority was for MANA to provide the world’s most robust and powerful rep search tools. So the Board’s number one priority became the new RepFinder® smartphone app.

The second story comes from MANA’s experience after launching the RepFinder® app. We needed to know how we could continue to improve the rep search process the app offers to manufacturers.

So we asked them.

Kent Gladish

Kent Gladish (left) with TMA members participating in MANA’s focus group.


In this case, we wanted face-to-face live feedback from manufacturers as they used the app to conduct rep searches, so we needed to assemble a focus group.

I turned to a longtime friend of MANA, Kent Gladish of the Schaumburg, Illinois-based Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) for help. I asked if he might be able to get five or 10 TMA manufacturer members to sit down with us, use the app, and give us their feedback.

Kent graciously put out the word, but instead of five or 10 volunteers, we got 38! Their insightful feedback will help MANA to continue to improve and enhance the world’s most robust rep search tool — crucial feedback that we only received because we asked for it.

Do you want to outpace your competitors? Ask your customers what they want! You will get the information you need and will earn your customers’ loyalty and respect.

Ask them!

Professionalism and Trust

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Sales are about relationships. Take any sales course today and you learn your purpose is not to get purchase orders but to help customers solve problems. If the customer senses that, they start to trust you and they go on to buy from you.

MANA strongly supports the concept that professional manufacturers’ representatives need to also treat the manufacturers they represent as customers. The relationship you create with your principals needs to be high-trust. When your principal trusts you, you work together as partners. The result? You increase orders, a benefit for both of you.

The same holds true for … Read the rest

A Rep’s View From Both Sides of the Desk

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Shortly after Craig Deerman opened his own agency doors two years ago, he arrived at a couple of valuable observations learned while sitting on the manufacturer’s and rep’s side of the desk.

Deerman, Deerman Sales, Birmingham, Alabama, armed with 18 years of unique expertise in the residential, commercial and decorative plumbing products’ markets, noted that:

  • Networking for reps is a bit of a different game from what he had previously experienced as a manufacturer.
  • And, manufacturers aren’t always knowledgeable and appreciative of everything that reps do on their behalf.

Speaking of the former point, Deerman maintains, “From the manufacturer’s perspective, … Read the rest

Checking References:
Just Confirming the Decision to Hire or Not?

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Over the last 45 years, I’ve hired and trained many outside and inside salespeople. I’ve made a lot more hiring mistakes than wins. This writing is to hopefully help you, the manager, make fewer mistakes than I did. Sales professionals can also learn to stay in touch with previous supervisors. Make checking references an integral part of the interviewing process, not just a formality. The tendency is to ask easy questions, hoping no red flags come up that would cause you to question the decision you have already made to hire the person. Don’t do this!

Who will give a … Read the rest

Letter to the Editor

COVID-19 Relief Programs Bypass Reps, Says MANA Member

I have been a MANA member since 2016, and have greatly benefitted from your services. My agency, North Central Manufacturing Solutions, represents suppliers of factory automation and test equipment, and sells to Fortune 500 manufacturers in the Upper Midwest.

I am sure that many MANA members are feeling the effects that the coronavirus has had on the economy. While almost all of us have fought and survived through economic downturns, we have not experienced “shelter-in-place,” which shuts down factories, and prevents suppliers from executing.

If shelter-in-place goes nationwide, and lasts for months, … Read the rest

A Key Man Walks Out….

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Keeping a key person is not always possible.

Joe, the best salesperson and a vital part of the rep agency suddenly decided he did not want to be there anymore.

Seriously, this guy was making big dollars and doing very well. The owner of the agency had even given him a 10 percent share of the business and promised more to come. What more could the guy want?

This situation is not farfetched. It doesn’t happen every day, but it happens often enough for owners of agencies to be concerned. What can a smart, loyal, very involved rep agency owner … Read the rest

Reasons Why Employee Training Fails

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Most of the money and time companies spend on training is wasted. That’s because the majority of companies use outdated training ideas and boring training methods.

Training that is poorly presented goes in one ear and out the other. It’s no wonder employees don’t change their attitudes or behaviors after they attend a badly presented training session.

After working in the training field for more than 40 years on six continents, I’ve identified 12 reasons why group training fails.

1. Large groups: You can’t have a good group discussion if 100 people are in the room. Try to limit training Read the rest

Business Etiquette for Salespeople — Some Finer Points

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Most business etiquette is common sense. The following are some finer points.

  • If someone tells you that you didn’t get the business, smile, find out why, thank the person for their time, make sure the door is open for the next opportunity,
  • and exit courteously.
  • Always allow the customer or prospect to decide where you’re going to eat unless they are visiting your home turf and ask you to choose. At that point, ask what kind of food they prefer, and give them a choice of locations.
  • If you have someone else from your company with you, always let the
  • Read the rest

Going Against the Grain: Contrarian Thinking Can Put Us on the Right Track

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It makes business more interesting when there are a few contrarians around. A Jeff Bezos, a Steve Jobs, or an Elon Musk — those who challenge commonly accepted assumptions. They stir our placid mental waters to get the creative juices flowing.

As it turns out, the start of a new decade is a good time for a little contrarian thought — for looking at things differently. In fact, it may be helpful since we’re entering a period that will present us with far-reaching changes and daunting challenges. In other words, a time when we can benefit from getting tougher with … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps

This is the 20th 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 brought Harold up to speed, and the two decided the next step would be to propose to Joe Troothe that a rep company be hired in one territory. Joe agreed, with one qualification: “If you have to pay commission to get incremental business, fine, but don’t give away any commission on our existing sales.”

Taking Sue Elliot’s advice, Jim picked a relatively … Read the rest

The Role of Intimidation in Your Sales Success

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A colleague recently handed me a yellowing copy of Robert Ringer’s Winning Through Intimidation, a personal development book published 47 years ago. The fact that it was so old was precisely the reason I was excited to read it.

I’ve been on an old-book kick lately. I’m deliberately reading sales, leadership and personal development books that are at least 20 years old, so I can compare how thinking has changed.

I’m a big believer in learning from history. While you must stay on the cutting edge and keep up with our changing world, the most successful people never stray … Read the rest

Team Support Spells Success

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When a panel of three manufacturers was asked by another manufacturer who was brand new to working with reps what kind of support he should expect in order to make the partnership work, the trio on the panel answered unanimously “teamwork.”

One of the manufacturers offered, “You don’t need just one person or one ‘rep champion’ in your organization. What you truly need is to introduce the philosophy of team support — and that’s much more than just support in the sales function. Your manufacturing support team should include individuals from accounting, manufacturing, shipping, advertising, public relations, and operations. If … Read the rest

Why Managing Remotely Is So Tough — and Eight Ways to Make It Easier

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Managing remote teams is a whole different ballgame. Yet in the age of flex work, satellite offices, and telecommuting, mastering this skill set is no longer optional. David Deacon shares some best practices that help self-determined managers connect with employees at a distance.

Managing remotely has quickly become the norm in today’s work world. And yet, it’s not easy. With more employees working remotely or on flex schedules, it can be tough to create the kind of connection you need to help people do their best work. You can’t pick up on non-verbal cues. You can’t tell if they’re having … Read the rest

What Happens in California Doesn’t Necessarily Stay in California (Part II)

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This is the second of two articles on the effect that California law can have on businesses throughout the country and even abroad. Last month’s article delved into California’s recently enacted “AB5” statute which provides an “ABC” test to determine if a worker/service provider is an independent contractor or an employee. AB5 was enacted in response to the new “gig” economy in which businesses seek to utilize independent contractors, as opposed to direct employees, to sell their services and products in an effort to avoid employment-related benefits and legal obligations. The scope of that statute, of course, is important to … Read the rest

The WomenReps Third Annual Conference Headed to Dallas

The year 2020 marked the WomenReps Third Annual conference, a Texas-sized success. This unique conference once again grew in attendance and was so well received that the gathering for 2021 is already in the planning stages.

Participant Willa Moats, Willcare Associates, LLC, shared this feedback:

“Just a note to share my gratitude for the efforts put forth for our conference in Dallas.  This was my second one and one of the best conferences I have ever been part of. Often certain parts/presentations/topics are better than others but this conference proved 100 percent useful.”

Jamie Benson of Foster Engineered Products wrote:… Read the rest

MAC February Meeting

Approximately 25 people including reps, manufacturers and distributors attended the monthly meeting of the Manufacturers’ Agents of Cincinnati (MAC) on February 14, 2020 at Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati, Ohio. The meeting covered how the new 5G Platform from Verizon Wireless will transform our lives and businesses — a timely subject for Southwest Ohio given that just two weeks prior, Verizon made Cincinnati the 34th city in the United States to get 5G service.

For information on future meetings, visit the MAC website at www.maccincinnati.org, click on the events tab for details.

Please note that MAC takes a recess on monthly … Read the rest