Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.


A rep recently posed a couple of interesting questions.
When will this be over?
When can I go back to business as usual?

When he posed those questions, all of us at MANA were scrambling to gather information for MANA members about the short-term government initiatives designed to keep small businesses afloat and to put together MANAcasts, webinars and emails with the information our members needed to learn how to use those programs.

Now that we’ve given our members the information they needed quickly; I’ve had time to reflect a little bit on that rep’s questions about the long-term.

Improvise Adapt Overcome graphicWe find ourselves facing an abrupt, unforeseeable, life-changing event. None of us have any experience working in this kind of environment. So, if MANA and MANA members have a rallying cry for 2020, it is “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.” *

One of the most compelling arguments for selling through manufacturers’ reps has always been the in-person contact we have with local customers. Now that in-person contacts have been suspended or dramatically curtailed, what do we do? Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

The real argument for selling through manufacturers’ reps really isn’t in-person contact. It’s the fact that manufacturers’ reps, who have proven their value to local customers over years or decades, are customers’ trusted resources. And those reps will continue to be their customers’ trusted resources whether in-person contact is suspended or not.

While in-person visits are suspended, our customers’ needs for commercial support, technical assistance and coaching has not been suspended. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Zoom meetings and other electronic communication get the job done until in-person visits can resume.

So, let’s go back to that rep’s questions. When will this be over? Maybe six months. Maybe 12 months. But it will be over someday.

When can I go back to business as usual? Never. Because your business and your world will never be the same after you: Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

* Clint Eastwood as Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, Heartbreak Ridge.

Selling in the New Normal


Wow, what a difference 60 days makes!

Who would have ever thought our business climate would be where it is today looking back just a couple of months ago? The economy was rolling, the manufacturing sector was up, and the workforce employed. Now we have major OEMs shut down, labor force furloughed, laid off employees, and we are dealing with the unknown of how to re-enter the workplace safely and effectively. A lot to think about and even comprehend for small business.

So, what does the new normal look like as we begin to lift the current “stay at home” … Read the rest

Frontline — Changing With the Times


Contacted in the midst of an agency name change and physical move Rick Root good naturedly took a look back as to how he began his career as an independent manufacturers’ rep.

Root, CEO and COO of Frontline Sales & Marketing, explains, “My friend’s parents owned an agency at the same time I was gainfully employed as an operating engineer. My friend’s father extended an offer to me to ‘come over to the dark side’ as a manufacturers’ rep.”

Root’s introduction to the rep profession was a bit different from many of his peers in that “I had never sold … Read the rest

Celebrating Years of Success


A little over three years ago, Agency Sales magazine profiled long‑time MANA member Murray Percival Company, Auburn Hills, Michigan. At that time we noted that the agency had logged more than 57 years serving the electronics assembly market. This year, as the agency marks its 60th anniversary, we felt the time was right to make a return visit and ask the agency principals to share some of their thoughts on what they felt the future might hold for them.

With that six decades of history to draw from Murray Percival Jr., president and CEO, notes that as he and the Read the rest

What Customers Want to Know About Salespeople Before They Buy


They may not say anything, but don’t be fooled. You’re not home free, no matter how long you’ve been in the business or how good you are at sales. Customers look you over and check you out. Here’s what they’re thinking, “Is this someone I want to conduct business with?”

It’s a funny thing about customers. They not only know they need you, but they want to believe you’ll treat them right, that you’ll take care of them. So, if this is how you want to be viewed, get yourself prepared. A good way to start is by answering the … Read the rest

In Memory of Bill Weiner, IHRA Executive Director

photo of Bill WeinerMANA, the rep industry, and I lost a good friend on March 23 2020.

I am sorry to have to share the passing of Bill Weiner, 86 years young, Executive Director of The International Home + Housewares Representatives Association (IHRA).

As a fellow association executive, Bill was both a friend and a colleague. Bill lived close enough to me that we could get together several times a year to have coffee and discuss our roles and challenges in our respective rep associations.

Bill’s background included working as an electronics manufacturers’ rep, volunteering as an Electronics Representatives Association Board member, working … Read the rest

Sales by the Obvious, and Not-So-Obvious, Numbers


There really is no debate that sales are in fact a numbers game. Here are some of the sales numbers you know about along with some others you may not.

The Obvious Numbers

The more people you talk to, the more business you will do. Even a blind pig finds corn. If you talk to enough people, you will eventually bump into someone who says, “I need what you have” or, “I know someone who needs what you have.”

When someone fails in sales, 99.9 percent of the time it’s the result of a lack of activity. They didn’t make … Read the rest

Keeping the Focus on Objections


Most sales reps believe there are an infinite number of objections that a prospective client could give them, but objections really boil down to just a handful of things:

  • Competitor: “We already work with X.”
  • Timing: “Call me back next quarter.”
  • Price: “We don’t have the budget.”
  • Limitations: “Can you do X, Y and Z?”
  • Lack of Value: “Send me some information.”

Most reps don’t like dealing with objections, and there are several reasons why. Some objections come across like rejections, and that simply doesn’t feel good. Most of us fear rejection at some level. Other objections could signal that … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the 21st 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.

The first agency Jim visited upon his arrival in the territory was a partnership of two men. Their company had a reputation for achieving solid sales growth, but Jim immediately noticed that their office was quite disorganized. Sales leads and trade publications were stacked all over the conference table, and the two had to push them to one side to make room for … Read the rest

“Loose Lips Sink Ships” Has Never Been Truer


In the not too distant past, at a trade event I overheard two reps talking about another rep who had made some serious errors and behaved very badly. Until that performance they had great respect for the rep’s ability as a salesperson. As a matter of fact, one of the guys commented that he had thought about approaching the rep in question to work for his agency.

Now, no way!

This article is much less about a lost opportunity for an attractive, smart, in some ways, young person in the rep business than it is about what leaders in the … Read the rest

Treat Customers Like Life‑Long Partners


Over the years I have had some real “wow” experiences with businesses — people and employees that have treated me like a VIP every single time I have come in contact with them. Sad to say, the opposite is also true.

It seems that every time I have a great experience, there are numerous bad ones that make me wonder why some companies are still in business. Why anyone would ever consider going back to make another purchase. No courtesy, no warmth, no one cares, no speed, no follow-up, and no respect.

My book, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, … Read the rest

Making the Right Choice


Over the course of a year of communicating with and meeting in person with manufacturers, there are some questions that are asked over and over.

Among the most commonly posed are:

  • Having chosen an agency to go to market with, how do I know I’ve made the correct choice?
  • Having chosen that agency, how can the manufacturer be sure they are going to get their fair share of the rep’s effort and time in the field?

Thankfully, Agency Sales magazine has any number of manufacturers we can call upon to address those concerns. Taking those questions in order, one long-standing Read the rest

Data Reveals a Finding Correlating to Sales Success


We had a request for some data from one of our longtime partners.

My knee-jerk reaction to her request was that it would be a big nothing burger. She asked for data that would show the difference between salespeople who are goal oriented and those who are not. I did not expect much of a difference except in the area of motivation but I was wrong. Very wrong! Check out some of the profound differences this data mining uncovered!

Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 sales-specific core competencies. We have data from our evaluations and assessments of 1,942,180 salespeople. Can … Read the rest

Principal Responsibilities


Lawyers rarely tire of advising their clients of the importance of contracts. After all, the contract establishes the rules that both parties are supposed to honor and, in the event that there is a dispute between the parties, the contract gives the court and jury a list of rights and responsibilities that each party has.

Of course, and as an example, this list of rights and responsibilities will be the starting point that a court and jury will use in deciding whether the sales representative is entitled to the disputed commissions it claims it is entitled to receive or the … Read the rest