Closing Deals Based on Handshakes in a COVID‑19 World


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My jaw dropped when a rep told me he was still closing deals based on handshakes and face-to-face meetings during quarantine and social distancing. Then he explained, and I could not have agreed with him more.

“Am I respecting my state’s mandatory quarantine and social distancing rules? Definitely! Am I closing deals based on handshakes and face-to-face meetings? Also, definitely! And it has nothing to do with wearing masks or gloves.

“Let me explain.

“Right now, customers are dealing with FUD. Fear, uncertainty and doubt. When they’re dealing with FUD, and when their companies are on the line if vendors let them down, are they going to roll the dice on a new vendor? Of course not! They are going to turn to trusted resources. Resources like me.

“That’s what I mean when I say I’m still closing deals based on handshakes and face-to-face meetings. Not recent handshakes and face-to-face meetings, of course. I’m closing deals based on my two decades worth of handshakes and face-to-face meetings with my customers in my territory.

“Those decades of handshakes and face-to-face meetings mean that when customers urgently need a resource who intimately understands their needs and also can be trusted implicitly, they know that they can turn to me.

“Are there factory-direct salespeople who can match my two decades of service to my customers in my territory? Not many, if there are any at all.

“And what happens if there is a situation that cannot be addressed without a face-to-face meeting? Safely socially distanced, but face-to-face. My customers know that many factory-direct salespeople are based at their company’s headquarters and fly out to see customers as needed.

“Those factory-direct salespeople are not going to want to get on a plane. And my customers are not going to be enthusiastic about a face-to-face meeting with someone who has just gotten off a plane.”

Bottom line, with FUD all around us, there has never been a better time for manufacturers to go to market through manufacturers’ reps.

Why Do Reps Want Exclusivity?


When you reach out to manufacturers’ representatives and work on creating a business relationship, one topic that comes up in the negotiations is “exclusivity.” Professional manufacturers’ representatives that perform well for the companies they represent will not sign an agreement without some form of exclusivity.

First, let’s define “exclusivity.” Exclusivity means the manufacturers’ representative gets credit for all sales in the defined territory, Yes, that means sometimes they may get credit for an order they played no part in getting. But those orders make up for orders the rep did all the work to earn but didn’t get because the … Read the rest

Feeling Comfortable as a Rep


As Ken Russell-Murray looks back over the history and growth of his agency, he recalls that when he opened his doors in 1995, “I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous at all.” That’s probably the best frame of mind to have when making a major career change — and the years of success that have followed have proven him correct.

According to Russell-Murray, who heads ElectraSpec, Inc., “When I made the decision to open my own agency, for nine years I had been traveling throughout Canada and the Eastern United States as the sales manager for an electrical manufacturer. When the company … Read the rest

Facing the New Abnormal


At the conclusion of a week of MANAchats devoted to the subject of effectively communicating with principals and customers in the midst of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the 38 MANA members who participated agreed on a number of subjects.

  • It should come as no surprise that no one felt the end is in sight, nor could they predict when the logistics of how they conduct business might ever return to the way they used to.
  • “Staying in touch” — by any means possible — with principals and customers is now more important than ever.
  • Relationships remain the foundation for the rep
Read the rest

What to Do in the Current Environment


After 54 years on the planet, and almost 33 in business, I know two things:

  • This will be over at some point.
  • A few organizations will come out of this with a stronger, healthier business while the others come out of it anywhere from “okay” to “out-of-business.”

If you want to be in the first category, here’s what to do.

Note: The “stronger and healthier” mentioned above doesn’t refer to companies that will automatically grow from the current crisis.

How to Excel in the Current Environment

Everything goes in cycles. The stock market, the economy, real estate — you name … Read the rest

The Only Message Customers Want From You


It only took the pandemic a couple of weeks to turn it all upside down — including marketing and sales. And along with it has come an endless tsunami of email messages flooding consumer email mailboxes. It was war, with 50 percent to 80 percent off sales, “Lowest prices ever,” “Free shipping — Free returns,” “Final Markdown,” “Sale ends in 4 hours and 17 minutes,” and BOGO offers.

It seems like a domino effect — emails to customers from well-meaning businesses streaming to smartphones and computer desktops. One company starts it, and everyone else follows with their version of the … Read the rest

Manufacturers’ Representative Provides Support for “Made-in-America” Effort


One year comfortably into his retirement, an Ohio rep was reminiscing about his 27-year career as an independent rep when he settled upon one especially fond memory.

“As I look back over my career as a rep, there’s one incident that’s especially important to me. I was able to assist a small Ohio business to gain a higher percentage of a world-wide market and at the same time to grow as a ‘Made-in-America’ company. While what I went through to help both the manufacturer and the customer sounds a bit complicated, principally because I had to devote a lot of … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps


This is the 23rd 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 agreement excluded Troothe’s two big accounts. Jim was uneasy about sending it to William, but Joe Troothe had been specific that he didn’t want to give up any existing accounts to the new rep.

William asked about the totals in the territory, and Jim said, “It’s $250,000, but once you exclude the two house accounts, it’s more like $50,000.” Jim had shared … Read the rest

How to Get Bigger by Being Smart


Agency size matters — there are ways to position your rep firm to look and feel bigger and more powerful.

In a previous article we discussed the larger, more powerful rep firms — “power reps” — what they have and what they do.

Now, let’s talk about your average size — the five salespeople, two inside support personnel firm. You don’t need to do everything a power rep firm does to compete for the good lines. Many manufacturers who are looking for a new rep in your territory do not have the powerful marketing and sales management systems of the … Read the rest

Intentional Networking: Effective and Efficient Steps to Success

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Ever wonder why some people are so powerfully connected, are the first to hear about great opportunities, and earn more quality referrals? The answer may surprise you.

To attract more success in business, you don’t have to network more; you just have to network more intentionally. This means becoming more focused, engaging, trusted and memorable. And not necessarily with more people, but with “your people” — meaning the people who naturally bring the most value into your world.

After years of experience and study, we’ve discovered your networking success boils down to nine critical steps. Here they are for you, … Read the rest

Searching for Reps


Ten years ago, before Charley Cohon became MANA’s CEO, he wrote this article suggesting that manufacturers could use data mining to find reps.

When this article was first published, routine data mining was mostly a tool for big businesses. Now that data mining is common in medium and small businesses, this article may resonate more with manufacturers now than it did in 2010, so we are reprinting it in this issue of Agency Sales magazine.

Special thanks to Michael Roemen, sales channel manager for MANA‑member 9Wood, an architectural product manufacturer in Springfield, Oregon, whose recent MANAcast interview reminded us of Read the rest

Redirecting the Conversation


While in the midst of trying to maximize the efficiency and contributions of its rep council, a manufacturer accessed several of the articles on that subject that have appeared in the pages of Agency Sales magazine.

After reviewing them the manufacturer contacted us with the following observation: “With a certain amount of regularity one or more of our rep council members seem to force discussions in a negative direction. They seem to have their own agenda and are bound and determined to complete it no matter what.”

We’ve heard this complaint previously and in response there’s really nothing wrong with … Read the rest

Is Social Media Worth the Risk?


“I’m taking a break from Facebook.”
“I don’t even check Twitter anymore.”

I’ve been hearing statements like these with increasing regularity.

As political vitriol reaches new pitch levels, some people are finding social media to be too unnerving. While Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter remain important parts of my life, I can understand why a person would want to avoid all the unpleasantries. It’s almost as if you have to psych yourself up these days before opening your Facebook feed.

Like you, I have social media friends/connections who constantly spout fervent opinions on a host of socio-political issues. I strongly agree … Read the rest

Key Factors for Valuing a Sales Rep Agency


As the rep industry begins to age, it is important to have a succession plan for the benefit of the next generation of employees, as well as the agency’s principals and customers. A well thought out and crafted succession plan will provide for continuity of the agency and will benefit all parties in the event of death, disability or retirement of the owners.

Arrangements for buying or selling a rep agency require an evaluation of the business. Both buyers and sellers should require the use of a reasoned evaluation for determining how much the agency is worth and thus, how … Read the rest

Congratulations Are in Order for Three AIM/R Reps

Three rep agency members of the Association of Independent Manufacturers’/Representatives, Inc. (AIM/R) are in the spotlight this year. Each June, industry publications honor rep agencies in the plumbing and HVAC industry. In 2020 AIMR is pleased to announce that these honors went to three of their members.

  • Charlie Parham, CPMR, of Pepco Sales & Marketing was honored by Supply House Times as their “2020 Manufacturers’ Rep of the Year.”
  • Scott Cooper of New England Sales, Inc., was honored by PM Engineer as their “2020 Rep of the Year.”
  • Joe Curcio of Maloney & Curcio, Inc., was honored by Plumbing &
Read the rest