The Toughest Question All Month

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“I feel like I’m facing a lot of competition from other manufacturers when I try to get the attention of really high-quality reps,” said the manufacturer on the phone. Then he asked a question that sounded like it should have been easy for me to answer.

“Are there more reps looking for manufacturers or more manufacturers looking for reps?”

I started to answer. Then I stopped. I asked if we could talk about his other questions first and circle back to that one. As I answered his other questions, I put my finger on why this question was so challenging.

Every day I talk to manufacturers who are struggling to recruit high-quality reps. Every day I talk to reps struggling to sign high-quality manufacturers. Every manufacturer says there is a shortage of high-quality reps. Every rep says there is a shortage of high-quality manufacturers.

Then the answer to his question came to me.

“You asked if there are more reps looking for manufacturers or more manufacturers looking for reps.

“I think the answer is: Yes.

“Let me explain.

“There are always lots of manufacturers eager to recruit high-quality reps. There are always lots of reps eager to represent high-quality manufacturers.  So, the answer to this question depends on your perspective.

“As a manufacturer trying to sign a really great rep, it will feel like you have to compete with lots of other manufacturers to get that rep’s attention. Just like reps who are trying to sign a really great manufacturer will feel they have to compete with lots of reps to get that manufacturer’s attention.

“Bottom line, really great reps and really great manufacturers always have lots of potential partners clamoring for their attention.”

Whether you are a manufacturer or a rep, for the best advice on how to make your company attractive to top-tier partners, turn to MANA for help.

Please Don’t Read This!

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If, by chance, you happen to manufacture any products similar to what my company does or you’re a rep that sells competitive equipment to ours, please stop reading this article immediately. For the rest of you, there’s a little secret to winning more orders, building brand awareness and gaining market share which our company and our reps have employed during each and every economic downturn and unstable marketplace we’ve all experienced.

Ready? It’s called “promotion.” That’s right. Website development, advertising, public relations, direct communication with customers — those types of promotion. Right now you’re saying to yourself, “I’ve heard all … Read the rest

Process, Procedures and Professionalism Sustains Agency Success

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As Jobst, Inc., marks its 42nd anniversary this year, Michelle Jobst looks back 12 years to when she bought the agency and emphasizes that what she really purchased at that time was “good process, procedures and professionalism” to run a sales firm. And it’s those elements that continue to serve as a metaphorical three-legged stool that has sustained the agency over the years.

Walter Jobst Associates was founded in 1978 by Walter Jobst, Michelle’s father. The business started out of his home, where he and his wife “Kitty” worked together for many years and raised a family.

Michelle Jobst grew … Read the rest

Agencies Face Uncertain Future — Like Everyone Else

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Near the initial onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic The New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman was interviewed on one of the cable news networks. In the course of the interview, Friedman made the point that once things settle down and there’s a bit of normalcy, he expects an explosion of remote learning to take place.

While not directly related to the rep’s lot in life, Friedman’s point resonated during the course of a conversation Agency Sales magazine had with a 16‑year veteran teacher who ramped up his remote learning efforts to stay in touch with students earlier this year.

Here’s … Read the rest

Kick It Up!

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What to do? This is being written in the middle of the COVID‑19 shutdown. Business is practically zero. Commissions will dry up very soon, and when they will start being paid again is very questionable.

Some of the most well-financed manufacturers will pay on time. But, what is your team going to do to make commissionable sales quickly when you can get out in the market, again?

Manage the Details

The winners are the people who manage the details.

The big question is whether the independent reps are willing and able to attack their market.

How Do You “Attack”?

The … Read the rest

Will the Customers Come Back?

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When we narrow down the current COVID‑19 economic situation, we’re all in the same boat.

No matter who we are or what we do, getting back to doing business hinges on having customers. Whether we like it or not, there’s no guarantee they will be there. Although it may be disconcerting, here’s why:

  • Some customers will decide they don’t need us. Their situation will have changed and they’ve moved on.
  • Others will have found new solutions. Competition will be fierce with appealing options popping up everywhere.
  • More customers than we dare imagine will have simply disappeared, whether individuals or companies.
Read the rest

From Doormat to Diplomat: How to Enhance Your Status in Your Customer’s Eyes

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It was a lesson in humility I’ll never forget.

Decades ago my first real job after graduating university was selling accounting systems door to door to businesses. After several days of making little progress, I finally had a manager agree to walk me to his office to hear my pitch. Following him, I said, “Thanks, I really appreciate your time.” He turns, scowls at me and asks, “Why, is it not worth my time?” He’s dead serious. It occurred to me that I was being too grateful and too deferential to a potential customer.

How about you and your team … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps

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This is the 24th 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.

“I didn’t see a ‘Life of Part/Life of Program’ clause in the agreement, and I’d like to see it added,” William replied.

“What is that?” Jim asked. He felt the discussion between William and Joe was not going well, and he was hoping to interject himself as a mediator.

“Most reps and manufacturers refer to it as a LOP/LOP clause,” said William, “and … Read the rest

Tips for Selling More in Any Market or Economy

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Back in 2009, while we were still in the throes of a difficult recession, I wrote an article with (almost) the same title. Well, some things have changed and some haven’t, so, here’s an updated version which applies to the current situation.

Don’t Let Anything Outside of You Be Your Excuse

After a tough day or some difficult sales calls, it’s easy to blame a host of things other than yourself. If you do, people will hear it in your voice and you’ll sell less. This attitude will also demotivate you, which will lead to working less. In tough times, … Read the rest

Advice for Contacting Prospective Clients

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We don’t want to be tone deaf when we talk to current or prospective clients, but that doesn’t mean our communication should lack substance.

Hard-sell tactics are not typically effective, and they are even less so in times like this. Because of that, some people are recommending that client communication should be soft, sensitive and relationship-centric, such as this:

“Hey, I’m just calling to check in with you and see if you’re okay. I’m thinking of you and wanted to see how you’re doing. I know this is a difficult time to make decisions, so just know that I’m here … Read the rest

Being Proactive — Internally Customer-Driven

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Is everyone in your organization customer driven and high performing? Is everyone working on all eight cylinders and providing the most positive experience possible? Every organization and every employee is in customer service. From the boardroom to the warehouse, there is no exception — customer service is everyone’s job.

For many businesses, their approach to customer service is to respond to the problems as they arise. This reactive method might satisfy the customer, but it won’t surprise or delight them. Instead, imagine if you could solve problems before customers had to call you. Or even better, if you could address … Read the rest

Split-Commission Dilemma

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A manufacturer that was about nine months into his initial experience with an outsourced sales force raised the question about how he should handle split commission situations.

One of his MANA-member reps was quick to provide him with a discussion on the subject that appeared in the pages of Agency Sales several years ago. Two of the highlights from that discussion follow:

  • “Commission splits are fairly common in engineered products. There are many different ways to fairly compensate all parties involved. The main thing to remember is that the compensation needs to be based on how much influence each agency
Read the rest

Selling in the “New Normal” Environment

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The term “New Normal” is one that is being popularly bandied about as we either wind down from the COVID‑19 pandemic or face the prospect of a second wave coming our way this fall. Focusing on that term for a moment, author, speaker, consultant, Terry Brock, observes that a look back at history shows a number of “New Normal” examples — and we’ve survived and thrived with each.

“Look back at everything from the American Revolution, The Civil War and even the move from the horse and buggy to cars. Think about the latter for a moment. If we felt … Read the rest

Beware of the Definition of “Order” in Your Sales Representation Agreement

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I represented sales representatives in two lawsuits recently where the definition of “Order” was a key issue.

Both cases involved the sale of automotive production parts but the principles in this article can be applied to any sales representation agreement that involves the sale of any kind of production parts pursuant to a blanket order with issuance of periodic releases. Both cases were litigated in Federal Court in Detroit.

The Problem

The sales representation agreement in the first of the two cases had a “Definitions” section which included the following definition: “‘Orders’ shall mean a firm, contractual commitment by and … Read the rest

NMRA Awards $3,000 Scholarship to Future Deck Officer

The National Marine Representatives Association (NMRA) awarded its 2020 NMRA Maritime Trades Scholarship of $3,000 to Matthew Reynolds of Brohman, Michigan. Established in 2008, the scholarship awards students of excellence who are pursuing a marine industry career.

A 2019 graduate of White Cloud High School, White Cloud, Michigan, Reynolds made only one college visit: Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan. “From its nautical-themed classrooms to the massive 224′ T/S State of Michigan, I knew right from the start that this was where I wanted to be,” he said. Reynolds is in the Deck Officer program and currently … Read the rest

PG Tool Sales Agency to Represent GatorBar

Neuvokas Corporate (www.neuvokascorp.com), a leading composite rebar manufacturer, is excited to announce it has engaged PG Tool Sales Agency, LLC, a manufacturers’ representative agency specializing in construction supply markets, to represent GatorBar sales in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Ken Keranen, Neuvokas COO said, “Increased GatorBar customer demand, product awareness and market penetration are creating opportunities outside of the Midwest and we are now expanding our retailer network footprint into the Mid-Atlantic states. We recently interviewed a number of rep firms and PG Tool really stood out for us due to their … Read the rest