$200,000 Down the Drain


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“There are worse things than unsuccessfully trying to find a direct salesperson,” said the manufacturer who called me today.

Let me tell you about the call.

Most of the phone calls I’ve gotten from manufacturers recently start out like this: “I have been trying to recruit a direct salesperson for quite a while, but none of the applicants that have contacted me are even close to qualified, so I need to talk to you about reps.”

Today’s call started out like most calls I’ve received recently. The manufacturer and I spoke about some of the more common reasons to use reps:

  • Existing relationships with important customers.
  • Market knowledge in their territory.
  • Experience in their market space.

We also spoke about the fact that even in the current tough hiring environment, reps are still abundant for most markets MANA members serve.

I shared with the manufacturer that searching for direct salespeople and not finding qualified candidates was a common problem. Then he stopped the conversation to correct me.

“My problem is not that I have been searching for direct salespeople and didn’t find qualified candidates. My problem is that after a long search that didn’t turn up qualified candidates, a year ago I got impatient and decided to settle on the least problematic of the candidates who did apply.”

“Between salary, expenses, and medical insurance, I have spent $200,000 on the salesperson I hired a year ago, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. $200,000 down the drain. That’s why I am calling you today to talk about reps.”

“So, you see,” he concluded, “There are worse things than unsuccessfully searching for a direct salesperson. Worse than unsuccessfully searching for a direct salesperson is unsuccessfully hiring a direct salesperson.

The manufacturer’s lesson learned: Take advantage of experienced, expert MANA rep members to take your product to market. And then you won’t have to call me about $200,000 that went down the drain.

Note: The manufacturer’s comments have been edited for space and clarity.

We Must Be Adaptable


Edited by Stephanie Bray

Just like the last time, I found myself wondering: “What should I write for this editorial?” Trying to pick an apropos topic (not already covered by my fellow board members!) was proving challenging yet again. We thought about continuing our story from last January (after all, we did share many things with you) and, in some ways, that is what we have done here.

Like everything in life, there are two sides to the coin, and no change ever comes without its downside. New manufacturing lines bring their own particular issues; new software requires the burden … Read the rest

Embracing Backselling


The concept of backselling seems to underlie so many conversations that Agency Sales has with independent reps when it comes to defining their relationships with their principals. So too is it the case with Tom Hoarty.

When he was asked, in general, how knowledgeable are manufacturers about what their reps do for them, Hoarty, Process Control Products, Burlington, Massachusetts, explains, “Sometimes you just don’t know what your principals don’t know. If a principal isn’t thoroughly knowledgeable about all that my company does for them as their representative, then it’s my responsibility to educate them.”

That’s a view that has long … Read the rest

Mobile Vans Worth 10,000 Words


Talk about effective “show and tell” or “touch and feel,” that’s exactly what Ray Wilson, Techni-Reps, Inc., likes to do when someone brings up the subject of his agency’s two mobile product vans.

Wilson, who heads the Greensboro, North Carolina-based rep agency, proudly offers information about two Ford Transit product vans that have served as in-demand marketing tools in the North and South Carolina and Virginia territory in which it operates.

Here’s how the vans are touted on the agency’s website:

“We take the show on the road! We have multiple demonstration vans loaded with the latest products from the … Read the rest

Creating a Planning Team Pays!


Everyone acknowledges that independent rep firms need to plan their business.

But very few get a real plan done and put in action.

The answer to “Why don’t reps plan their business?” is very simple — the “I’m too busy” syndrome dominates rep thinking. “What do you want me to do, plan or sell?” dominates the mentality of even the most successful rep firms. How can a rep firm build planning into their business? The “work on” not “work in” your business standard has to rise to the surface.

All Hands Meeting

A good starting place is to gather everyone … Read the rest

Letter to the Editor

“Total radio silence is a complete lack of decency,” says MANA manufacturer member.

Dear MANA,

During year one of our MANA membership, we needed to find reps for 14 sales territories. We contacted 42 rep agencies. Only seven had the decency to reply. We partnered with one who is doing quite well in further developing existing customer relations, keeping us up-to-date on their efforts, and growing sales.

The other six who responded were ideal for our line but either had line card conflicts or territory issues that stopped us from moving forward with them. Because they were exceptionally professional and … Read the rest

Pipeline Management: Time Blocking, Teaming and More


I just talked to a sales pro who had her best month ever. She’s on top of the world. There’s arguably no better feeling in the world than hitting a new sales peak.

Maybe you’re having your best month now too. If so, congrats. If not, you surely remember your best month (and your best year too).

For the sake of argument, let’s say you are having the best month of your sales career.

Everything is going right and you’re incredibly busy. In fact, there’s so much going on you have several deals that are closing at the same time. … Read the rest

Magical Words


We are all aware of the importance of words. They can be healing or inspiring, humorous or hurtful. They can also be motivating and magical.

Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “thank you.” Most of us were taught that phrase when we were toddlers learning to verbally express our thoughts and feelings. It was part of our parents’ programming us to treat people with respect. Unfortunately, for many people, the basic rules of politeness have gotten lost through the years. It’s time to bring those rules back — and to put them into play.

The … Read the rest

Sales Are Down: Do Nothing or Change?


Q. Every one of my customers is buying less this year than last year. My sales are down. What can I do?

A. You really have a choice here. The first, which, unfortunately, is the solution that most companies and salespeople currently choose is this: Do nothing differently, complain a lot, and hope that things change. Maybe the government will fix everything.

The second, which is my recommendation, is this: Move outside of your comfort zones, become a whole lot more strategic, thoughtful, and better at what you do, and do some things differently.

Analysis and Data Collection

Begin by … Read the rest

Two Key Character Traits of Successful Salespeople


There are two primary character traits that almost guarantee success in a salesperson. Of course, they need to have people skills first and foremost, but assuming they do, these traits usually seal the deal.

Salespeople who possess these two character traits will move Heaven and Earth to reach success and if they have these, they’ll also have most of the other qualities you want in top producers. In addition, you won’t have to babysit them to make sure they’re doing what they should be doing, they’ll do what they should be doing automatically, provided of course, you’ve given them proper … Read the rest

Quitting Is the Best Decision You Can Make


Do you want to be known as a quitter? I do. In fact, quitting has been the best decision I’ve made on occasion. Contrary to popular opinion, quitting is what the best decision makers do regularly. Allow me to explain.

Life is full of opportunities. There are new people to meet, new groups to join, new projects to launch, and on and on and on. But there is only so much time in each of our days and only so much energy with which to navigate those days. When invited to participate in a new group or opportunity, most people … Read the rest

Rethinking a Major Decision


One manufacturer was fairly quick to back track on its decision to move from an independent rep sales force to direct salespeople. About 18 months after making the change the manufacturer went back to its time-tested and successful rep model.

According to the company’s sales manager, “We initially thought that we were at a point in our growth where it was economically justifiable for us to take our sales direct. To say we were wrong is an understatement. Not only did we come face-to-face with the economic problems just about everyone else has encountered, but we learned that there were … Read the rest

Ways to Improve Your Sales Today


<small>© Brian Jackson | stock.adobe.com</small>Most CEOs would nod that the digital revolution is underway, but plenty haven’t fully understood what this means for their sales efforts. Here are five guidelines to ensure that your business is the “disruptor,” not the “disrupted.”

Recent studies from Gartner and Forrester show that Covid is accelerating the transition online, even for B2B enterprises, which means that CEOs need to ensure their sales teams have the digital skills and the tools of engagement to win buyers, without straying from the timeless principles that still apply.

It’s been a while since anyone argued that “dialing for dollars” is still the … Read the rest

Sub-Rep Agreements for Sales Reps


The Problem

Over the course of the last 40-plus years of practicing law and representing sales representatives, I have had several clients come to me to request that I prepare a Sub-Sales Representative Agreement. I have developed a form agreement that is very simple and can be used for most situations. My system works provided both the master sales representative and sub‑sales representative agree to be transparent in their relationship and in preparation of the Sub-Sales Rep Agreement. This is one of the same principles I employ when drafting standard sales rep agreements. It’s generally not a good idea for … Read the rest

In Memory of David Ice, Past MANA Chairman

photo of David IceDavid Robert Ice, CPMR, 84, former MANA Chairman of the Board, died late last year. Ice, president of Ice Associates, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas, was a long-time member of the association and served as Board Chairman from 2009-2011.

A business degree graduate of Cleveland State University, Ice began his business career in 1962 as a department manager and outside salesman with Williams and Company in Cleveland, Ohio. He joined Aeroquip Corporation in 1968 and served in various sales and marketing management positions until 1992 in Los Angeles, California; Lawrence, Kansas; Jackson, Michigan; and Cranbury, New Jersey. That year he became the … Read the rest