Manufacturer: “What Am I Doing Wrong?”


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“I need to sell more aluminum die castings,” said the manufacturer. “So I downloaded a list of reps who sell die castings and started making phone calls.”

“Most of them said, ‘I already represent a die casting company, so I can’t represent you,’” he continued. “What am I doing wrong?”

It’s a common question, so I was ready with an answer.

“Reps very rarely represent two competing manufacturers of the same product,” I explained. “Your list probably includes some reps who only have copper and brass die castings and can represent your aluminum die castings, but it is also is going to include many reps who can’t sign up with you.”

“What you need to do is download a list of reps who sell complementary, non-competing products.”

“What do you mean by complementary, non-competing products?” asked the manufacturer.

“It’s probably easiest if I give you an example,” I continued. “Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of nails. So, you search for reps who sell nails.

“They won’t all have conflicts. If you make roofing nails and a rep on your list only sells finishing nails, it won’t be a conflict, but most reps who already represent a nail manufacturer can’t take on your product.

“So, you search for reps who sell fasteners, and you find reps who sell complementary, non-competing products, like screws, nuts, and bolts, but don’t have a line of nails. They call on the right customers, don’t have a line card conflict, and could be a perfect fit.

“But you want to interview a deeper pool of reps, so you give some careful thought to other complementary, non-competing products. Reps who sell hand tools, like hammers, would have excellent contacts to sell nails.

“Ask yourself, and perhaps ask some of your best customers, ‘In addition to my products, what other products do you buy frequently? You should get some good categories to use for your rep search and get the right reps in place to grow your sales.”

Note: The manufacturer’s comments were edited for space, clarity and content.

Jump In, the Water’s Fine (But Here Are a Few Things to Know Before You Do)


Last year was called “The Great Resignation” and the “Big Quit” because waves of unhappy employees quit their jobs. And all the indicators suggest that this year won’t be different.

Some of these people are jumping right into new jobs, but many are giving themselves time to recover, reflect, relocate geographically and consider new career paths. Seeing so many people taking a breath and considering their options took me back to the days when I did the same and discovered my calling as an independent manufacturers’ rep.

As many people evaluate their options, this seems like the right time to … Read the rest

Following Words of Wisdom


Tom Schoenauer Jr. is more than happy he heeded the words his father spoke years ago; and not only did he heed those words, but he also took them to heart.

Schoenauer’s father, Tom Sr., served as the vice president of sales for a manufacturer that sold its products through a network of independent manufacturers’ reps. Among his duties in that position were hiring, supervising and paying reps. According to the younger Schoenauer, “Growing up I spent a great deal of time working in the shop. One thing I’ll always remember my father saying when he was writing out reps’ … Read the rest

Reps Should Find Their “Yellow Tux”


“Be different.”
“Be remarkable.”
“Don’t be a ‘me-too’ salesman.”

Those are just a few valuable words of advice from someone who knows what he’s talking about.

While Jesse Cole works in a world far away from that of independent manufacturers’ reps, the lessons he’s learned along the way to becoming the owner of two multimillion-dollar baseball teams can serve as a roadmap pointing to success for reps.

In addition to owning the Savannah Bananas and Gastonia Grizzlies minor league baseball teams in the Coastal Plain League, Cole is the founder of Fans First Entertainment and the author Find Your Yellow Read the rest

Increase Sales by Getting Back to Basics


The greatest in any field of endeavor have always been great at the basics.

Vince Lombardi, the great Green Bay Packers coach, said football comes down to two things: blocking on offense and tackling on defense, and his great Packer teams spent 80 percent of their time on those in practice. Red Auerbach, who coached the Boston Celtics to eight consecutive championships, had his players practice free throws and shots from very short distances over and over again. Bruce Lee, Pavarotti, Tiger Woods, and all the other greats have always known the importance of focusing on and mastering the basics … Read the rest

Why the 80/20 Rule Doesn’t Work


Today I’m going to stir the pot a bit.

I want to talk to you about the 80/20 rule and why it doesn’t work. Yep, there, I said it, it does not work. Wait, wait, wait — just give me a minute to explain here. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we achieve our overall sales targets, despite how and who got us there, we can celebrate it as a win. But I’m here to tell you that tolerating mediocrity in a sales team is an empty victory. You still with me? Ok, great, let’s get into the why, … Read the rest

The Ultimate Sales Improvement Skill


These are incredibly difficult times for salespeople. Competition in almost every industry continues to intensify. At the same time, customers seem to expect more and more service and demand lower margins. Most markets are rapidly changing, and it’s hard to keep up with the changes in technology and products. Covid has produced an unprecedented change in just the last 12 months.

Rapid Change

As a consultant, I work with executives and salespeople in a variety of industries. And almost invariably, during my first interview with a new client, I hear words something like this, “You need to understand that things … Read the rest

Why You Need an Annual Plan


Your annual plan in and of itself cannot be the end. It’s really just the start.

Preparing for the year ahead brings many benefits, including those that come via the process of just sitting down and creating one.

Assessing yourself and your business can bring about an awareness that allows you to avoid pitfalls in the upcoming year — because you’ve thought it through and done your research.

Of course, everyone could use an annual plan. But what you need is a really great one.

1. Greater Confidence

Your annual plan helps you enter the year proactively instead of reactively. … Read the rest

The Most Expensive Kind of Question Ever Asked


If you have ever supervised people, you have been on the receiving end of these questions. If you have ever been supervised, you have asked these kinds of questions. If you’ve had to answer these questions, it’s cost you time and focus, sometimes for hours every week. If you’ve asked these questions, you knew you were doing it, but it was so much easier than thinking.

What kind of questions? Lazy ones. They come in many forms. Some start out with, “Can you help me?” or maybe “I don’t know what to do.” Perhaps they end with, “I don’t want … Read the rest

Speed Sells


Speed is a critical element of customer service. Unfortunately, business owners and executives often overlook its importance as they plan their strategies to attract and retain customers and increase their sales. Too often they focus on catchy slogans and increased advertising instead of zeroing in on what really matters to their customers.

Speed matters, and there are several reasons for that. We live in an age of technology, which has in many cases greatly reduced the time it takes us to accomplish a task. That brings with it the need for others — particularly companies we do business with — … Read the rest

The Downside of Being Less Than Honest


A manufacturer with a long and fruitful relationship with reps was asked whether it’s ever been a good idea for her or her agents to hold back information. Without missing a beat, she offered the following: “How could that ever be a good way to operate? If anything, I’d strongly recommend a practice of full disclosure on any and all issues, because isn’t the real foundation of our business relationship built on information, communication, trust and education?”

She didn’t stop there: “How about when we’ve got a new product introduction? Shouldn’t it be of paramount importance for us to let … Read the rest

Legal Issues to Consider in 2022


For several days in December most years, I clean out the cabinets in my house. I discard items I haven’t used in the past year and make a list of those things I need to fix or replenish. Unless I block out this time, it won’t get done.

While preparing this article, I thought about doing such an assessment for our businesses. As 2022 moves forward, you might want to reflect on the following legal issues.

1. Agreement Among Shareholders of Your Company

If your business has more than one shareholder or member, if for example it’s an LLC, you’ll … Read the rest

Life Insurance for Business Owners


If you own a business, chances are you’ve at least thought about the conditions under which you will leave the business and who is going to take over after you’re gone. Business continuation is difficult enough under normal circumstances, but if it takes place following the unexpected death of a key person or owner, the complications can increase exponentially.

Company-owned life insurance is one way to help protect a business from financial problems caused by the unexpected death of a key employee, partner or co-owner. If the covered individual dies, the proceeds from this type of insurance can help in … Read the rest

MANA’s Board of Directors Welcomes Sid Ragona

MANA’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that the rep members have elected Sid Ragona to serve on MANA’s Board of Directors ballot for a two-year term starting May 1, 2022.

Sid Ragona founded Ragona Scientific, LLC, in 2006, and the company has been a MANA member since 2009. Ragona Scientific specializes in nanotechnology from foreign start-up companies that want to sell into the U.S. and Canada (

Since July 2020, he has cohosted a radio show and podcast about entrepreneurship entitled Rethinking Business: Success Sauce and Two Pickles ( He has also been a Certified Score Mentor since … Read the rest