The Most Revealing Question

image of rowing

© chaiyon021 |

Manufacturers’ representative firms have a lot in common with Olympic rowers. Just to qualify to compete, we have to be fast, agile and impressive performers.

But when it comes to line card profitability analysis, some of us forget what Olympic rowers know: To be winners, you have to regularly take the boat out of the water to clean and wax the bottom. And before the rowers get back in the boat, make sure that all of them still belong on the team.

Instead of doing regular maintenance, we just row harder. Instead of replacing weak line card performers, we just row harder.

Rowing harder instead of solving the problems that drag down your representative firm’s performance is not a solution. It’s a sure way to lose races. And losing isn’t what gets us up in the morning; it’s what keeps us up at night.

— Line Card Profitability Analysis Workbook

MANA’s Line Card Profitability Analysis Workbook is a tool that helps MANA rep members objectively evaluate how much of their time each principal deserves. It’s free to download in the member area of

The workbook helps reps objectively gauge how well each secondary line fits with the firm’s primary lines and whether the commission income from each line justifies each line’s time demands.

Objective analysis includes asking questions like:

  • How well does this line complement the rep’s primary lines?
  • Is this line a “door-opener?”
  • Does this line have the potential to open new markets to my rep firm?

But recently, I realized that two more questions are needed to make this analysis complete:

  • Is this a line that gets me out of bed in the morning, or is it a line that keeps me up at night?
  • If I resigned this line tomorrow, would I feel regret or relief?

Regret or relief? The most revealing question you could ask, and one you should ask yourself at least annually.

Working On Your Business Not In Your Business


The catch phrase “working on your business and not in your business” is almost ubiquitous these days and can be found in just about any article or podcast discussing entrepreneurship.

The term was first coined by Michael Gerber decades ago. The rationale behind the advice was derived from the fact that not all people that start business are actual entrepreneurs. In fact, most are not. Instead, they are skilled technicians that have mastered a craft and have decided to set up shop, despite having little or no knowledge of what it takes to start, manage and grow a business. This … Read the rest

Rep Adapts to Market Needs


MANA isn’t alone in celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Joining the association in achieving that milestone is Altherm, Inc., an independent manufacturers’ rep firm serving the plumbing and heating industry. And if there’s anything the agency can point to as a reason for its lengthy and prosperous tenure, it’s adaptability and flexibility.

“In dealing with the manufacturers that we represent, they’re always talking about the importance of alignment,” explains Tom Gallagher, president of the Ridgefield, New Jersey-based rep firm. “They’ll always tell us how important it is for us to be aligned with what they hope to achieve. What … Read the rest

MANAchat Explores Supply Chain Concerns


Extended lead times, increased prices, supply problems, and pushback from customers combined to provide plenty of subject matter for a three-day MANAchat earlier this year.

An interesting side effect of the aforementioned, according to the 21 reps who participated in the chat, is that some reps find themselves having to fend off requests from principals to consider accepting commission cuts since higher product pricing has resulted in increased commission payments.

Discussion on that subject emphasized that all parties (manufacturers, customers and reps) are faced with the prospect of dealing with increased pricing. While those higher prices may result in higher … Read the rest

Choices for a Successful 2022


There is only one thing we can’t make more of and that’s time. The new year is nearly half over — what do we want to make of it?

I choose to look at 2022 as the year of unlimited opportunity, and I see that not only for myself, but for you too. Regardless of where we’re at today, it’s how we choose to use our time moving forward that matters.

It’s time to make some decisions. What choices can I make for this to be the best year ever?

  • Saying “No”

I can’t do everything. “No” is going to … Read the rest

Need a Sales Superstar? Tips to Help You Hire for Drive


Identifying, attracting and hiring high-achieving salespeople requires patience and discipline, especially given the current talent shortage. It may be tempting to fill an empty role (and save yourself time and work) by hiring someone who’s merely qualified, not driven.

However, compromising on the caliber of your hires is not an option: The quality of your salespeople directly determines the quality of your results. Here are five things you can do to find and hire the most driven high performers.

1. Attract High-Drive Candidates With Targeted Job Listings

High-drive people are attracted to high-drive situations, so that’s how you should position … Read the rest

The Truth About Closing Deals


Do you want to be more effective at closing deals? If so, you might need to change your way of thinking, because closing is actually “an act of service.”

So says sales consultant James Muir in his report, “The 7 Deadly Sins of Closing and the Statistical Truth that Will Improve Your Sales.”

“Your customers expect you to help them make the positive changes that will bring about their desired results,” says Muir, who is also author of the best-selling book, The Perfect Close. “They expect you to encourage them to become better than they are…. Be their coach … Read the rest

Why Prospects Ghost You and What to Do About It


As salespeople we’ve all had the situation where a decision maker told us they were interested, asked us to follow up at another time, and now after several follow-up calls and emails, we can’t get ahold of them and can’t get them to return our calls. So, why are prospects ghosting you and what can you do about it?

The #1 Reason You Get Ghosted: The Prospect Was Never Really Interested to Begin With

Solution: Make sure people are actually interested. If someone tells you to get back to them at another time, you can’t let that sleeping dog lie, … Read the rest

Landmines in the Rep’s Path


Avoid planting and setting off landmines in the manufacturer-rep relationship.

The opportunities to plant landmines in your agency’s path are many and occur every day.

Trying to list many of these landmines results in a clear picture of how many there are and how many can really damage your business. Being aware of these landmines makes everyone in the rep firm a better rep and better partner for the principals you represent.

Communication Gaps

No regular program of communication to keep principals up to date and looking forward.

“We never hear from those guys in Ohio. Their business is not … Read the rest

The Four Cs of Handling Irate Customers


Business owners and employees face a special challenge when it comes to dealing with customers who are unhappy with your service, your products, your lack of attention, or a myriad of other things.

How you handle those customers can have a direct impact on your business. If you don’t handle them well, customers will leave you — and take their money with them.

Their patronage — and their money — become even more important when you realize that it will cost you 10 times more to attract new customers than it will to retain current customers. For example, if 50 … Read the rest

Defining the Word “Value”


Elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales magazine, a rep offers his definition of the value that he delivers to the principals he works with. Conversely, a manufacturer recently communicated to Agency Sales how she defines the value proposition.

According to the manufacturer, earlier in her career she was faced with the task of justifying the continued use of her company’s network of independent manufacturers’ representatives. She quickly offered a convincing value proposition that tipped the scales in favor of retaining reps. Her experience serves as a valuable lesson to others faced with the same dilemma.

Here’s how that national … Read the rest

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Principal Scorned — Part 1


In the lengthy annals of sales rep-principal relationships ending badly, the shabby treatment Elliott Essagof received from his principal deserves exceedingly prominent mention.

The business of Essagof and his Connecticut sales rep firm, Trade Links, LLC, doesn’t roll easily off the tongue. They promote the sale of products in the thermoset and plastics industry, focusing on urea and melamine molding compounds.

For decades, Trade Links represented Claudio Colombo’s companies located in Mexico and Italy. The Mexican facility is owned by BI-QEM Mexico, which Colombo also owns.

BI-QEM and Trade Links entered into a sales representative agreement (SRA) in 1999 that … Read the rest

“Corkboards and Coffee” — 2000 Square Feet of Collaboration Between MANA and the National Hardware Show

MANA and the National Hardware Show recently collaborated to create the first-ever “Corkboards and Coffee” rep lounge at that show. Over 200 manufacturer attendees signed up to have rep attendees visit their booths and talk about representation.

image of rep loungeMissed the show? For a short time you can view the list of manufacturers who signed up to talk to reps at

Want a rep’s perspective? Here’s what Chris Semonelli, President, Coated Technical Solutions, CTS Global, Newport, Rhode Island, had to say:

“I just got back from the National Hardware Show and want to congratulate NHS and MANA for collaborating on the … Read the rest