Transforming the Rep Industry — Part 2


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Celebrating MANA’s 75th anniversary last year led me to reflect on how MANA has transformed how reps and principals work together.

Last month part one of this series started to look at ways MANA has changed the rep industry just since I became MANA’s CEO and president in 2011. Part two of the series looks at more ways MANA has changed the rep industry since 2011.

Strategic Partnerships

Our strategic partnerships mean that all rep members of these associations are also MANA members:

  • Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives
  • Canadian Electrical Manufacturers’ Representatives Association
  • Industrial Supply Association
  • Health Industry Representatives Association
  • Heavy Duty Manufacturers’ Representatives’ Council
  • International Housewares Association
  • Power-motion Technology Representatives Association
  • National Marine Representatives Association

Extended Post-Termination Commission

MANA’s educational activities have noticeably moved the needle on “standard” 30-day termination clauses by:

  • Helping reps learn to articulate why 30-day termination clauses often are unfair.
  • Helping reps learn to negotiate extended post-termination commission and life-of-part, life-of-program clauses.
  • Helping manufacturers understand that 30-day termination clauses are no longer automatically part of rep agreements.

Line Card Profitability Analysis

A decade ago, most reps I spoke to felt that “any income is good income.” Educational programs from MANA and MRERF have helped line card profitability analysis gain credence, so reps can identify and exit relationships that cost more to service than the income they generate.

International Connections

In 2011 MANA only had visibility to rep practices in the U.S. and Canada. Through the Internationally United Commercial Agents and Brokers (IUCAB), MANA is connected with its rep association counterparts in 17 European countries, Peru, and the Republic of Congo.

Thank you to current and past MANA Boards of Directors for the support and insight that helped MANA transform rep-principal relationships and set the stage for continued transformation of our industry.

Follow Up or Give Up!


Follow-up is the most cost effective and underutilized marketing tool available to a sales force in just about every single industry; however, effective follow-up is considerably more involved than simply sending one or two emails to see if the prospect responds.

While marketing is an important aspect of any business, there is no point in undertaking any form of marketing initiative if there is not first and foremost a well-thought-through follow-up plan that has the buy-in of the sales force. Simply put, it’s follow up or give up. In fact, a marketing plan with no follow-up plan is simply akin … Read the rest

Like Father, Like Son


Thankfully Dan Wolfskill was just as attracted to the rep way of life as his father was years before him. That’s why the transition of agency leadership from father, Joe, to son, Dan, has gone so smoothly for MANA member James Industries, Inc. (JII).

The story of this Bellville, Texas (about 60 miles northwest of Houston), rep firm begins with Joe Wolfskill, who explains that he began his career in 1974 on the corporate side. After completing training programs all over the country in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and York, Pennsylvania, a rep career called out to him. According to Wolfskill, “I … Read the rest

The Secret to Making Customer Contacts


As if the point had to be made, participants in a series of MANAchats late last year spent a great deal of time discussing the difficulties they were having in getting sales appointments with customers.

Over a period of two days MANA members who were owners of single-person rep firms detailed the roadblocks they were encountering in their efforts to represent their principals.

While several chat participants pointed a finger at workplace changes that were implemented during Covid as the major culprit for this situation, there were also some remedies that were forthcoming from the discussions.

At the outset of … Read the rest

Putting Together an Annual Sales Plan


It amazes me how many salespeople don’t have an annual sales plan. Of those that do, many just put it together once and barely, if ever, look at it again the rest of the year.

We all know that people with written goals and a plan for their achievement, who focus on those goals continuously, are much more likely to hit their goals than those that don’t. Yes, it’s some work up front, and during the year, but the payoff is tremendous. Here are the steps to set up your annual sales plan.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

What ultimate … Read the rest

Don’t Use Your Business Plan Daily?


Let’s fix that.

In this article, I’m getting straight to the meat of the matter. Too often I’ve observed both small and large business leaders say they use some type of quarterly or yearly business plan, when in fact they don’t. Usually, I’ve observed that it stays tucked in their bottom desk drawer or in the farthest corner of a bookshelf (or digital bookshelf) until the financial year comes to an end. In many cases, these quarterly business plans are items that they help create, but in the chaos of an average business day often get forgotten. I want us … Read the rest

How to Manage Procurement Departments


As a general rule, I recommend sales pros avoid or work around the procurement department as often as possible.

Procurement departments are populated with “professional buyers,” people who are highly trained and experienced. That means they have a built-in advantage over sales professionals. They tend to be more formidable in sales negotiating than sales reps.

That doesn’t mean you disrespect professional buyers, show hostility toward them or have disdain for them. Sometimes, despite your best efforts not to, you will have to work with procurement. They are human like you and me. Building rapport and trust with them can be … Read the rest

Customer Service Heroes


We all need a hero — someone who, by their actions, can inspire us to do better. To be better. The four companies I profile here are reaping the financial benefits of making customer service a top priority.

Costco is a company that is incredible in the service it provides its customers. It offers the highest-quality products and the best prices — including gas at 30 cents per gallon less than standard gas stations. The company provides great service at great speed. Often the lines of customers waiting to check out with their purchases are long but each checkout station … Read the rest

The Four Most Common Mistakes Leaders Make


Every business wants to grow their sales, and every businessperson has visions of an organization growing in size, profitability and influence. For most situations, it is the essential step to reaching their goals. The important question that most business leaders ask is this: “What’s the best way to do that?”

Even though there are proven principles, practices and processes that can be understood in general terms and applied specifically, the problem is more complex than it seems. All sorts of “solution providers” have jumped into the space, proclaiming their solutions as the best way forward. I receive at least two … Read the rest

The Talk — Part 2


This talk will be a little different than the talk about the birds and the bees. This talk is for young adults entering the world on their own. It might also be a good reset for adults struggling to find their place in the world. I have often reflected on my life in an effort to better understand how I arrived at my current station.

Healthy Choices

Physical health allows us to ideally have endurance. To be at our best we need endurance, because pushing through to the end is often when it counts the most. The great news is … Read the rest

Making a Partnership Work


A manufacturer recently wrote to Agency Sales about the relationships he enjoys with several of his independent reps. This manufacturer should be forgiven for his boasting because what he wrote about shows that he and his reps know what it takes to forge a strong relationship.

Here are a couple of the reasons why the manufacturer felt he was entitled to be so proud about how he works with his reps:

  • “We and our reps have worked long and hard at sustaining relationships. It’s a little like a marriage. If the little things go wrong and you start picking at
Read the rest

Should Sales Teams Use Email, Telephone, or Personal Visits?


Emailing Customers

In the construction industry, it seems more and more communications are by email, whether conversations are interoffice, between companies, or by sales teams with customers. Using primarily email communication may seem to make us more efficient, but that assumption may not hold water.

Our inboxes are swamped. One study indicated that the average person across all industries receives an average of 115 emails per day. The study indicated that 57 percent of people do not even read all their emails! Many are simply trashed. How efficient is that?

The use of primarily email communication is led by millennials, … Read the rest

Industry Legend Bill Freeman Inducted Into AIM/R Hall of Fame

Oscar William “Bill” Freeman was inducted into the AIM/R Hall of Fame during a stirring ceremony at the rep association’s 50th Annual Conference at the Gaylord Rockies Resort in Aurora, Colorado on Friday, October 14, 2022.

Freeman’s honor was accepted by his wife, Sheree, and sons, Benn, Chase, and Mike, along with their spouses. They shared a touching tribute to their father among a crowd of fellow manufacturers’ representatives and manufacturers from across the industry.

“It’s a great honor, and we are all so happy they recognized Bill and all his hard work over the years. While our company wouldn’t … Read the rest

Never Really Normal

Regular readers of Agency Sales will remember enjoying chapters of retired plumbing rep Sig Schmalhofer’s book The Reputable Rep in the pages of this magazine. Sig has just informed us that his memoir, Never Really Normal, is now available from Amazon. Says Sig:

“I’m an immigrant born with a degenerative disease. After I stumbled and was bloodied in the distribution business, I launched Signature Sales — a rep firm that became successful when I chose a path that was, as the title says, never really normal. My memoir is an inspirational book that personifies the American Dream.”

(Sig’s previous … Read the rest