What If MANA Didn’t Exist?


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What would the world of manufacturers’ reps look like if MANA did not exist?

Without MANA: What Do You Mean, Market Development Fee?

MANA championed Market Development Fees (MDF) so that manufacturers without existing sales in a territory can get the attention of high-powered rep firms whose customers trust them enough to take their recommendation and buy an unfamiliar brand.

A decade ago, pioneering lines couldn’t hire the reps they wanted, and reps who took on pioneering lines often worked for free until orders started to flow.

Thanks to MANA, most reps considering a pioneering line know to ask for MDF, and many manufacturers offering pioneering lines expect to include MDF in their contracts.

Without MANA: Decades of Service, 30-Day Notice in Rep Contracts

MANA’s educational activities have helped reps learn to articulate why 30-day termination clauses often are unfair and helped manufacturers to understand that 30-day termination clauses are no longer automatically part of rep agreements.

Without MANA: Any Income is Good Income

Educational programs from MANA and MRERF have helped Line Card Profitability Analysis gain credibility so that reps can identify and exit relationships that cost more to service than the income they generate.

Without MANA: Rudimentary Rep Search

Manufacturers made it clear — they join MANA to find reps. Reps made it clear — they join MANA to be found by manufacturers. So MANA created the industry-leading platform for connecting representatives and manufacturers. Our RepFinder® 3.0 smartphone app and browser-based RepFinder® are a decade ahead of any other rep search platform on the Internet.

After a dozen years as MANA’s CEO and president, I am humbled by the ways MANA’s Board of Directors has guided the evolution of our industry and MANA’s staff has executed the Board’s vision.

What would the world of manufacturers’ reps look like if MANA did not exist? You don’t even want to think about it!

A Shrinking World Is an Opportunity to Expand the Rep’s Line Card — Part 2


This is a two-part editorial solely focused on the subject of representing principals from overseas.

In Part 1 of this editorial, we covered some of the soft skills associated with working with overseas companies such as holiday schedules, language and U.S. geography. In this month’s editorial, we cover some of the “harder skills” that the rep must take into account. I have narrowed this down to my top three. These include contracts, shipping terms, and harmonized tariff codes.

1. Contracts/Agreements

At the best of times, contract negotiations can be tedious, time-consuming and potentially expensive if the contract has to go … Read the rest

Creating a Career Path


It’s a bit of an understatement to say Marshall Maguire followed a rather circuitous path to where he finds himself today — the head of Maguire Technologies, Salisbury, Massachusetts, a veteran-owned manufacturers’ rep agency.

Here’s the outline of that path he traveled: In 1972, with the end of the Vietnam War still three years away, Maguire joined the Air Force, where he was assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an aircraft hydraulics/pneumatics specialist. At that time, SAC was charged with overseeing the protection of the United States in the event the Cold War ever escalated to “hot.”

Following … Read the rest

More Help for the Single‑Person Agency


Time management and developing relationship skills were high on the list of topics that were addressed during one of MANA’s latest teleconference chats devoted to single-person agencies.

On the one hand, many of the chat participants made the point that they’ve been able to make sales while they work remotely away from the customer. “It’s unbelievable the amount of work we’ve been able to successfully complete without personally touching base with the customers. It’s interesting that looking back you had to bang on doors over and over if you wanted to be successful. But what we’ve found today is that … Read the rest

React With Deliberation


I was cutting through an empty parking lot the other day and so was another driver coming in the opposite direction. As luck would have it, we were heading directly for each other, like a game of chicken.

I tend to yield in these situations, not because I am afraid of confrontation, but because I have learned to act with deliberation. So, I stopped, hoping that the other driver was paying attention and not looking at the screen in his hand. Thankfully, he was. But as he drove around me, he lowered his window, flipped me the bird and gave … Read the rest

Turning Gatekeepers Into Gate Openers


Many years ago, I wrote a book that required me to conduct interviews with several professionals who had attained celebrity status. In many cases, I had to work with secretaries and administrative assistants in order to get the interviews. These “gatekeepers” played a huge role in determining whether their high-profile bosses would or would not meet with me.

While people normally think of gatekeepers as problematic obstructionists, on a couple of occasions, I landed an interview only because of the gatekeepers. I befriended the gatekeepers in both of those cases and turned them into my advocates. They became my champions. … Read the rest

How Important Is Price When Selling?


This week price has been coming up a lot on my coaching calls with sales reps, but there was one comment in particular that compelled me to write this article.

In a story related to a sale he made last week, a rep said, “I told the guy, ‘Look, you just tell me where the competition is, and I’ll cut my price to match it or beat it.’” After instructing him to never utter those words ever again for the rest of his life, he came back with, “Why not? It’s an easy sale every time. All I have to … Read the rest

Becoming a Preferred Product Representative


A significant challenge for an independent manufacturers’ representative is satisfying the needs of many different customers. Your objective is to become a preferred product representative for each of them.

These customers include architects and engineers who specify your products; general contractors, construction managers and subcontractors who purchase your products; and your manufacturers’ marketing and customer service departments that provide you with sales support. We will look at how you can work effectively with each of these customer groups to become preferred.

Architects and Engineers (A/E)

Although every customer is important, one group, for example, requires the most attention and service … Read the rest

What Does Leadership Even Mean?


Sometimes we get so caught up in what a leader should do, we don’t even really understand what it means. I thought I would take a quick stab at what leadership actually is.

Leadership is the art of motivating and guiding people towards a common goal. A leader must possess certain qualities such as vision, confidence, empathy and resilience to lead effectively. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for leadership, as it varies depending on the situation, context, and the individuals involved. However, there are certain principles and practices that can help leaders become more effective.

One of the most important … Read the rest

Empowerment: The Backbone of Great Service


Empowerment is critical to any organization that wants to be a service leader. It is the most difficult skill to teach and get employees to use.

Empowerment means all employees have to make fast decisions on the spot in favor of the customer. The fear is that an employee may give away the store. The single goal of every company should be to have over-happy customers.

In Bolivia, I sent a lot of products via Federal Express to Marwan El Tine, VP of Service Quality Institute Bolivia.

After six weeks, he still did not have the products. I addressed the … Read the rest

Motivating the Network


When a manufacturer with a history of working with a network of independent reps asked an audience of reps how he could best motivate some of his reps who he claimed were underperforming, there was no shortage of responses.

Kicking it off, one rep asked in return, how do you gauge that they are in fact underperforming?

After posing the question, the rep continued: “No doubt, there are some people who are underperforming. However, as I consider many of the reps I personally know, reps are driven to make as much money as possible. If they can’t make that with … Read the rest

Improve Your Company’s Effectiveness on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a resource hub. It’s a place where people post updates, share company news, professionals seek jobs, pitch potential customers, and members chat and connect. Learn how to improve the effectiveness of your company’s LinkedIn page with these eight tips.

1. Improve the design of the company page

On social media, visuals are everything. If you don’t grab viewers’ attention right away, they won’t bother reading the content. Short and engaging videos are powerful, while strong and unique images can reinforce the message you are trying to communicate. Be sure to select photos on target with your business and … Read the rest

Another Approach to Managing Procurement


In an article that appeared in Agency Sales magazine within the last year, the author encouraged salespeople to work around and avoid the procurement department to consummate the sale.

I wanted to offer a different perspective on how working with the buyer can avoid delays in purchasing and payment, and even help close the sale faster.

For 20 years, I have presented contracts training to both procurement (purchasing) and sales departments of companies in various industries around the country. As a result, I’ve become familiar with companies’ purchasing and sales processes and policies. I’ve also been privy to both sales’ … Read the rest

MANA CEO and President Speaking at the IUCAB 70th Anniversary Congress

photo of Charles Cohon speaking at the IUCAB event

MANA CEO and President Charles Cohon was a featured speaker at the Internationally United Commercial Agents and Brokers (IUCAB) 70th Anniversary Congress in Berlin recently. In Europe, manufacturers’ reps are referred to as commercial agents. Cohon presented “It’s Not Business, It’s Personal” to executives from rep/commercial agent associations from 16 European countries and was featured in the event’s closing panel discussion. Cohon also serves as vice president of IUCAB’s Executive Committee and Co-Chairs IUCAB’s Communication Expert Group.… Read the rest