The Nail That Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down


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“I’ve become great friends with one of my reps,” said the manufacturer. “But he still is reluctant to give me blunt constructive criticism about our company. My rep says: ‘The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,’ which is why I started our rep council.”

A rep council is an advisory board assembled by a manufacturer from their rep sales force to provide feedback and advice to the manufacturer’s sales and management team.

Why Do Manufacturers Have Rep Councils?

  1. Unfiltered Feedback: Because the rep council submits a group report to the manufacturer’s management team, individual reps don’t worry that their comments will be held against them.
  2. Comprehensive Market Information: Rep councils gather information about customer trends, competitive pricing strategies, marketing initiatives, and customer trends from the entire rep network and assemble it as a single document for the manufacturers’ review.
  3. Engaging Manufacturers’ Management With Reps: Top manufacturer managers often have misconceptions about reps, so meeting with reps during rep council sessions helps the management team understand the reps’ roles and needs.
  4. Engaging Reps With Top Management: Nothing builds rep enthusiasm to sell for a manufacturer like feeling it has the ear of top management. Reps give more effort and make more sales for manufacturers when they connect personally with their manufacturer’s key decision-makers.
  5. Trust: A rep council demonstrates the manufacturer’s support and understanding of reps’ roles, leading to increased trust between the manufacturer, better relationships, improved communication, and more sales.

What Do Rep Councils Get for Manufacturers?
Increased commitment from the rep sales force and more sales.

What Do Rep Councils Get for Reps?
More sales, bigger commission checks, and long-term relationships with their manufacturer partners.

How Do You Start a Rep Council?
MANA members can download our Special Report, Open Doors by Building an Effective Rep Council, in the member area of

Following a Path From Banking to “Repdom”


A number of independent rep agency owners can point to having started their careers on the manufacturing side of the desk. At the same time, however, over the years Agency Sales magazine has profiled reps who can point to a variety of other career beginnings. Included in those are law enforcement, teaching, and even former professional athletes (golf, baseball, basketball).

Add to that list the career path — commercial banking — traveled by Mike O’Malley.

According to O’Malley, president of Asian Medical, Inc., “I was a commercial banker for more than 10 years lending money to small- to medium-sized enterprises … Read the rest

MANAchats Tackle Contracts and Shared Fees


The changing landscape of contracts between reps and manufacturers and the growth of shared territorial development fees were linked earlier this year in two MANAchats.

In one chat devoted to the contracts that reps sign with their principals, members of A League of Their Own (ALOTO), MANA’s Special Interest Group for women, discussed and dissected their experiences when it comes to negotiating and living with contracts. A subsequent chat was devoted to the existence and use of retainers or monthly fees paid by manufacturers to reps when pioneering work is called for.

In the first instance, one rep stressed the … Read the rest

Leaders Can Turn Employees Into Problem Solvers


The best leader is one who coaches their employees to find resolutions. As an executive coach, I’ve worked with numerous businesses and one thing remains true — the leaders who stymied their staff from being problem-solvers cannot create a sustainable business.

The ability to problem-solve is no joke, it’s one of the first things we parents and guardians set out to teach our young ones. Why? We want them to be able to successfully tackle every obstacle they come across. The same applies in the workplace because learning never, ever stops. An accountable, resolution-focused employee has the power to maintain … Read the rest

Why Less Work Is the Way to Sales Success


The above title, “Why Less Work Is the Way,” showed up in my email box from a sales speaker and trainer in another attempt to make a ton of money with an online course. I see this far too often. Another example of telling salespeople what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. The average salesperson is desperate to significantly increase sales while at the same time avoiding calling on strangers and facing rejection. Look, unless you have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on online advertising, or you can afford to hire a bunch … Read the rest

Articles Boost Your Name Recognition


If you’re looking for a way to build your name and personal brand awareness, you might consider media exposure (getting quoted in periodicals, websites, talk shows, and podcasts). Such exposure can help attract prospects or make it so they have heard of you when you reach out to them.

However, it’s awfully difficult to earn media quotes. That’s why some sales pros are blogging and/or submitting articles. There are countless media outlets — both online and traditional — and many of them depend on outside writers to supply the content.

The writer Robert Benchley once said, “The freelance writer is … Read the rest

Be the Best You Can Be


Selling products to a specific industry is a business-to-business (B2B) type of selling, not retail selling. Although some of the principles of B2B selling are similar to retail selling, most are very different.

Principles Common to Both B2B and Retail Selling

  1. Satisfying your customers’ needs
  2. Treating your customers with respect
  3. Knowing your products’ features and benefits
  4. Being a good listener
  5. Following corporate guidelines

Key Differentiators for B2B Selling

  1. A sales rep must be a consultant and problem solver. More than being knowledgeable about your products is required. You must listen to customers’ needs, then show how your products and services
Read the rest

Resistant Salespeople Can Prevent Consistent, Strong Sales Results


Even though this article begins as a baseball article, in the fourth paragraph it quickly morphs into a sales article.

As my regular readers know, my son is a baseball player — a rising college senior (as of the summer of 2023) — and I still coach him in the batting cage when he’s home for the summer. I started coaching him when he was old enough to hold a wiffle bat. By the time he was thirteen years old, he responded to every piece of hitting advice with, “I know Dad!” He was no longer coachable (by me), thus … Read the rest

Thin the Herd — Terminate Non-Performing Employees


There’s a term ranchers use when they are reducing the size of livestock by removing weak animals from the group. That term is “thinning the herd.” It could also be used in the workforce in relation to terminating non-performing employees, something most organizations don’t do nearly as often as they should.

Retaining employees who perform poorly is expensive both financially and emotionally. It costs a lot of money to repair the damage they do. That includes the time it takes to correct mistakes they’ve made, dealing with a significant number of customer complaints, driving down morale and creating friction as … Read the rest

Sales vs. Product Training


If one manufacturer didn’t know beforehand that his agents thirsted after product training vs. sales training, he certainly knows it now.

That’s what the manufacturer reported after some input from several of his independent agents. According to the manufacturer, “I had several of my reps approach me with a request for training. But, at the same time, they were adamant that they didn’t want sales training. They were after product training. Their message to me loud and clear was that since they had already carved out successful careers for themselves as independent representatives, they knew what they had to know … Read the rest

How to Use ChatGPT and AI to Sell


Feel like AI is taking over everything?

The rules keep changing on this, but what I want you to remember is this: ChatGPT is nothing more than a very hyperactive search engine. Don’t run from it! ChatGPT is a tool to leverage. Embrace it!

ChatGPT can give you a tremendous amount of information, but don’t think for a moment it’s going to replace you as a salesperson. Rather, keep one thing in mind: Not only are you using it to help you sell, but your customers are using it to help them make buying decisions. Let’s break this down.

Customers Read the rest

Thoughts on Succession Planning

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Having served as legal counsel to hundreds of sales representatives, perhaps the worst type of call that I receive is from an owner of a successful sales rep agency who has waited too long to think about — let alone implement — a succession plan, but who now has an urgent need for one.

In many instances, the urgency for having a succession plan is compelled by one of the agency’s principals (manufacturers), which has threatened termination unless an acceptable succession plan is in place by a given (typically short) deadline. But, what if you (as the owner) are not … Read the rest

Industrial Supply Association Announces the Promotion of Brendan Breen to Chief Executive Officer

photo of Brendan BreenThe Industrial Supply Association (ISA) is pleased to announce the promotion of Brendan Breen, formerly the association’s president, to the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) effective September 1, 2023.

This key promotion reflects ISA’s commitment to fostering continuity, stability, and ongoing growth within the organization. The decision to promote Breen was taken in acknowledgment of his exemplary performance, strong alignment with the organization’s vision, and commendable leadership in driving ISA toward achieving significant milestones.

Commenting on the promotion, Rob Keenan, president of SECO Tools and ISA board chair, stated, “Brendan has demonstrated an outstanding level of leadership and proficiency … Read the rest