If You Are Looking for Gold, Look for Quartz


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When manufacturers call me looking for help finding reps, I suggest that they take a lesson from gold miners. If you are looking for gold, start by looking for quartz.

Gold often occurs in between quartz crystals. Looking for quartz can help you find gold you otherwise would have missed.

How do you look for “quartz” during a rep search? Let me give you an example, and for the sake of this example, I will oversimplify.

Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of nails. You do a search for reps who sell nails and the list is disappointingly short.

It’s actually even worse than that, because the reps you found who sell nails already have a built-in conflict on their line card. They already represent a nail manufacturer: when you call them, many can’t represent you too.

Instead, you need to look for “quartz,” and search for reps who sell fasteners. Now you find reps who sell screws, nuts and bolts, but don’t have a line of nails. Perfect fit! But just a start.

Broadening the search, you also search for reps who sell complementary non-competing products. This takes some thoughtful reflection on your part. What kinds of reps would have great contacts to sell nails? Reps who sell hand tools, like hammers, would have great contacts to sell nails.

I suggest that manufacturers ask themselves, and perhaps some of their best customers, “In addition to my products, what else do my best customers buy?” Then they can get some categories that give better results.

If you are a manufacturer who needs help finding reps or a rep who needs help getting found by manufacturers, reach out to MANA by email at mana@manaonline.org.

Are You Planning to Sell Your Manufacturing Business?


As a manufacturer who partners with manufacturers’ representatives, we hope you create relationships with your manufacturers’ representatives that work well for both of you and last a long time. Your manufacturers’ representatives create high‑trust relationships with customers who then purchase what you supply because of that trust, and as a result, your business becomes profitable. A win‑win for both.

History indicates that not an insignificant number of those who purchase manufacturing businesses who outsource the sales function to independent manufacturers’ representatives terminate the manufacturers’ representative agreement following the completion of the sale.

Why might they do this?

They look at … Read the rest

Rep Strives to Empower Entrepreneurs


In 2019, when Jo-Anne Hernandez opened the doors to her agency, Business Lazo, little did she know she was going to run headfirst into Covid-19 and the problems and challenges that accompanied the pandemic. However, armed with the entrepreneurial zeal that is mandatory for reps, she’s successfully come out the other end to today head the Princeton, Massachusetts-based agency.

Business Lazo, LLC, is a sales, consulting and marketing company. The agency is a certified minority- and women-owned business with more than three decades of sales, consulting and marketing experience. According to Hernandez, “Our agency’s expertise spans from startups to Fortune … Read the rest

Sales Is What We Sell


An outsourced sales force works if you make it work.

There is only one product that a rep sells — sales!

With a focus on this reality, what can you do to make your rep sales team better?

Planning is the first step to making a rep firm better. There needs to be a plan for every line you represent. How can you work with your manufacturers to plan your work for that manufacturer in your territory?

How strong is the marketing plan for each manufacturer? What can you add to that plan to position that line to get an … Read the rest

Attitudes for Success: Be Optimistic — Maintain a Positive Outlook on Life


When faced with challenges are you more likely to see the glass as “half full” or as “half empty”? What does this mean if you are operating an independent manufacturers’ representative business?

One of the first manufacturers I represented when I started my rep agency in 1975 was a European manufacturer of PVC, single-ply roofing membrane. This manufacturer was one of the first single-ply membrane manufacturers to gain a foothold in the U.S. market. For 100 years commercial roofing subcontractors installed only built-up asphalt or coal tar pitch roofing systems. Single-ply roofing material was beginning to shake the roofing industry … Read the rest

Fully Present All the Time


As I sat by myself at a restaurant working on my laptop, I kept overhearing the people at the table next to me. From time to time, they would say something that caught my attention, and I’d find myself eavesdropping a bit. (When you’re on the road by yourself you take whatever entertainment you can get).

One of them complained that her husband was traveling for work so much that it felt like he was never around. Then she said something particularly interesting: “But at least when he’s here, he does a good job of being fully present.”

“Fully present.”… Read the rest

Motivating the Sales Team


Recently I was speaking with a vice president of sales who explained he was having trouble motivating his salespeople. “They’re just not putting the work in. They’re doing the bare minimum and I can’t seem to do anything to get them going.”

First, when hiring salespeople, you want to hire people who are self-motivated. Just as you can’t teach honesty, integrity, and other key character traits, you can’t teach motivation and you can’t motivate anyone. That said, here are a few ideas to nudge them in the right direction and maybe even motivate them a little.

Keep in mind that … Read the rest

Dealing With Rejection in Sales


Q: Here’s an issue that I confront with my salespeople all the time. They are afraid to press for the next step, because they don’t want to experience the rejection of hearing a “no.” So, they try to keep the sale alive by not asking for resolution. This keeps them involved with customers who aren’t interested and prevents them from moving on. Any thoughts?

A: Great question. There are two issues here. First, dealing with the sense of rejection that very often comes with hearing a “no,” and second, pushing for a resolution so that you don’t waste time with … Read the rest

How to Take Charge of Your Own Prospecting Training


I’ve never been trained how to prospect.

While it’s easy to play the blame game, your ability to improve your skills is in your hands. All it takes is a little initiative.

The truth is, you can stay where you are — average — and mope. Or you can take charge of your career path, invest in yourself, and become a top performer.

Let me share with you six things that you can do right now to overcome any lack of prospecting training.

1. Don’t blame your boss, you are in control.

Hey, I prospect, but my company’s never trained … Read the rest

Three Hurricanes Show the Path to More Effective Selling


Three of last year’s hurricanes took unusual paths for hurricanes.

  • Hurricane Lee roared into Nova Scotia, becoming the first such storm to do so since 2003, although at the time it made landfall, Lee had been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.
  • Earlier last summer, hurricane Hillary became the first tropical storm to make landfall in Southern California.
  • And in late August, hurricane Idalia made landfall in the Big Bend area of Northwest Florida, becoming the first major hurricane to ever pass through that area.

With their unusual paths, the three hurricanes did not cause as much damage as was feared. … Read the rest

Treating Reps as Family


In the course of a conversation covering a variety of topics a manufacturer with a long history of working with reps was asked if he would be willing to share his thoughts/philosophies concerning house accounts.

Here was his thinking on the subject: “We’ve been in business for well over half a century and have a proud history of working with independent reps for more than 40 years. With that long period of time in place, we’ve adopted a philosophy that we treat our reps as part of our family. We don’t look upon them as ‘just those guys who get … Read the rest

Harnessing the Power of AI


I am going to go off course a bit and delve into something that used to freak me out because I am a bit old school when it comes to the digital world. However, I know it is powerful and can transform business — especially sales — when used in conjunction with interpersonal real people skills. So, let’s dive into a topic that is hot in the digital world: AI.

The world of sales is evolving at an unprecedented pace, with businesses constantly seeking innovative ways to engage customers, boost revenue and streamline operations. In this digital age, one of … Read the rest

Live to Fight Another Day


This article addresses a problem that arises frequently in my law practice, namely, unilateral changes made by a principal to the sales commission agreement. These changes often happen quickly and without warning. Needless to say, unplanned reductions in take-home pay can cause significant angst for both the salesperson and his or her spouse.

The Big Question

“What should you do when your principal unilaterally reduces your commission rate?” The answer is: “That depends.” We are currently litigating a case that involves this exact problem. The key facts of that case are as follows:

  • Our client had an oral agreement with
Read the rest

ISA24 Annual Convention to Unleash Networking Excellence and Industry Trends

ISA24 logoThe Charlotte Convention Center is set to become the epicenter of the industrial supply industry as the Industrial Supply Association (ISA) gears up for its Annual Convention, ISA24, on April 15-17, 2024. More than just a meeting of industry professionals, ISA24 is where business gets done, connections are made, and the future of the industry is shaped.

Innovative and enjoyable networking activities at ISA24 promise to reshape conventional norms, aiming not only to build relationships but to solidify existing partnerships, offering an unparalleled experience of networking excellence that goes the extra mile.

Brendan Breen, CEO of ISA, emphasizes the significance … Read the rest