Small Changes and “Trifling Matters”


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“Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding, but they should remember that human felicity is produced by little advantages that occur every day.”
— Benjamin Franklin

What did Franklin mean? One example dates back to the days when America was still a British colony.

Streets were lit at night by oil lamps, with the flame protected from the wind by blown glass globes. Franklin observed two issues with that practice:

  1. Breakage was a problem because blown glass globes had to be imported from England, a time-consuming and costly process.
  2. Soot from the flame darkened the globes, reducing the illumination they provided.

Franklin designed a replacement for the globes with four panes of flat glass. When street lamps were damaged, flat glass to repair them was readily available. His design also left an open chimney at the top to let soot escape before the glass was darkened.

I can share two more modern examples of small changes from MANA’s journey to advance the professionalism and use of independent manufacturers’ representatives:

  1. By capturing statistical data from searches in MANA’s RepFinder® database, we now send quarterly emails to rep members to let them know how many times their firm appeared in the results of RepFinder® searches.
  2. We had so many best practices resources available to reps and manufacturers that finding the resources they needed was challenging for our members. So VP & GM Jerry Leth curated our resources to let members view our most important online resources.
  • For reps, “Steps to Rep Professionalism.”
  • For manufacturers, “Steps to Selling Through Independent Reps.”

Little changes like these can be just as important to MANA members as breakthroughs like MANA’s launch of the first rep search smartphone app.

What kinds of small changes could you make that would make a big difference to your customers or partners?

Do you have an example to share? Reach out to me by email at with the details.

MANA — A Wonderful Rep Resource


Recently, I was attending a MANA function with many other manufacturers’ representatives and my peer group from various industries across the U.S.

During the conference, we held an open forum Q&A and amongst the group were many single person agencies or simply rep agencies seeking advice or counsel. The discussion included topics like representative-principal contracts, succession planning, acquiring new lines, buy‑sell agreements, marketing techniques and the many other areas we all face running a manufacturers’ representative agency in today’s environment.

As I sat and listened to the discussion and each rep’s carefully thought-out reply, one common theme was apparent: the … Read the rest

College to Sales to Repping


Rick Pierce’s path from college to heading his own rep firm could be described as more “typical” compared to so many other agency owners who have been profiled in Agency Sales magazine.

So many others have begun careers in far-flung ventures covering everything from teaching, law enforcement, and even professional sports. For Pierce it was an entirely different story. After studying marketing in college, he began a sales career with a manufacturer. In his words “I began working for a manufacturer as number 32 in their sales force of 32. I left 14 years later as number two.”

His reason … Read the rest

“Belly-to-Belly” Selling


The continued benefit of in-person contact with prospects and customers was stressed during the course of a MANAchat when reps who participated constantly pointed out that nothing beats “face-to-face, belly-to-belly” selling.

According to one rep, “Here’s the problem that’s been going on for 20 years now: You go to a website to check out a company or a product and everything you read tells you that the company producing the product — or the product itself — is absolutely fantastic. You never read how something is mediocre or performs poorly in the field. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that … Read the rest

Selecting the Right Stable of Manufacturers to Represent


For the startup of an independent manufacturers’ representative firm, selection of manufacturers the agency decides to represent is critical. For an established agency, seeking the right manufacturers to add to existing lines is important for continued success.

Decide on an Industry

For a single-person rep agency, it is important to select manufacturers from the same industry. For a multiple-person agency, adding manufacturers from more than one industry is fine, but each salesperson should focus on one industry alone. A successful independent manufacturers’ rep must clearly establish in each customer’s mind the best rep to call for technical assistance, service and … Read the rest

Training the Regional Sales Manager


Some regional sales managers have little or no experience with reps. How do you educate them and make them an ally?

It’s very common for reps to face a new regional sales manager for at least one of their major lines every year. And, it is probably safe to say that often they are not very knowledgeable about your business and how they are supposed to work with you. Some may even think that the job is to “manage” you.

Sometimes a regional manager is well acquainted with the real beneficial activities they can contribute to your rep firm and … Read the rest

Selling Techniques: Tips for Getting in Front of Decision Makers


One of your biggest challenges in selling may be how to reach the actual decision-making customer.

Tip #1 — Start Higher up the Ladder

The higher you start up your customer’s chain of command, the more likely you are to reach someone with the authority to say yes. Unfortunately, sales reps often settle for easier-to-reach lower-level managers who aren’t authorized to make significant operational changes or large purchases. In other words, in order to say yes to your offering, they’d have to ask a higher-up for permission. They are however, empowered to say no. So, it makes sense to start … Read the rest

How to Guarantee Success in Sales


Sales success can be broken down to an almost mathematical equation that works every time. There is a direct correlation between work and results when it comes to sales success. If you do the proper amount of work in three key areas, you pretty much guarantee sales success. If you don’t do the proper amount of work in those three areas, you will struggle and may fail completely.

Tip #1 — Start Higher up the Ladder

The higher you start up your customer’s chain of command, the more likely you are to reach someone with the authority to say yes. … Read the rest

Use Your Personal Brand for Prospecting


Since salespeople are always in the “Selling Season” it’s always great time to do some networking. Go into the world and use networking as a prospecting tool.

It’s also a great time to bolster your personal brand. Make no mistake — you are a brand. You’re a business of one, a business unto yourself. As a “personal business,” you need to deliberately project your brand to your target audience.

The better known your personal brand is in your marketplace or industry, the more successful you are. When you leave messages for prospective clients, they’re more likely to call you back … Read the rest

Smile — A First Impression Can Change Everything


A genuine smile can change everything — for the customer, your colleagues, and yourself. It’s powerful and critical to providing superior customer service.

Why is a smile so important? Because it fosters a positive attitude and forms a good first impression. It sets the stage for everything that follows, and it costs nothing. A smile invites people in. It says, “I like you. I care about you as a person. I value you. I care about your needs. I’m ready to help.”

A smile helps you build a positive outlook and attitude that is contagious. When you have a positive … Read the rest

Understanding Reps


A manufacturer who was switching from a direct sales force to reps called recently for some guidance.

During the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he planned to take on each rep in each territory on a trial basis. When he was asked why and what he thought an appropriate trial period should be, he answered, “I want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing by switching to reps and I want to make sure that each rep I appoint is going to be able to do the job to my satisfaction.”

When it was explained that … Read the rest

Never Agree That Your Commission Rate Will Be Agreed Upon on a Job-By-Job Basis


My sales representative client and his principal are beginning a relationship and are having a hard time agreeing on a commission rate for new business.

My clients often ask me for advice regarding a reasonable commission rate. I generally tell them that the commission rate is an economic issue that is part of the bargaining process. I am a firm believer that commission dollars are more important than commission rates. Both parties need to have a good understanding regarding the potential size of the programs that will be quoted. Often the principal will push for language that the parties will … Read the rest