Musings on Line Card Profitability


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“I put $3 million down that hole in the ground and never heard it hit bottom.” — Thomas Edison

When we think of Thomas Edison, we think of his successes. The electric light. The record player. But in 1881 he spent $3,000,000 to build machinery that he thought could extract iron from rocks that had only moderate iron content.

The Edison Ore-Milling Company never was profitable, and the money he put down that hole in the ground was equivalent to $90,000,000 in 2024 dollars.

Reps, like Edison, often have ventures that put their money into a hole in the ground. But, for reps, their “hole in the ground” is representing lines that bring in $50 for every $100 the reps spend promoting the line.

Reps, unlike Edison, can benefit from the experiences of their colleagues who burned daylight on lines that were never profitable and almost always say they let the situation go on for months or years longer than they should have.

And MANA membership includes a tool rep members can use to take the emotion out of assessing lines that might not belong on their line cards, MANA’s Line Card Profitability Analysis Workbook.

What’s in the Line Card Profitability Workbook?

  • An assessment tool that takes into account a line’s income and the degree to which it really fits a rep’s line card.
  • A step-by-step assessment example that makes the tool easy to follow.
  • Adjustments for a line’s intangible contributions to a rep firm.
  • Real-world case studies of reps who discovered one of their lines did not belong on their line card.

Ready to do line card profitability analysis on your line card? Download MANA’s Line Card Profitability Analysis Workbook in the member area of the MANA website,, look for “Publications,” and also watch our 12-minute YouTube video, Line Card Profitability Analysis.

Customer Service Basics


Did you ever notice that when you pick up the phone to make a doctor’s appointment, call your insurance company, call a retail store or just about any company, you almost always get some kind of automated system? The message often states that “We are busy taking care of another customer, but your call is important to us, and we will be with you as soon as possible. If you don’t wish to wait, we can call you back. Press one for a call-back or press two to stay on the line.”

Many times this turns into phone tag. Now … Read the rest

Selling Boxes — As a Start


While Matt McCroskey was raised and educated in Ohio, his family had deep roots in California, and that’s where he built and continues to grow his more than 30-year career as an independent manufacturers’ rep.

According to McCroskey, his great grandparents bought property in Southern California more than 100 years ago. As a result, following his graduation from Ohio State University, he had someplace other than Ohio to follow his career dreams. And, oddly enough, those dreams of sales began with selling cardboard boxes.

According to McCroskey, “One summer two friends and I got a job selling cardboard boxes, and … Read the rest

Tips on Working With Sub-Reps


The similarities of reps working with principals and reps working with sub‑reps were evident over the course of a MANAchat. High on the list of those similarities were how and where do reps find sub-reps, and once found how do you work with them effectively and pay them fairly?

The problems that reps face in finding sub-reps were evident early on in the conversation when the question was raised “Why would a rep firm want/need to engage with a sub-rep?’

In answer the group of reps participating in the chat emphasized that often a manufacturer will place demands on their … Read the rest

Do You Sell Your Selling?


Sales are what it is all about, but how good is your independent manufacturers’ rep firm at selling the selling?

We all know that the rep business is all about selling; but, the way your firm does it can be a neglected topic.

How good are you at backselling all aspects of your business?

Organization and Management of the Sales Process

Do you have a sales manager? If not, how do you manage the sales force? How are your salespeople held accountable for all aspects of their business? We recognize that most rep salespeople are either 100 percent commission, or … Read the rest

Manage Your Agency With Systems


How do you manage your rep agency? Do you focus on profit and sales goals, or do you manage with systems?

Setting performance goals is common, but goals have disadvantages. Goals focus on a particular result. Normally goals are not modified to reflect rapidly changing operating and economic conditions. It is discouraging not to reach goals. You might question the reason for setting goals in the first place. I found “targets,” which are not as definitive as goals, worked better with my systems.

Systems are the procedures, processes and methods used to achieve certain results. One well known business guru … Read the rest

Are Salespeople Born or Made?


Are salespeople born or made? This is a question that comes up from time to time and, for some reason, has been coming up in my conversations a lot lately. It’s the old nature vs. nurture. While most people are open-minded to both arguments, I’ve recently run into some people who are adamant about the subject, one in particular saying they are born, the other saying they are made. Here’s my two cents.

About 10 years ago an acquaintance of mine was a guest host on a local radio station and asked me to come in and discuss sales and … Read the rest

Customer Service Lessons for Sales Pros


After arriving at their vacation destination city, a family enters the lobby of an upscale hotel. Because it’s late at night, and they’re tired from delayed flights, they just want to check in and go to sleep. As soon as they walk in, the concierge brings over champagne for the parents and a treat for the kids.

That makes a good impression.

Then comes the bad news. The woman at the registration desk says the hotel overbooked.

Not a good impression.

But, in order to make things right, the hotel upgrades the family to the top-floor suite at no additional … Read the rest

How to Cancel Low Self-Esteem in Sales


There’s one obstacle to prospecting I don’t hear from people — I see it. Low self-esteem.

I can relate, because if you knew my early path in sales, I was anything but The Sales Hunter. I had to raise my own self-esteem to become a great salesperson.

How to Deal With Low Self-Esteem

Let me walk you through five things that you can do to help you deal with low self-esteem.

1.  Set low goals you can achieve.

Don’t set the goal of making the President’s Club this year, set the goal to simply not finish last, or finish in … Read the rest

Is Employee Ownership Right for Your Company?


Here are four top excuses for not offering skin in the game — and why you should ignore them.

I confess — before I became a father, I sometimes found other people’s kids to be annoying. Especially when they sat behind me on a plane kicking the back of my seat, or throwing a tantrum in a grocery store lineup. Thankfully, my patience and empathy miraculously increased when my wife and I had kids of our own. That’s why, when my clients express frustration about how difficult it is to get team members to really care about their customers, I … Read the rest

What Reps Expect


The joint concerns of what reps and principals should expect from each other in the relationship were tackled by a group of manufacturers and reps when they recently got together. See if any of these items are important to you. First, consider what they had to say about the rep’s expectations of their principals.

Expectations — “Will there be a clear understanding from the very beginning of our relationship of the expectations of each other that we’ve jointly agreed upon? How about collections? If a joint customer is in arrears, do they expect me to go out and make collections? … Read the rest

Are You Losing Your Mind to Reactive Decisions?


I do it like everyone else. I open up my email and battle with the 50 or more messages I don’t need to or want to see. If I open up a browser, I am confronted with the same thing. I am now getting texts with all this junk. No matter how much I try to dodge them, these irritating nuisance messages appear before my eyes forcing me to delete, click away, move to junk or try to block the sender. You probably face the same thing.

Those who research these kinds of things will tell you that we make … Read the rest

Key Reasons to Have a Comprehensive Succession Plan in Place for Your Business


You have invested time, money and sweat equity into your business. In the case of a family-owned operation, there may be generations of investment in the successful launch and growth of your business. Most business owners are deeply involved in the day-to-day demands of the business, and, because of that, too often we see business owners fail to carefully plan for an eventual day when they will no longer be in a position to operate the business. Then what?

Succession planning is a topic far too many businesspeople avoid discussing. It is understandable — similar to putting together a will, … Read the rest

An Invitation to the WomenReps 2024 Business Conference — Connect, Learn, Grow With Other Reps!

WomenReps 2024 Business ConferenceMANA is pleased to help publicize this non-MANA live event. It is open to all women reps regardless of whether or not they are MANA members.

You are welcome to share this information with other women independent sales representatives who might be interested.

Registration is open for the upcoming WomenReps 2024 Conference, a unique three-day event, April 16-18, 2024, dedicated to fostering connections, sharing knowledge, and promoting sustainable business practices. This conference will be held across two beautiful states, starting in Savannah, Georgia, and concluding in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Event details:

  • Cost: $797 per person.
  • Limited Space — 16
Read the rest

ISA24: Reshaping Networking Experiences and Surging Exhibit Hall Demand

The Industrial Supply Association (ISA) is generating significant buzz with its upcoming event, ISA24, scheduled to take place at the Charlotte Convention Center from April 15 to 17, 2024. Making waves for its innovative approach to networking experiences within the industrial supply channel, ISA24 is capturing the attention of industry professionals and experts alike.

The focal point of ISA24’s acclaim is its fresh take on networking, moving beyond traditional formats to create both valuable and enjoyable experiences. Attendees can anticipate an array of lively interactive activities, collaborative sessions, and unexpected engagement points throughout the event, making networking at ISA24 an … Read the rest