Will Artificial Intelligence Be the End of Reps? — Part 1


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A sonnet written by a machine will be better appreciated by another machine.
— Alan Turing, English computer scientist widely considered to be the father of artificial intelligence.

Will there always be reps?

That’s a question that I was asked when reps’ role delivering three-ring engineering binders was upended by online access to technical data on manufacturers’ websites.

That’s a question I was asked when online quotations and order entry processes eliminated many clerical tasks in reps’ offices.

And now it’s the question I am asked because Artificial Intelligence (AI) disrupts some services traditionally provided by reps.

What happened to reps when three-ring engineering binders faded away? Reps evolved! Reps became guides who helped customers drink from the fire hose of data suddenly available from manufacturers’ websites.

What happened when online quotations and e-commerce disrupted manual processes previously handled in reps’ offices? Reps evolved! Reps removed from their line cards some of the commodity product manufacturers who only valued reps for quoting and order entry services. Reps shifted their resources to launching CRM systems that let them give better information to their principals and better anticipate their customers’ needs.

What will happen as AI disrupts other aspects of the services reps provide?

AI will increasingly be adopted for roles that don’t require face-to-face contact. Reps will evolve and refocus their resources on roles that do require face-to-face contact.

  • Reps will spend more time doing site visits to help solve their customers’ problems by integrating multiple products from their line cards into custom solutions.
  • Reps will spend more time teaching and coaching their customers’ employees on the functions and applications of their principals’ products.
  • Reps will be the conduit for insights and expertise they developed while solving one customer’s problems to be applied to their other customers’ problems.

Yes, there will always be reps, because reps are customers’ trusted face-to-face resources. And that is a role that websites, e-commerce or AI never can provide.

What to Look for When Searching for Manufacturers’ Representatives to Represent Your Company


To be successful in sales requires creating high-trust relationships with customers. We like to buy from those we know and trust. When you search for manufacturers’ representatives to represent your company, you want to find those with high-trust relationships with the customers for what you supply. They created those relationships by helping the customers with the other products they represent that do not compete with what you supply.

How do you create that list of other products? If you already work with independent manufacturers’ representatives, check out their line cards for the companies they represent. Not working with manufacturers’ representatives … Read the rest

Guided by Best Practices


If Mike Gallagher has learned anything over the course of his lengthy and successful business career it is the value of employing and relying on best practices.

Just as so many reps before him, Gallagher, president and CEO of Centro, Inc., began his business career on the manufacturing side of the desk working for companies including Thomas & Betts, Norton Abrasives, and Square D Company.

“I spent most of my business life working with large companies that sold products through distribution and rep channels. When I was about 40, I determined that my goal of serving as president of a … Read the rest

Reps’ Likes and Dislikes


When Agency Sales magazine reported on a MANAchat that was devoted to a discussion of what reps like most and don’t like about their jobs, it must have struck a chord. Since that article appeared in the December issue, several reps have weighed in with their thoughts on the very same subject. Overall, those who took the time to comment expressed great satisfaction with their choice of profession; however, for every satisfied rep, there were others who voiced some misgivings with what they have to face on a regular basis. Overall, their opinions might very well serve as recruiting tools … Read the rest

When Is the Right Time to Retire?


As a person approaches 65 the question naturally comes up, “When should I retire?”

The answer to that question involves an individual decision. We are all different. Important to the decision are a person’s physical and mental health and whether their retirement nest egg is sufficient to support their retirement. This article explores my path to retirement and suggests retirement planning guidelines.

There is no magic age. In the 20th century, 65 was considered the appropriate retirement age. Most of our parents retired about that age. Social Security payments began. Life expectancy for a man was mid to late seventies. … Read the rest

Compliments and Kind Words Go a Long Way


From the time we can understand the spoken word, we’ve all needed compliments and kind words. They indicate approval, whether said to a baby taking her first steps or to an athlete trying out for an Olympic team. Words of encouragement are great motivators that recognize us and encourage us to do better, to be better.

Recognition is critical to motivation. We all need positive reinforcement for who we are and what we do. Recognition influences self-esteem, and self-esteem influences performance. When we feel good about ourselves it affects what we do and how we do it.

All too often, … Read the rest

Sales Force Management 101: Training the Salespeople


Leadership for the sales team is one of the most critical elements of making a rep firm more profitable and more secure with the principals the rep firm represents.

Evaluating the Salespeople

This approach assumes that there is a sales leader. The rep firm has a person who steps up to the challenge of managing the sales personnel.

Who is this person? Generally, the sales manager will be one of the owners of the rep firm. It is mostly not possible for a rep firm to afford to hire an individual to be a sales manager. As a result, someone … Read the rest

Sales is a Contact Sport


A few days ago, I was watching an Ed Mylett interview featuring Ryan Serhant, a highly successful real estate agent in New York City. According to Serhant, a key factor in his success is reaching out to 15 new people daily.

This resonated with a conversation I had two months ago with Rick Fingerman, a local financial planner, who shared a similar strategy. He recounted the story of a very successful insurance agent who attributed his success to talking to three new people seven days a week about what he did for a living. He said it didn’t matter if … Read the rest

How Do I Get to See New Prospects Who Won’t Return Voice Mail?


This continues to be one of the most-asked questions I receive. In earlier articles, I’ve talked about creating a powerful, persuasive opening statement. I’ve also discussed the concept of an effective “pre-call touch.” In this piece, I’m going to discuss some effective tactics for making the call.

First, a reminder of the perspective from which we should view this problem. It’s this — there is no a simple, easy solution. I wish I could provide you with a magic phrase or set of “secret” words that are guaranteed to get the prospect to return your call and grant you an … Read the rest

Essential Leadership Skills for the Modern Workforce


In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, the role of a leader extends beyond mere management. The workforce is undergoing a seismic shift, driven by technological advancements, cultural changes, and a new understanding of work dynamics. As such, some skills remain ever the same and so very necessary, while other skills required for effective leadership are evolving. This article explores the top leadership skills for the modern workforce.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as those of the people around you. For a leader, EI involves five key elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, … Read the rest

Making the Right Choice


When considering what type of rep — whether a generalist or a specialist — is best for you, what it comes down to is determining from the outset what works best for you and your company.

For instance, one manufacturer that is firmly in favor of the generalist maintained that “although agents do need a certain level of technical sophistication in order to sell our products, that level is not as high as you might imagine. I look for agents who have a wide range of competencies; who can move quickly from one sales situation to another.”

On the other … Read the rest

Using Text Messages for Prospecting


Have you ever received a text message like this?

Hi Jeff! I’m Calvin with XYZ. We offer tailored consulting-focused medical insurance plans with competitive rates and nationwide coverage during open enrollment. Would you like a quick quote?

Or how about this?

Hello Jeff. This is Elijah from ABC Bookkeeping. We’re an online bookkeeping service starting as low as $109 per month. Can I call you to explain the details?

Or even one like this?

Greetings Jeff. I know that technology integration is a concern for your industry. Our latest product addresses this directly, providing tools and platforms for sales trainers. Read the rest

Your Principal Sells Its Business: Now What?


As a sales representative, you’ve spent years developing the brand name and recognition of your principal in the marketplace. You’ve generated new clients and coddled existing ones for your principal. Sales are up to the benefit of both representative and principal. Now, you’re told that the principal has sold its business and is moving on. Where does that leave you as a sales representative, especially with regard to your earned but unpaid commissions as of the date of the acquisition?

It depends on the answer to many questions as well as the relationship you may have with the buying and … Read the rest

Marilyn Kahler and Marty Grimes Join MANA’s Board of Directors

MANA announces that two new members have been elected to the association’s Board of Directors:

Kahler-MarilynMarilyn Kahler, president of Tri-Fab Solutions, Scottsdale, Arizona, began her career as an independent manufacturers’ rep in 1986. Prior to becoming a rep, she enjoyed a successful career in real estate. She was then hired as a business development manager for an established rep firm, and she became the sole owner of the company in 2008. Kahler’s agency supplies made-to-print components manufactured by multi-spindle, Swiss and complex machining. Products represented include die casting, injection molded plastics, stamping, spring and wire form.

Commenting on her … Read the rest