Mentorship in Motion

Jeff Witt May 30, 1945 – March 9, 2024

Jeff Witt
May 30, 1945 – March 9, 2024

I simply wish that my mentor, Jeff Witt, could witness my inaugural words as president and CEO of MANA. His recent passing weighs heavily on my heart. Jeff epitomized the quintessential manufacturers’ representative: thoughtful, diligent, knowledgeable, and ethical. Jeff set an exemplary standard as he assisted this young engineer 18 years ago.

We collaborated on several projects but then lost touch for about a decade. When I embarked on establishing my own rep firm in 2016, Jeff was the first person I called. His introduction to the Manufacturers Agents of Cincinnati (MAC), a regional group of reps formed in 1971, proved pivotal. It is undeniable that I owed my career as a rep to Jeff›s simple yet profound gesture of introduction. I first heard of MANA at this regional meeting of reps and it’s also where I met my business partner.

In 2017, John Davis, former MANA chairperson of the board, attended a MAC luncheon searching for a business partner. We discovered that my engineering and sales background aligned with his needs for selling technical motion control automation products. My tenure as a sub-rep during those years proved fruitful and enjoyable.

Serving on the MAC Board and subsequently being elected president in 2021 provided the experience I need to run an effective association. I am fascinated by the extensive histories of both MANA and MAC. While I may not have had the privilege of knowing past MANA executives like Lionel Diaz and Joe Miller, I have had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Charles Cohon over the past few years. Cohon and the team have admirably maintained MANA’s relevance and utility to its members, and I am honored to serve in this leadership role.

As I step into this new role, I carry with me the profound lessons and values instilled by my mentor, Jeff Witt. His legacy of integrity, dedication, and mentorship will continue to guide me as I endeavor to lead MANA with the same passion and commitment.

Do you have a mentorship story to share? Email me at

What Do They Think of Us?


A European perspective of the American rep

The world of commerce is getting smaller and it is becoming quite commonplace for overseas manufacturers to seek out American representatives. For this editorial, I interviewed a number of European sales managers who have been in charge of worldwide sales for several decades and I asked for their unfiltered opinions on their experiences and opinions on using American manufacturers› representatives. While the discussions were wide‑ranging and covered much of the same ground as one might expect from any global sales managers, some were specific to the uniqueness of working with a North American … Read the rest

From Baseball, to Sneakers, to Repping


What happens to a pitcher when his arm wears out before any dreams of professional baseball can be realized? Naturally, he may pivot to another career path. This was somewhat the case for Brandon Goldberg. Following the dashed hopes of baseball stardom and a brief stint as an athletic shoe salesman, Goldberg eventually found his calling as a manufacturers’ rep.

“As a kid growing up in Dayton, I realized early on that I had talent on the ball field,” Goldberg recalls. “I was a left-handed pitcher who could throw hard into the high 80s and 90s, and I could hit. … Read the rest

Reps Need to Be Paid


Reps don’t work for free.

That was a major message emanating from a MANA special interest group discussion for reps who sell in international markets earlier this year. The reps who participated in the far-ranging teleconference were adamant that their levels of expertise and the time they spend to develop business for principals were too valuable to be contributed free of charge.

For instance, according to one rep, “I’m not going to spend an unlimited amount of time and money to develop business for principals without being compensated for my efforts.” To counter the desire of many principals to have … Read the rest

An Alternative to a Market Development Fee


A rep and a potential new manufacturer have discussed signing a rep contract. The manufacturer’s products have no sales in the rep territory. The manufacturer is depending on the rep’s reputation with his customers to develop sales volume. The rep suggests the manufacturer pay a market development fee.

Naturally, the manufacturer wants to know what that fee would be, on what basis it would be established, and for how long the fee would be paid. As an alternative to a market development fee, I suggest both the rep and the manufacturer demonstrate to each other a commitment to a long-term … Read the rest

Proactive Positioning of the Agency


Everyone has to be selling the agency all the time.

Positioning the agency for significant market success is a 24/7-365 job for everyone from the receptionist to the president. Looking for opportunities to backsell principals should be a never-ending target — everyone at the agency should sell the agency to everyone who comes in contact with the rep firm as a customer, customer salesperson, customer’s customer and, just as important, the employees and prospective employees of the rep firm.

Also, most essential, principals who are looking for representation in the rep firm’s territory. The profile is the first element of … Read the rest

How to Stand Out From Other Salespeople


In sales you simply must stand out from other salespeople, not just the ones in your industry, but all the salespeople that are calling on your prospects and customers, as they are also competing for their time, attention and money. Here are several ways to be unique in sales.

1. Exceed Customer Expectations

Go above and beyond; under-promise and over-deliver. Do more than the customer expects you to do. You exceed customer expectations by delivering more, better and/or faster. Deliver earlier than expected (assuming the customer can take delivery sooner) and deliver more than expected. If your customer tells you … Read the rest

The Importance of Coaching Salespeople


I have written on the topic of coaching salespeople more than 400 times or 25 percent of my articles.


Because sales managers are not coaching — still — at least not consistently or effectively. As a reminder, consistent daily coaching increases revenue by 28 percent and when it is paired with effective coaching, revenue increases by 43 percent. It’s simply incomprehensible that sales managers aren’t picking up the clue phone. But it’s not really their fault. The people they report to, senior sales leadership, either sales VPs, CROs or CSOs, aren’t providing the time, framework, incentive, motivation, guidelines, expectations … Read the rest

Mind Software and Thinking


The recent proliferation of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has surfaced a lingering issue: If we can create software to increase the capabilities of a computer, can we not create software to increase the capabilities of the greatest computer we know of — our minds?

Let’s unpack this idea. First, a definition of software. Here’s what Wikipedia says: “groups of binary values signifying processor instructions….”

If software gives instructions to a processor, can we not build a set of instructions that will enhance our ability to think more effectively? If so, wouldn’t that be mind software?

To make sure we are all … Read the rest

Never Mistake Marketing for Sales


On separate occasions I recently met with two small business owners. These guys don’t know each other, but they have a lot in common: despite great effort, neither is happy with their revenue. Both companies are “getting by” but not thriving.

A quick examination revealed the same reason why revenues are falling short — both owners are mistaking promotional activity for selling activity.

Allow Me to Explain

Both of these entrepreneurs tirelessly promote their companies. They belong to service clubs and chambers of commerce. They show up at networking events. They lead active social lives. They advertise. They buy social … Read the rest

Defining Value


In a recent conversation with Agency Sales, the national sales manager for a Midwest-based manufacturer offered his take on what he considered is the rep’s value proposition. “After several years of working with a high level of success with a rep network, I’ve learned even more how valuable independent reps are for a manufacturer. The rep brings value to the manufacturer’s table.

“The rep has the sales organization in place in the territory that the manufacturer doesn’t have to create for himself. On top of that, perhaps the most valuable asset the rep has to offer is the relationships … Read the rest

The Future of Sales: Trends and Innovations to Watch


The sales landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, with emerging trends and technological innovations transforming how sales professionals connect with customers and close deals. This evolution is driven by advances in technology, changing consumer behaviors, and the increasingly digital nature of business interactions.

As we look to the future, several key trends and innovations stand out, promising to reshape the sales industry. This article delves into these developments, exploring what’s next for the world of sales and how professionals can prepare for the changes to come.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are at the forefront of … Read the rest

How to Win Your Case: Be Reasonable About It


Disputes among principals and sales reps are inevitable. Some lead to lawsuits, mediations or arbitrations.

Contrary to popular belief, winning your case does not usually depend on hiring the most aggressive lawyer. Winning your case starts much earlier, when you negotiated your contract and when you and the principal were performing it. Like succeeding in sales, winning your case starts with preparing to win it.

One general principle that has been reaffirmed over my 40 years of litigation practice is that the reasonable party usually wins. You want to be perceived as the reasonable party. That is the person with … Read the rest

MANA Chairperson Awards Past CEO Plaque for His Service to MANA

Tommy Granett presenting the plaque to Charles CohonIn acknowledgement of his 13 years serving as president and CEO of MANA, Charles Cohon (right) was presented a plaque by the association’s Chairman of the Board Tommy Garnett, CPMR, CSP. In making the presentation during a Board meeting, Garnett said, “It has been my distinct pleasure to work closely alongside Charles Cohon for the last five years. Charley is considered an industry leader and one of the most professional individuals I have had the pleasure to meet in my many years in the industry. I consider him a mentor as well as a friend and the rep industry as … Read the rest