So, Tell Me Again Why Am I Writing This Large Check to a Manufacturers’ Representative?

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Words that should never be spoken by the president, CFO, national sales manager, VP of sales, owner or decision-maker from one of a rep’s top-paying lines.

In reality, though, senior management from one of a rep’s top-paying lines sometimes will question whether or not an outsourced sales force firm really deserves that four- or five-figure monthly check.

Sometimes having a principal question the size of your check is unavoidable. But in other cases, it is an unforced error on the rep’s part for failing to preemptively educate the manufacturer on the value the rep brings to the principal.

For example, … Read the rest

Your Top Line Was Just Acquired or Acquired Another Company

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Management likes to use the word “merged.”

This scenario has played out for me several times, and I’m pleased to say I’ve benefited more than I’ve lost — the key is being proactive. Yes, sometimes you will lose; it’s just the way the cards play out. Rather than simply giving up, I suggest you come up with a strategy and work the plan.

First, the assessment: did the merged company use manufacturers’ representatives or, worse yet, a direct sales force? If it’s a direct sales force, you may want to consider visiting the management team to discuss the advantages of … Read the rest

Being a Good Soldier

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You have another new regional or national sales manager — and the person is a rep’s worst nightmare. Whether it’s your largest line or a basic bread and butter line, what should you do?

Your first instinct may be to push back. Maybe just a little. Perhaps flex your relationships with senior management a bit, or remind them they don’t have authority to terminate your contract. After all, you are really irreplaceable and this person needs to find out who is top dog.

Well, you may be irreplaceable, or you may be married to the owner’s offspring, in which case … Read the rest

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra

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How do you prepare to consistently execute a good plan now in your manufacturers’ representative firm? By studying past problems and challenges and having a response ready when those problems and challenges recur.

In today’s world, we borrow from the jargon of computer programmers and call this list of possible events and appropriate responses an algorithm, defined by Google as “a process or set of rules to be followed” to calculate an answer or solve a problem.

When my mentor hired me to work in his small manufacturers’ representative firm decades ago, no one had heard of algorithms. But my … Read the rest

“Fish Got to Swim and Birds Got to Fly” — Billie Holiday

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To which I would add, salespeople have got to sell.

It’s surprising how much people do the things they’re paid to do during their work day long after their work day ends. Teachers use their skills to teach outside the curriculum they’re paid to teach, engineers invent things in industries outside their employers’ markets, and salespeople sell ideas and concepts that have been important to them personally or to their careers.

This is how I first learned about MANA 27 years ago, and why I’ve promoted MANA membership to other reps ever since.

Let’s go back 27 years to how … Read the rest

Preparation Is Essential

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Whether you are playing in the World Series, or running for President of the United States, or interviewing for a new line, the outcomes will all have two things in common. Number one is that there is no prize for second place. And number two is that, although preparation won’t guarantee your success, the lack of preparation will almost certainly guarantee your failure.

I have had the opportunity to interview for some very powerful and lucrative product lines over the years. When it was a line I really, really wanted, I usually got it, and the way I got it … Read the rest

The Carrot Is Mightier Than the Stick

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I’ve often said that principals who use “crack the whip” tactics on their rep sales force are essentially exercising the most expensive (and least efficient) management tool possible.

This is because principals who “crack the whip” on rep sales forces ultimately have to pay more commission just to keep their reps on board compared to other principals who treat their reps well.

Cracking the whip should be reserved for situations where one of my best customer’s orders is running late — just kidding.

All kidding aside, principals need to manage rep sales forces mostly with carrots and rarely resort to … Read the rest

Have you ever heard a representative complain that he grew a line by 110 percent but then lost the line to a larger rep?

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Or how about a remark from a prospective principal during an interview that the prospective principal liked the owner of the previous representative firm, but felt they just didn’t have the manpower to grow his line?

How about the representative owner who says he just can’t make any money as a manufacturers’ representative because his overhead and manpower costs were just too high?

All of these questions apply to deciding when a representative should hire an additional person. This is a tough decision whether you are a single person representative firm or have 20+ employees. You know that the additional … Read the rest