The “Ideal” Principal


In the ’90s, I had the good fortune to be hired as the sales manager for a contract manufacturer who had a desire to build a rep sales organization in the United States and in adjacent countries. As I proceeded into that assignment I met, interviewed, hired, and trained several dozen rep companies — both single- and multi-person firms. They quickly taught me what they needed from me as their advocate to the manufacturer. I guided them to achieve the growth my boss desired. Working together, both the reps and the principal were successful.

Almost a decade later, I decided … Read the rest

The Rep of the Future


When contacted to write this editorial from the field, and upon learning the subject, my weird imagination visualized a space-suited rep with briefcase in hand climbing into his winged car to go on the “road” to perform sales calls. After putting that flight of fantasy to rest and seriously thinking about the subject, a more realistic image of the rep of the future emerged.

To be sure, the rep will be affected by future technological developments. Looking at advancements in communication tools over the last 10 years provides us an indication of likely developments in the next decade. The cellular … Read the rest

The Challenge of Communicating


Communication between reps and principals can be challenging. Continually practicing good communication interchanges augmented by a well-developed trust relationship are inherent to success when the chips are down.

Let’s look at a common situation.

Principal to Rep: “What’s happening at the ABC Company account? I see sales are declining.”

Rep to Principal: “Lots of good stuff happening there, but my competitor, who is a rep for your biggest competitor, is breathing down my neck due to your price position.The business is in jeopardy ”

Interpretation —

Principal to Rep: “What are you doing for me at ABC Company?”

Rep to Read the rest

Manufacturers Who “Get It”


Let’s be clear: “it” refers to going to market using professional independent manufacturers’ representatives and the process of hiring and managing these reps. To illustrate the process, I will discuss a recent personal experience with a manufacturer who “gets it.”

The principal is a European manufacturer of large size, long lead-time, custom engineered and custom tooled products. They have a small business presence among various OEM customers scattered throughout the U.S. Their goal was to hire three experienced reps to service existing customers and expand their business. Following are the steps they took to achieve this goal.

  • Joined MANA, an
Read the rest

You Have to Get in the Game


During the football and basketball season, the “games” are certainly of intense interest for many people, especially if you live, as I do, in Lawrence, KS. Getting into the game is the primary goal of a lot of players. Considering that goal led me to start thinking of our own businesses, MANA local organizations and MANA throughout North America. The game is definitely on — and it is a tough one!

Since you are reading this “Editorial in the Field,” you probably already are a MANA member — either as a manufacturer or as a professional sales representative. So you … Read the rest

Looking to Hire New Reps?


A wise man once said, “If all my people-related issues could be solved, I’d have a perfect business and no problems.”

Amen, brother! That statement applies in spades to small, people-intensive businesses known as independent manufacturers’ representatives. The rep business, by definition, is people-focused. The rep is the guy in the middle who is always trying to balance the needs of his principals with those of his customers — and his own needs. That requires an exceptionally specialized person, who has the ability to see all sides of the issues and find and forge solutions. Those solutions are called “orders.” … Read the rest

Editorial in the Field


What is it that makes a rep successful? Is it having the most principals? The most customers? Making the most money?

While any one or all of those may be desirable, there are far more important factors that in the end provide lasting satisfaction in a successful career. There are three key attributes a rep needs in order to be successful in his business life. Let’s look at them and see how they help to increase one’s success as a rep.

The primary one is integrity. Integrity must be present in every action with the rep’s three constituents: principal, customer … Read the rest