Beat a Path to More Than Four Decades of Success


Ask Jerry Bellar what practices or principles have guided him and his agency through its more than 40-year history and chances are he’ll pepper his response with references such as:

  • “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
  • “Don’t be the first to try something new or put the old aside.”
  • Quoting hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
  • And finally, “MANA has been a godsend to me and the agency.”

Bellar founded Agri-Sales Associates, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, in 1976 in order to provide a national sales force of … Read the rest

Nothing Has Changed


When a manufacturer was marking its 30-year anniversary as a member of MANA, he mentioned something that for him is as true today as it was three decades ago.

“When I first joined the association I had occasion to call someone at headquarters when I was seeking some advice concerning how to maximize my relationships with what was then a brand-new rep network. I was told that paying commissions on time — all the time — was of paramount importance, but there’s more to the relationship. A few of the additional functions I had to be sure to pay attention … Read the rest

The Ongoing Search for the Right Sales Fit


Agencies’ quest to locate and hire competent and hopefully successful outside salespeople remains a constant. If there was any need to have a reminder of the importance of that ongoing process read the interviews with agency heads that appear in this issue of Agency Sales. At the same time, it’s worthwhile to take a look back almost 10 years to an article that appeared in this publication (May 2009) entitled “In Search of the Right Salespeople.”

In that article, Mike Norton of AxiomOne, a company that provides diagnostic and evaluation tools to assist in the hiring process, detailed some … Read the rest

Hiring With an Eye to the Future


As Kurt Kroemer and his partners in CEP Sales Inc., Zionsville, Indiana, looked to the future, what they saw was a good deal of uncertainty. “Faced with the prospect of half the sales force anticipating retirement in the next couple of years, not even counting what plans I might have, we had to make some decisions. One of the decisions we could make was to simply do nothing and just let the agency peter out. Another path we might take would be to try to sell the agency to someone. The latter course obviously takes a great deal of planning

Read the rest

Steps for Finding the Right Salesperson


Jerry Ballard offers that he’s happy to share his thoughts on the process of hiring salespeople for his agency and communicating what works and what doesn’t work. “I’ve been hiring and training salespeople for 40 years. I get a little better at it with each mistake I make. I could write a book on my mistakes, but only a pamphlet on my successes.”

Ballard, who heads Energy Equipment, Inc., Midlothian, Virginia, explains that “We have two rep lines and 10 specialty distributor lines. To be successful with our distributor lines, our outside salespeople have to think like a manufacturers’ rep … Read the rest

Lowering the Level of Demands Works


There’s a common refrain heard among manufacturers that they’re not getting enough of their reps’ time.

Meeting that concern head on, one manufacturer admits that he hears remedies from his peers that run the gamut from paying higher commissions, to providing more support to reps, to increasing joint sales calls in the field. Here’s what he’s done for himself that seems to work pretty well: “I share the same concerns as other manufacturers, but I counter that by making fewer demands on my reps’ time. But when I do contact them, I feel it’s fair to expect their attention. For … Read the rest

Grading Your Website


Late last fall a lunch with a MANA member brought the following request: “If you see something wrong with my website, please let me know about it.” The request was made when conversation turned to the subject of web page content and presentation. The concerns that surfaced during that lunch recalled an article that appeared in Agency Sales more than a decade ago entitled “Your Website Bites!”

That article pointed out that with some notable exceptions, independent manufacturers’ representatives haven’t harnessed the potential of the Internet to serve the interests of individual firms — nor have many steered visitors to … Read the rest

Planning for Instead of Reacting to Disasters


As this is being written millions of Americans are wrestling with the wreckage wrought from the one-two-three punch delivered by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. At the same time, residents on the West Coast can hardly be blamed for casting a wary eye south to the damage resulting from Mexico’s second earthquake this year. And then there are the wild fires that seem to continually plague California and Washington State.

And, who knows if there’s more to come.

What this all leads up to is the subject of disaster preparedness. That’s a subject Agency Sales initially addressed in 2012 in … Read the rest

MANA Members Deal With Mother Nature


Late last summer and even into the beginning of fall, the United States mainland and possessions in the Caribbean — especially Puerto Rico — were buffeted with a succession of hurricanes that showed just how vulnerable citizens, their possessions and businesses were to the machinations of natural disasters. If anything, the experiences that were the focus of countless hours of media attention drove home the point that individuals and businesses had better plan ahead and be prepared to continue business if they hope to continue operating under the most unfortunate circumstances.

Taking a Look at the Houston, Texas, Area FirstRead the rest

Getting Used to Texting


Last month when Agency Sales explored the differences between the Millennial and other workforce generations, it was probably unavoidable that the subject of effective communications between principals and younger-generation reps came up. As one manufacturer put it, “Whenever I’m with younger people — my own employees and those that work at independent agencies — everyone is always on their phone, but they’re not necessarily talking. They’re either responding to e-mails or texting someone about something.”

The subject was further driven home when one manufacturer noted how several of his reps were suffering from “e-mail overload.” It wasn’t until one of … Read the rest

Maximizing the Benefits of MANA Membership


During the course of an informal lunch with a 45-year member of MANA early this fall, he related that one of the keys to his agency’s continued success was the willingness of the agency staff to continually make use of the products and services that association membership provided.

According to the agency president, “Over the more than four decades we’ve been members, I’d maintain that we’ve gotten more than our membership dues back. But, it’s only because we took advantage of what is offered.

“We determined long ago that we wanted much more than just a MANA decal or membership … Read the rest

Sometimes Slower Is Better


While begrudgingly acknowledging the benefits of “shared territorial development” fees, one manufacturer bemoaned the fact that such agreements can put him in an untenable financial position.

Here’s how he stated his predicament: “I’m in the process of making the move from a direct to an outsourced sales staff. As I’m progressing with locating and hopefully signing independent reps, more and more I’m encountering those who require a fee or some sort of retainer since I don’t have any sizeable business in their territory.

“On the one hand, I recognize why they ask for such fees. Their time in the field … Read the rest

Accept and Benefit From Millennials


Cultural and work-related differences among generations recently have been the fodder for many discussions among MANA members.

Specific to the conversations there has been an emphasis on the challenges that older generations face when dealing with members of what is referred to as the Millennial generation. For the purposes of this article, the generations in question are broken down accordingly:

  • Matures, born prior to 1946
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Gen-X, born 1965-1980
  • Millennials, born 1981-1999

When looking for tips or advice on how to deal effectively with different generations — specifically Millennials — Michael Roemen is quick to note that … Read the rest

Surviving a Series of Unfortunate Circumstances


When his bookkeeper failed to show up for work for a few days in a row, it didn’t take long for Richard Sinclair to suspect something was amiss.

A former MANA Board member, Sinclair heads Applied Process Equipment, Scottsdale, Arizona. While still an eight-person rep firm and a “budding” manufacturer, the company is also a distributor of pumps, tanks and water and wastewater treatment equipment servicing the southwest United States.

As he looks back at what turned out to be an unfortunate experience, Sinclair notes that “Over my close to 30 years as a rep, I’ve employed a number of … Read the rest

Left Out in the Cold


Reps, their customers and manufacturers applaud the use of manufacturers’ websites as marketing tools.

At the same time, however, some reps get the feeling that they’re being left out in the cold when principals fail to list them as the major sales contact in the field. In speaking to a number of reps, this usually happens in a couple of ways:

  • Failure to list all reps — Among some manufacturers, the trend of failing to list all of their reps continues. As one rep noted, “How do you think that makes us feel? As far as the customer knows, there’s
  • Read the rest

MANA’s Record of 70 Years of Support


This month marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of MANA. Earlier this year, MANA President & CEO Charley Cohon noted that since those early days of 1947 “…things have changed, and changed for the better” for independent manufacturers’ representatives and their principals. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the constant need for a place where reps and their manufacturers can learn how to work more efficiently with each other. If the words of several long-standing MANA members can be believed, MANA is still that place.

Just as several other long-standing MANA members, Elry Cramer can’t necessarily take credit … Read the rest

Lessons Learned From Sports Paved the Way for Rep


Just as so many of his MANA-member peers, Tommy Garnett’s path to becoming a rep began with a family connection, but unlike many others he took a bit of a detour first.

In the past, Agency Sales magazine has described how professional basketball and baseball players have morphed into independent manufacturers’ representatives. However, Garnett, president & CEO of Garnett Component Sales, Inc. (GCS), Wake Forest, North Carolina, is the first professional golfer.

Departing the business of golf, where he was a member of the PGA of America, was hardly Garnett’s motivating factor for becoming a rep. “When I decided to … Read the rest

Amendment Strengthens Minnesota Rep Protection Act


Further protection for independent manufacturers’ representatives was realized earlier this year when an amendment to the Minnesota Termination of Sales Representative Act (MTSRA) was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton.

Demonstrating how the MTSRA, codified as Minn. Stat. 325E.37, has evolved over the years, this is the third time Agency Sales magazine has reported on this law and subsequent amendments. Each time, further refinements have been made to the law — which was originally enacted in 1990 — to protect Minnesota manufacturers’ representatives that are covered under the Act. Parties involved in the successful efforts to strengthen the law … Read the rest

California Rep Stays the Course


A little over 10 years ago when Jon Crowley extended an invitation, we’re not sure he expected Agency Sales to take him up on it. But now, 10 years and seven months later, here we are.

At the end of a profile of his agency, Charles P. Crowley Company, he said “If you come back and visit us in just a couple of years, you’ll see that we’ve continued to grow and to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to us.”

Was he right with his optimistic prediction?

In the March 2007 issue of this publication, the … Read the rest

Maximizing Outsourced Sales’ Efforts


There are any number of MANA members who began their careers on the manufacturing side of the desk. At the same time, there are manufacturers who can boast a true appreciation for the rep’s view of the world because they were once reps.

It’s a case of the latter situation that got our attention recently when a rep-turned-manufacturer offered to discuss the concept of outsourced sales. According to the former rep, who’s been a manufacturer for a little over a decade, “There has to be a true understanding of the fact that outsourced sales are exactly that — outsourced sales. … Read the rest

Has the Rep Business Model Changed?


When a long-standing MANA member was asked a few years ago to define the traditional rep business model he offered, “We’re expected to make calls, follow up, send in orders, and get paid.”

Because he was and still is a planner, an entrepreneur and a forward thinker, that rep would agree that today there’s much more to the job of an independent manufacturers’ representative. Any doubt to that thinking is put to rest in even the most cursory conversations with observers and participants in the rep business model.

For instance, consider that Charlie Ingram, vice president, sales & marketing, Eriez … Read the rest

MANA Seminar Stresses Professionalism


In the previous article the subject of how the independent manufacturers’ representative business model has evolved over the years is discussed. That timely subject reared its head when Hank Bergson was asked to preview the subject matter of next month’s MANA manufacturer seminar.

Details for the MANA seminar may be found on the MANA website ( The seminar is scheduled for October 5 and 6 at the Holiday Inn & Suites, Chicago O’Hare.

According to Bergson, president, Henry Bergson Associates, LLC, “If at one time the manufacturer outsourcing his sales effort to reps had the expectation that the relationship was … Read the rest

No Regrets as This Rep Winds Down


More than three decades ago, Frank King took to heart some rather out-of-the-ordinary encouragement and began what has been a 34-year career as an independent manufacturers’ representative.

According to King, FLK Assocs. Inc., Orchard Park, New York, “MANA member Joe Cook, Eastern Technologies Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, and I were living the same apartment complex when he said to me that I was in the wrong business. He explained that I was never going to make a lot of money unless I owned the company I was working for. He said that as a rep I could make as much … Read the rest

A Positive Return to Reps


If this manufacturer subscribed to the belief that “you can’t go home again” when it comes to revisiting the rep business model, he learned in a hurry that he was wrong.

Here’s his story: “A little over a year after we moved away from using reps and reinstituted a direct sales force, we had to face the error of our ways. Not only did we encounter the economic hardships of finding, employing, supporting and paying factory-direct salespeople, we learned in a hurry that we had lost the relationships that were the backbone of our success in the field.”

Here’s what … Read the rest

Should Reps Blaze the Pioneering Trail?


Initiate a conversation on the subject of the how and why of representing principals that have no existing business in a territory and it’s inevitable that independent manufacturers’ representatives, prospective principals and business consultants will very quickly address the concept of shared territorial development fees.

Simply stated such fees are those paid by the principal to the rep during the period of time the rep develops business in the territory where no business previously existed.

The continued timeliness of the subject was proven when speaking with Hank Bergson, president of Henry Bergson & Associates, LLC, and the former president and … Read the rest

Tips for Breaking a Tie


Once he had completed his due diligence regarding his company’s rep selection search, the national sales manager for one manufacturer was frustrated. He had narrowed his search to three independent agencies, but here was his problem — in his opinion they were all in a dead heat when it came to which one was most qualified to represent him in the territory in question.

Thankfully, this manufacturer had plenty of non-competitive manufacturer friends who weren’t bashful when it came to offering suggestions about how to break what was a virtual tie. According to the manufacturer, here’s one of the most … Read the rest

Revisiting: The Perfect Buyer


More than 15 years ago, long-time MANA‑member Harry Abramson authored a series of articles for Agency Sales magazine focused on the importance of perfection. Before he was done, Abramson, who founded Electronic Salesmasters, Inc., over 40 years ago, had tackled the subject of perfection from the vantage point of the rep, principal, customer and other perspectives. While Abramson retired from his agency in 2015, he is still “hands-on” in his capacity as a consultant to ESI.

Beginning in May and continuing through this month, Agency Sales revisits the subject of perfection as it applies to the rep, principal and customer … Read the rest

One Manufacturer’s Thoughts on House Accounts


After completing a two-day rep council session where the subject of house accounts was addressed, a manufacturer had this reaction: “If you’re dealing with house accounts it’s really like being a little bit pregnant. Either you’re all in with your reps or you’re not. Either you use independent reps or you do not. Trying to do both is unfair, greedy, and plainly not what I’d consider to be the ethical way of conducting business. Having said that, manufacturers simply have to make decisions concerning how they want to serve the marketplace.

“If a particular rep group takes advantage of the … Read the rest

Revisiting: The Perfect Principal


More than 15 years ago, long-time MANA‑member Harry Abramson authored a series of articles for Agency Sales magazine focused on the importance of perfection. Before he was done, Abramson, who founded Electronic Salesmasters, Inc., over 40 years ago, had tackled the subject of perfection from the vantage point of the rep, principal, customer and other perspectives. While Abramson retired from his agency in 2015, he is still “hands-on” in his capacity as a consultant to ESI.

Beginning last month and continuing this month and next, Agency Sales will be revisiting the subject of perfection as it applies to the rep, … Read the rest

One Rep’s Advice: Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later


Well into his 51st year as an independent manufacturers’ representative, Howard Collier took the occasion to recall a conversation he was engaged in at the beginning of his career. “Years ago, as a very young man, I attended a MANA luncheon in Cleveland. Situated at my table was a sales veteran who asked me one simple question: ‘What is the highest point of your relationship with a manufacturer that you represent in sales?’ I didn’t know so he quickly answered: ‘When you both sign a contract for sales representation!’”

That question — and more important the answer — have stuck … Read the rest