MANA’s Record of 70 Years of Support

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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

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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

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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 Each time, further refinements have been made to the law — which was originally enacted in 1990 — to protect Minnesota manufacturers’ representatives that are covered under the Act.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

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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

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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?

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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

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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 (www.MANAonline.org). 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

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Rep Forecasting

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When the sales manager for a manufacturing company that is committed to going to market with independent manufacturers’ representatives posed a question in the MANA LinkedIn discussion room, quick responses indicated that the subject of rep forecasting was still a hot topic among manufacturers and their reps.

Here’s how the manufacturer initiated the discussion:

“This is an ongoing topic back and forth. We as the manufacturer want to get better insight on what our reps are quoting and when they can expect to land orders. Reps like to keep their cards close to their heart. From a manufacturing standpoint, it … Read the rest

Revisiting: The Perfect Rep

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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., more than 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 this month and following up in June and July, Agency Sales will be revisiting the subject of perfection as it applies to … Read the rest

A Rep With a View to the Future

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A visit to Coastal Technology Group’s website has an interesting notation under memberships. The agency’s owner, John Ahlering, is not only a long-standing member of MANA, he’s also active with the Association of Professional Futurists. A conversation with Ahlering quickly shows that membership in that organization is hardly an afterthought. Thinking about the future is an integral part of what he does for a living.

photo of John AhleringEstablished in 1999 by Ahlering, Coastal Technology Group (www.coastal-technology-group.com) is a technical sales and business development organization located in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina, with a virtual office in London.

Ahlering maintains … Read the rest

Working in a Rep-Friendly Environment

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HV logo on a flag“In my experience, there’s no more rep-friendly company than Harvey Vogel Manufacturing.” Those few words in an e-mail from a MANA-rep member directed Agency Sales to the Woodbury, Minnesota, manufacturer.

For close to two decades a cost-benefit look at using independent manufacturers’ representatives has made sense for Harvey Vogel Manufacturing (HV). The manufacturer of metal stamping, fabrication machining and more, currently takes its products to market via 23 rep firms and more than 50 independent reps.

photo of Matt MountainAccording to Matt Mountain, director of sales and marketing for the company, “We firmly believe in the rep relationship that has been so successful … Read the rest

The Positives of Proactive Communication

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All too often when the subject of communication between independent manufacturers’ reps and their principals comes up the focus is immediately turned to call reports. That shouldn’t be the case. At least that’s what one retired manufacturing executive emphasized in a recent conversation. According to the former national sales manager, who left his position with more than 30 years’ experience working with reps, here’s what impressed him about reps that took a proactive approach to letting him know what was going on in the territory.

“Here’s one thing that always got my attention — the rep that let me know Read the rest

Principals Should Tailor Their Approach to Prospective Reps

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In the previous two issues of Agency Sales, the importance of presentations has been examined. The February issue studied the importance of the independent manufacturers’ rep’s presentation to the customer. That was followed in March by an examination of how the rep should tailor his approach to a prospective principal.

This month the “presentation” focus shifts to how a principal should craft its presentation to a prospective independent manufacturers’ representative.

In an article that follows this one, individuals who have been involved in the principal-to-rep presentation offer their views. Among the opinions offered by those individuals, there’s a consensus … Read the rest

Honesty — the Best Start for Any Relationship

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From the very start, honesty is the best policy to pursue in the manufacturer’s contacts with prospective independent representation. That’s the belief of Charlie Ingram, vice president of sales and marketing for Eriez Magnetics, Erie, Pennsylvania. And, he’s not alone in following that philosophy.

Ingram and Eriez, who have been working with an outsourced sales force for years, maintains that “Honesty in all your representations is definitely on the ‘do’ list as a manufacturer solicits a prospective rep. While there will always be some guarded information about your company, there should absolutely be no misrepresentation about anything that you are … Read the rest

Synergy and Coverage Attract Admix to Independent Reps

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Synergy and effective geographical coverage might best be described as the twin magnets that attract Advanced Mixing Technologies, Inc. (Admix) to an independent manufacturers’ representative firm.

“When we’re looking at a prospective rep firm, we always consider synergy from a marketing standpoint,” explains Keith Cherise, director of sales and marketing for the Londonderry, New Hampshire, manufacturer of innovative stainless steel mixing technologies. The company’s mixing systems accommodate customers’ mixing, blending, and particle-size reduction needs and Admix specializes in in-tank batch mixing, inline mixing and milling, and powder reduction.

Cherise explains that the company’s products ensure that there are no unmixed … Read the rest

Manufacturers to the Rescue

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“I’ve been a manufacturers’ representative since 2001. Looking back, I consider the move to become a rep one of the best decisions I ever made. I represent some great companies and they are like family to me.”

That’s how Mike Gorman, who recently joined MANA, introduces himself, and it’s fitting that he heaps praise on the manufacturers that he represents. As he relates what happened to him, it’s understandable that that praise he directs toward his principals is well deserved.

But first, here’s how and why Gorman, MFG Tool Sales, Piqua, Ohio, became an independent manufacturers’ representative.

“I don’t know, … Read the rest

Reps to the Rescue

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Call it gathering support from the field or a backdoor approach, it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that one manufacturer sales manager counted on his outsourced sales force to back him on a variety of marketing efforts — and his approach worked.

Here’s how the sales manager explained the situation: “I had a number of marketing ideas that involved my network of independent manufacturers’ representatives. The problem was the top executives of the company didn’t buy in. Rather than give up on what I thought were effective methods to expand our brand in a number of territories, I … Read the rest

Back to Basics: What Manufacturers Value in Their Reps

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In interviews with manufacturers on the subject of what and how independent manufacturers’ representatives should present themselves when describing their capabilities to prospective principals, a number of factors regularly come up in the conversation. It would appear that the rep that can ably show that his agency possesses those attributes, the chances of the agency getting the line increase immeasurably.

Among those factors or attributes are these:

  • Professionalism and Integrity

The first two, professionalism and integrity point directly at the agency’s reputation among principals and customers in the territories in which they work. In addition, what do other agencies think … Read the rest

Expert Advice on Effective Presenting

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When it comes to independent manufacturers’ representatives being able to deliver a first-class presentation in front of a prospective principal, at the outset Steve Boyd points to the importance of trust and credibility.

According to Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati, when the rep stands in front of a principal “You want to establish your credibility with them. I’m assuming they do not know you well at this point and you want to say things that will make them trust you and rely on you for your expertise. I sometimes … Read the rest

Manufacturers Offer Some Presentation Tips

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No discussion of how a rep should make an effective presentation to a prospective principal would be complete without input from those who are on the receiving end of such presentations — the manufacturers.

Peter Zafiro, general manager, LinMot USA, Elkhorn, Wisconsin, was quick and to the point when asked what he recommends reps keep in mind when making presentations to prospective principals. Zafiro maintains, The biggest issue I have seen is independent representatives setting realistic expectations with the manufacturer, especially on where the rep can make an immediate impact. For many reps it is very hard to straight … Read the rest

Profiting From an Investment in Reps

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It was a combination of due diligence in the form of research of the independent manufacturers’ rep business model and knowledgeable input from company sales veterans that saw Advanced Micro Controls, Inc. (AMCI), make the move from a direct to an outsourced sales force six years ago.

According to Bob Alesio, director of sales and marketing, “Before I joined AMCI, the company worked with reps, but eventually moved away from that business model. In 2009 we firmly set our sights on company growth for the next five years. That’s when we made the move back to reps. That decision was … Read the rest

To Tell or Not to Tell

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We have long advocated for independent manufacturers’ representatives to be completely honest with their principals when it comes to letting them know that they’ve taken on a new line. However, the fact remains that often reps will be reluctant to pass that information along because they fear that some of their principals would view an additional line as something that would allow the rep to allocate less time on their own line.

When this scenario was laid out for one medium-sized manufacturer, he responded that he’d always want to be kept in the loop regarding activities of his reps. “I … Read the rest