Process, Procedures and Professionalism Sustains Agency Success

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As Jobst, Inc., marks its 42nd anniversary this year, Michelle Jobst looks back 12 years to when she bought the agency and emphasizes that what she really purchased at that time was “good process, procedures and professionalism” to run a sales firm. And it’s those elements that continue to serve as a metaphorical three-legged stool that has sustained the agency over the years.

Walter Jobst Associates was founded in 1978 by Walter Jobst, Michelle’s father. The business started out of his home, where he and his wife “Kitty” worked together for many years and raised a family.

Michelle Jobst grew … Read the rest

Agencies Face Uncertain Future — Like Everyone Else

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Near the initial onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic The New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman was interviewed on one of the cable news networks. In the course of the interview, Friedman made the point that once things settle down and there’s a bit of normalcy, he expects an explosion of remote learning to take place.

While not directly related to the rep’s lot in life, Friedman’s point resonated during the course of a conversation Agency Sales magazine had with a 16‑year veteran teacher who ramped up his remote learning efforts to stay in touch with students earlier this year.

Here’s … Read the rest

Split-Commission Dilemma

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A manufacturer that was about nine months into his initial experience with an outsourced sales force raised the question about how he should handle split commission situations.

One of his MANA-member reps was quick to provide him with a discussion on the subject that appeared in the pages of Agency Sales several years ago. Two of the highlights from that discussion follow:

  • “Commission splits are fairly common in engineered products. There are many different ways to fairly compensate all parties involved. The main thing to remember is that the compensation needs to be based on how much influence each agency
Read the rest

Selling in the “New Normal” Environment

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The term “New Normal” is one that is being popularly bandied about as we either wind down from the COVID‑19 pandemic or face the prospect of a second wave coming our way this fall. Focusing on that term for a moment, author, speaker, consultant, Terry Brock, observes that a look back at history shows a number of “New Normal” examples — and we’ve survived and thrived with each.

“Look back at everything from the American Revolution, The Civil War and even the move from the horse and buggy to cars. Think about the latter for a moment. If we felt … Read the rest

Feeling Comfortable as a Rep

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As Ken Russell-Murray looks back over the history and growth of his agency, he recalls that when he opened his doors in 1995, “I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous at all.” That’s probably the best frame of mind to have when making a major career change — and the years of success that have followed have proven him correct.

According to Russell-Murray, who heads ElectraSpec, Inc., “When I made the decision to open my own agency, for nine years I had been traveling throughout Canada and the Eastern United States as the sales manager for an electrical manufacturer. When the company … Read the rest

Facing the New Abnormal

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At the conclusion of a week of MANAchats devoted to the subject of effectively communicating with principals and customers in the midst of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the 38 MANA members who participated agreed on a number of subjects.

  • It should come as no surprise that no one felt the end is in sight, nor could they predict when the logistics of how they conduct business might ever return to the way they used to.
  • “Staying in touch” — by any means possible — with principals and customers is now more important than ever.
  • Relationships remain the foundation for the rep
Read the rest

Manufacturers’ Representative Provides Support for “Made-in-America” Effort

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One year comfortably into his retirement, an Ohio rep was reminiscing about his 27-year career as an independent rep when he settled upon one especially fond memory.

“As I look back over my career as a rep, there’s one incident that’s especially important to me. I was able to assist a small Ohio business to gain a higher percentage of a world-wide market and at the same time to grow as a ‘Made-in-America’ company. While what I went through to help both the manufacturer and the customer sounds a bit complicated, principally because I had to devote a lot of … Read the rest

Redirecting the Conversation

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While in the midst of trying to maximize the efficiency and contributions of its rep council, a manufacturer accessed several of the articles on that subject that have appeared in the pages of Agency Sales magazine.

After reviewing them the manufacturer contacted us with the following observation: “With a certain amount of regularity one or more of our rep council members seem to force discussions in a negative direction. They seem to have their own agenda and are bound and determined to complete it no matter what.”

We’ve heard this complaint previously and in response there’s really nothing wrong with … Read the rest

One Rep’s Approach to Educating His Principal

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If there’s one constant in every interview Agency Sales conducts with members it’s a question concerning the need for reps to educate their manufacturers as to what they actually do for them in the field.

A failure to perform that function ultimately can lead to some manufacturers making assumptions that all reps do is walk to the mail box each month to collect their commission check.

After he was approached by one of his manufacturers with a request to accept a commission cut on a major account, one MANA member recently reached out to Agency Sales magazine to detail his … Read the rest

Selling Service Works for This Rep

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If there’s anything that might set the Mantec agency apart from competitors, it’s the agency’s working philosophy it has embraced when it comes to representing a service provider vs. a typical products principal.

As stated on the agency’s website, “Since its founding in 1976, Mantec has strived to provide both customer and principal with the highest quality products and services available.” Note the inclusion of the word “services” in the agency’s description.

According to agency founder Pete Mann, who founded the Pomfret Center, Connecticut-based agency in 1976, “In 1981 we were approached by a testing laboratory that had no outside … Read the rest

Exploring the Move to Reps

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It’s more than gratifying when a manufacturer communicates with MANA and Agency Sales concerning the reasons why they have gravitated to the use of manufacturers’ reps.

That happened recently when the manufacturer of a line of industrial paints and coatings wrote, explaining: “We are exploring the use of reps as a way of filling voids in our marketing coverage. While we are not fully ready to appoint agents at this time we wanted to find out what was available. That was our reason for joining MANA. So far, we have learned that there are plenty of firms and individuals interested … Read the rest

Frontline — Changing With the Times

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Contacted in the midst of an agency name change and physical move Rick Root good naturedly took a look back as to how he began his career as an independent manufacturers’ rep.

Root, CEO and COO of Frontline Sales & Marketing, explains, “My friend’s parents owned an agency at the same time I was gainfully employed as an operating engineer. My friend’s father extended an offer to me to ‘come over to the dark side’ as a manufacturers’ rep.”

Root’s introduction to the rep profession was a bit different from many of his peers in that “I had never sold … Read the rest

Celebrating Years of Success

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A little over three years ago, Agency Sales magazine profiled long‑time MANA member Murray Percival Company, Auburn Hills, Michigan. At that time we noted that the agency had logged more than 57 years serving the electronics assembly market. This year, as the agency marks its 60th anniversary, we felt the time was right to make a return visit and ask the agency principals to share some of their thoughts on what they felt the future might hold for them.

With that six decades of history to draw from Murray Percival Jr., president and CEO, notes that as he and the Read the rest

Making the Right Choice

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Over the course of a year of communicating with and meeting in person with manufacturers, there are some questions that are asked over and over.

Among the most commonly posed are:

  • Having chosen an agency to go to market with, how do I know I’ve made the correct choice?
  • Having chosen that agency, how can the manufacturer be sure they are going to get their fair share of the rep’s effort and time in the field?

Thankfully, Agency Sales magazine has any number of manufacturers we can call upon to address those concerns. Taking those questions in order, one long-standing Read the rest

A Rep’s View From Both Sides of the Desk

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Shortly after Craig Deerman opened his own agency doors two years ago, he arrived at a couple of valuable observations learned while sitting on the manufacturer’s and rep’s side of the desk.

Deerman, Deerman Sales, Birmingham, Alabama, armed with 18 years of unique expertise in the residential, commercial and decorative plumbing products’ markets, noted that:

  • Networking for reps is a bit of a different game from what he had previously experienced as a manufacturer.
  • And, manufacturers aren’t always knowledgeable and appreciative of everything that reps do on their behalf.

Speaking of the former point, Deerman maintains, “From the manufacturer’s perspective, … Read the rest

Team Support Spells Success

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When a panel of three manufacturers was asked by another manufacturer who was brand new to working with reps what kind of support he should expect in order to make the partnership work, the trio on the panel answered unanimously “teamwork.”

One of the manufacturers offered, “You don’t need just one person or one ‘rep champion’ in your organization. What you truly need is to introduce the philosophy of team support — and that’s much more than just support in the sales function. Your manufacturing support team should include individuals from accounting, manufacturing, shipping, advertising, public relations, and operations. If … Read the rest

The Important Art of Problem Solving

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The March issue of Agency Sales magazine featured a profile of a MANA-member agency (The Integral Corp, Conroe, Texas) where the practice of a solution sales approach has paid dividends.

The timing of that article is perfect for a follow-up describing how several years ago another MANA member went way more than the extra mile to anticipate and more than meet the needs of one of its customers.

According to Dan Walsh, National Technology Sales Engine (NTSE), Chicago, Illinois, here’s what transpired and here’s what he and his agency needed to do to ensure that they strengthened relationships with a … Read the rest

The Strength of a Single-Man Agency

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MANA-member Erik Wandrie explains that before he made the move to open the doors to his own agency in 2017, he was fairly well acquainted with what it took to be a rep. “However, when that time actually came, it was more than a little scary.”

According to Wandrie, Material Resource Group, LLC, “Being a rep and having my own agency was something that interested me for some time. My timeline, however, would have normally been four or five years from when I actually made the move.”

Early in his career he spent time in purchasing positions. “On a day-to-day … Read the rest

The Value of a Second Rep Council

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Many manufacturers will freely admit that there’s an easily followed temptation to populate their rep councils with their top-performing reps. One manufacturer, however, is contemplating a different approach.

According to the manufacturer, “We’ve made excellent use of our rep council for more than 20 years. The participation and input we receive from our reps is outstanding. Our past rep councils have been composed mostly of a spectrum of the reps that we work with, but by and large the participants that give us the best input are usually our top performers. We’ve actually given some thought, however, to putting together … Read the rest

How Can Manufacturers Get Reps’ Attention?

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It’s not unusual for MANA headquarters and Agency Sales to receive phone calls or other communication from manufacturers that are frustrated with their efforts to get reps’ attention. A typical comment follows: “I’m a relatively small manufacturer and am having difficulty locating reps who do not already have a complete line card. What is it that these reps are looking for in a manufacturer?”

Indicative of the fact this is an ongoing concern, last May as a part of its regular teleforum presentations, MANA addressed the subject under the title “How to Get Them to Call You Back.” Jointly conducted … Read the rest

Relying on a Sales Solution Approach

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The easy access to product information that customers currently enjoy has led directly to a rise in the effectiveness of a solution sales approach to the industrial safety products market. That’s the view of Alex Williams, who heads The Integral Group, Conroe, Texas.

According to Williams, “As younger generations have taken over the decision-making roles among our customers, we are seeing a shift to more of a solution sales approach. As that shift has taken place, step one for us is still gaining the trust of the customer and having them like you, but after that it boils down to … Read the rest

Learning From Past Experience

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As a manufacturer sales manager was approaching his retirement late last year, he let us know how the years he spent working with reps allowed him to appreciate some of the benefits of working with an outsourced sales force.

According to the manufacturer, “When I started close to 40 years ago, there was always the perception among many in my company that reps in general didn’t work all that hard for their commissions. And what did they get in return for not working too hard? Nice, fat commission checks. As I look back over the years, however, I’ve come to … Read the rest

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

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When an oft-quoted French phrase appeared in the opening pages of a New York Times best-selling novel late last year, MANA-member reps and manufacturers were quick to voice opinions that lent credence to the more than 150-year old saying.

Just so the reader doesn’t have to translate from the French, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” in English means, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How does this saying apply to the shared world of reps and principals? First up with his thoughts is Michael Roemen, the independent sales rep manager for 9Wood, a … Read the rest

The Need for Personal Selling Doesn’t Change

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Uniquely positioned to offer his thoughts on how things change — yet remain the same — is Hank Bergson.

For several years Bergson has moderated MANA’s manufacturer seminar, “Best Practices With Reps, Planning With Intent.” The day-and-a half session is aimed at educating manufacturers as to the most efficient ways to work with independent sales reps. In addition, he comes well-armed to advise manufacturers on the ins and outs of working with reps given his years of service as the president of the National Electrical Manufacturers’ Representatives Association (NEMRA).

Bergson, president, Henry Bergson Associates, LLC, maintains that “the number-one thing … Read the rest

Why Manufacturers and Reps Like Joint Field Visits

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Manufacturers and reps alike tout the value of in-the-field joint visits.

In general, benefits cited include:

  • Manufacturers get to see how their reps operate in the field.
  • Manufacturers have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with their customer decision makers.
  • Manufacturers are able to establish closer bonds with their reps.

Those benefits aside, a couple of posts on MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page show how some reps view their principals’ visits to the field.

Opening a conversation on this very subject, one rep maintained that “I only let them (manufacturers) come when we have something important pending with a customer. Other than … Read the rest

Compensating for Trade Show Duty

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First came an email from a MANA member asking for some advice about reimbursement for expenses they incurred while helping a principal man a trade show booth. In this case, there was no reimbursement.

Next was a conversation over breakfast with another association member who related his agency’s experiences over the years. “When a principal, especially one of our top lines, requests that we be in attendance at a trade show, we’re there. And there’s generally no reimbursement. It’s just expected that this is part of our job — and if we’re interested in maintaining a good relationship with the … Read the rest

Succession: Planning Makes Perfect

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It’s no easy or automatic task to successfully plan an exit from an agency. Perhaps one of the more successful efforts in this direction can be seen in the experience of Steve Hanson, Western Safety Associates (WSA).

Established in 1974 and headquartered in Corona, California, WSA boasts more than 40 years of expertise in sales and distribution serving manufacturers in industrial safety, construction, medical, aerospace and industrial distribution marketplaces. The agency’s outside sales force is supported by customer service personnel, distribution staff and a warehouse distribution center in Corona. The WSA sales team is composed of representatives covering the Western … Read the rest

Considering Both Sides of a Story

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A folksy bit of wisdom was forthcoming from a meeting of four manufacturers as they were considering relations with their reps. When the subject arose of mistakes that reps make in their dealing with principals, one of the manufacturers offered the following insight: “No matter how you cook a pancake, it always has two sides.”

That’s when he went on to offer a partial list of what he considered missteps principals can be accused of making in their relations with reps. On that list were the following:

  • A failure to clearly identify mutual expectations before selecting independent reps.
  • Failure to
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Quick Answers to “Why MANA?”

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“Why should I join MANA? I’ve got more than enough to do with running my agency. I really don’t have time to get involved in association activities.”

Fair enough: that’s hardly an unexpected response when a prospective MANA member is contacted about joining the association. Thankfully the existing members have come up with the right answers to counter that question. Tops among the reasons to join are:

  • “I’ve found MANA is the association for those who aspire to become professional manufacturers’ representatives. The more you develop as a professional manufacturers’ representative, the more successful you and your principals become.”
  • “By
Read the rest

A Career Filled With Change

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Bob Gallagher’s rep story mirrors that of many other MANA members. He grew up around the profession. Immediately after graduating from college he took a position as a rep and today he serves as the president of Teeling & Gallagher, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana.

Teeling & Gallagher specializes in components for the transportation segment of the market. This includes all the OEMs and tier suppliers to the automotive, heavy truck, agricultural, aerospace and related markets which provides for a large group of customers in the Midwest.

According to Gallagher, “I’ve always been fascinated with anything that has wheels or flies, so … Read the rest