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
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
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
… Read the rest
“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.”
… Read the rest
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
A second MANA member recounts some of his history as an independent manufacturers’ rep and describes how and why his agency has been an association member for more than 45 years.
At the beginning of a conversation with Agency Sales magazine, Rick Mullen good-naturedly explains how he successfully survived and thrived following the initial positive “false impression” he experienced at the start of his career as an independent manufacturers’ rep.
According to Mullen, president of Mullen Sales, Inc., Farmington, Connecticut, “I joined the agency fresh out of grad school in 1984. I chose being a rep over other opportunities because … Read the rest
With regularity MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page offers thoughts on any number of subjects important to manufacturers and their reps. A good example was posted earlier this year when Lisa Wilson, L.S. Wilson & Associates, Inc., Bristol, Wisconsin, shared her thoughts on what makes a good vs. a poor principal.
How would you define a really good principal vs. a poor principal?
Over the past 21 years, I learned the following about a good principal:
- Will pay commissions even when you retire.
- Will pay you for the life of the part or program.
- Will turn over whatever existing business there is
… Read the rest
Bob Foster is not easily dissuaded from his plans and dreams. That’s something that is quickly evident as he describes his initial approach to the world of being an independent manufacturers’ representative.
According to Foster who heads Foster Engineered Products, Phoenix, Arizona, “Years ago when I was the project engineer on a job site for a construction company, I was not familiar with reps or what a rep agency was. I was working the midnight shift on a hospital project and had to quickly rebuild some interior walls. I was given the contact information of the local representative of the … Read the rest
“The view is quite a bit different from the other side of the desk.”
That’s how one new rep who had just recently retired from a manufacturing company described her initiation to the world of reps. “After my company was sold to another much larger firm, I decided it was time for me to make a change. During the course of 23 years with the manufacturer, I had climbed the ladder from outside sales to a regional manager’s slot. When my company was sold, the whole culture of the place changed, and it just wasn’t where I wanted to be … Read the rest
“You have the line and there’s a management change with the manufacturer. Now what?”
At the outset, the words of one rep should be taken to heart when that question is posed. According to the rep, who boasts of representing a number of lines for more than 30 years, “No one likes change and whenever there’s change in management or ownership of one of your principals, there’s a fair amount of trepidation. Naturally, problems can follow. At the same time, however, it would be wrong to paint all manufacturers with a negative brush in terms of their relationships with their … Read the rest
As the time for his annual rep training program neared, a manufacturer let Agency Sales magazine know how much value he placed on the input he received from his outsourced sales force when it came to training.
The manufacturer enthusiastically reported, “One of the most valuable things I learned from my reps was their willingness to share opinions when it came to the types of training they needed. I’ll never forget one rep telling me that he made it a habit to rate his principals on how much importance they placed on training their reps. Here was a rep with … Read the rest
Years ago in the pages of Agency Sales magazine, a MANA member reiterated the oft-repeated simplistic view of what independent manufacturers’ reps do for a living: “Many people believe reps just make sales calls and follow up.” At that time, by describing the full range of products and services his agency provided, thankfully he went on to illustrate how wrong that description is.
While that rep did a good job of making his case, the three principals of Sales Solutions, Inc., have gone several steps further as they describe their initial attraction to the rep profession and how today they … Read the rest
Manufacturers and their networks of outsourced sales professionals (i.e., independent manufacturers’ representatives) don’t agree on everything. One area where they’ve found common ground, however, is the potential for friction between manufacturers’ inside support staff and the reps working in the field.
Manufacturers and reps interviewed by Agency Sales for this article point to several causes for the potential existence of friction including these:
- Lack of understanding of each other’s role.
- Lack of appreciation for the role each performs.
- Failures in communication.
- Existence of pre-conceived notions.
- Perception that each side should be doing more.
- Lack of a personal connection.
The marketing … Read the rest
The question of how many agencies a manufacturer should have working for him in the field was raised during a roundtable discussion among manufacturers earlier this year. One manufacturer noted, “The real question shouldn’t be how many agencies you need, but how should the territories you want covered be created?
“It’s not unusual that agent territories that companies wind up with bear little resemblance to the territories the manufacturer had when they were working with a direct sales force. The typical rep has several people out in the field and they usually cover a much larger territory than the single … Read the rest
“When you’re no longer an employee of a company and you have your own rep firm, you don’t just get up every morning and go to work. Things are now a lot different. You’ve got to realize that you’re now running a business. You can’t ever turn yourself off, you’re constantly concerned about the business and thinking about how to get things done better.”
In a nutshell that’s how Nicolas Skrzypczak, TransAtlanticPass Consulting & Sales Agency, LLC, Waterford, Michigan, describes his transition from being an employee of an auto supplier manufacturer to the owner of a rep firm that this … Read the rest
Ask Hank Bergson what manufacturers new to working with reps will miss if they don’t take advantage of MANA’s manufacturer seminar, “Best Practices With Reps, Planning With Intent,” in October and the rep-savvy consultant immediately opens a door to all the opportunities reps can provide their sales and marketing partners. The association’s next manufacturer seminar is scheduled for October 10‑11, Holiday Inn & Suites, Chicago O’Hare.
Bergson, president, Henry Bergson Associates, LLC, has been conducting the MANA seminars for several years. As a result of that lengthy tenure, there’s probably no question about rep-manufacturer relationships that the two men haven’t … Read the rest
Consider for a moment the following scenes:
- The overheard cell phone conversation where some sort of a contractual agreement is being negotiated.
- The business person huddled over a tablet scrutinizing numbers in an airport terminal.
- The salesperson simultaneously working a cell phone and a computer in your neighborhood coffee shop.
These and innumerable other examples serve as reminders that the virtual office isn’t something of the future — it’s here (and growing) today.
Several conversations with reps and any number of current articles on the subject serve as reminders that while the days of the typical brick-and-mortar office aren’t necessarily … Read the rest
A manufacturer that has long depended upon the input it receives from the members of its rep council recently reported what it viewed was some critical advice on the subject of what attributes a manufacturer regional manager should possess. Here’s how the manufacturer stated the results of its most recent council meeting.
“We were at the point of selecting a new regional manager for our rep sales force. Since we have enjoyed such success with our rep council when it came to other matters of importance, we decided to put the question to them as to what they were looking … Read the rest
It wasn’t all that long ago when the bane of our collective existence was the proliferation of “spam” e-mail. At the time, there seemed to be nothing worse than the hundreds if not thousands of unsolicited e-mail messages would clog our personal and business e-mail boxes. Now that that annoyance has a diminished profile it seemed natural that something would take its place. Sure enough — now we have “robocalls.”
In its simplest form a robocall is a phone call using a computerized autodialer that delivers a pre-recorded message. Based on experience, it’s probably a pre-recorded message we don’t want … Read the rest
Armed with an entrepreneurial passion, years of industry experience — not to mention the backing and involvement of his family — two years ago Stephen Ceolin opened his agency doors in Canada and today he couldn’t be happier.
With more than 25 years of industry experience, Ceolin and his agency, Ceolin & Associates, Inc., Orangeville, Ontario, Canada (near Toronto), today provide sales and marketing solutions across Canada for businesses in the retail home improvement and hardware marketplace. In fulfilling that role the agency provides:
- Full-line representation.
- National and regional footprints.
- Marketing campaigns.
- Retail service.
- Product knowledge and training.
According to … Read the rest
“How can I find a high-quality independent manufacturers’ rep in a territory and what can he or she and I do to introduce my product to the marketplace?”
That was the question posed and answered by Hank Bergson earlier this year in the course of one of MANA’s popular and well-attended teleforums. This teleforum, entitled Developing New Markets With Manufacturers’ Representatives, tackled the situation faced by manufacturers and reps when manufacturers seek to introduce a new line or new product into a territory.
At the outset of the discussion Bergson, president of Henry Bergson & Associates, LLC, and the … Read the rest
A manufacturer that joined MANA during the last year was looking for a way to support its newly created rep network’s efforts in the field.
Publicity came to the rescue. In researching how best to communicate its message to prospective customers, the manufacturer located a national trade publication devoted to its industry that was more than willing to publish an article on how this company was introducing its niche product to a new market — via independent manufacturers’ representatives. The only restriction was that this had to be a how-to article, not a commercial. The manufacturer jumped at the chance … Read the rest
It’s not unheard of to have a rep maintain that cold calls are, if not a thing of the past, certainly a practice not nearly as common as they used to be. Everything from the ability of potential customers to hide behind their voice and e‑mail and overly efficient gatekeepers have combined to make the traditional cold call more challenging than ever before.
That’s why the endorsement by one rep for this vestige of years ago — the time-honored cold call — was somewhat surprising. Over the course of a lengthy lunch a veteran rep salesman voiced his enthusiasm and … Read the rest
Looking for an independent manufacturers’ rep firm that possesses the attributes that manufacturers look for and MANA touts? Look no further than Keller Industrial Products, Inc., of Clarence, New York. The agency, now in its eighty‑second year — and counting — can boast of deep roots in the territory it serves, not to mention a lengthy record of firm relationships with its principals that average more than 25 years of service. Buried in that average is the fact that Keller can trace its relationship with one principal back more than 50 years to 1966.
According to Greg Matthews, a partner … Read the rest
When a manufacturer that was considering switching from a direct to an outsourced sales team voiced misgivings about making the move for two major reasons, another manufacturer seated at the roundtable discussion was quick to jump in.
According to the first manufacturer, “I have some serious reservations about whether any rep firm is technically savvy enough to sell my products. On top of that, I’m used to exerting complete control over my direct salespeople. If I make the switch, I’m not going to have that same level of control and I believe that’s going to adversely affect our sales efforts.”… Read the rest
Earlier this year when TV reporter Ted Koppel took a quick look at the past, he brought to mind how much our world — and really by extension the world of reps — has changed in a relatively short period of time.
In a poem Koppel put together for the CBS “Sunday Morning” TV show, he points out that there was a time not too long ago when we all depended on roadmaps to chart our way before there was GPS available in our cars. Or, how about the fact that today when conducting research instead of consulting our trusty … Read the rest
The fact that Peter Scholtens played with model trains as a child and stops at rail crossings as an adult does little to explain how and why he is today an independent manufacturers’ representative serving the rail industry in North America. Rather, he can point to an entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a desire to do what he truly wants to do for the rest of his life for bringing him today to where he heads Integrity Rail Products.
Founded two years ago and headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the agency’s products include locomotive traction control systems, locomotive electrical components, and … Read the rest
One of the more common paths to follow on the way to becoming an independent manufacturers’ rep is to start as a manufacturer. Two manufacturers who followed that path compared notes at an industry meeting earlier this year and there were two areas in which they credited their former careers for providing them with some valuable knowledge.
In the area of being able to truly understand what the rep does, one rep emphasized, “One thing I’ll never forget is the fact that the rep owns the customer. That’s why when we made the move from a predominately direct sales operation … Read the rest
A desire to make a move from working in a molecular biology laboratory to a career in sales coupled with a fortuitous recommendation from a friend was what propelled Keynae Agnew into a career as an independent manufacturers’ representative.
According to Agnew, who was armed with a degree in biochemistry from Texas A&M University, “A little over 12 years ago a gentleman who had his own one-man rep organization mentioned to a friend of mine that he was looking to hire someone to assist with office work and if the candidate had a science background that would be a plus. … Read the rest
Following his attendance at MANA’s manufacturer seminar last fall, one manufacturer was thankful that he was able to take corrective action before any damage had been done. According to the manufacturer who was right in the middle of making the move from a direct to an outsourced sales force, “I thought that by making the change I was going to be able to kiss goodbye all the planning and budgeting that I had to do with my directs.”
He noted that when he brought up this subject during the seminar, he learned very quickly that wasn’t the case. “I learned … Read the rest