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

Rep Forecasting


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


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


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 ( 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


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


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


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


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


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


“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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Nothing Ensures Success Better Than Preparation


The National Football League’s 51st (or ‘LI’) Super Bowl takes place in Houston on the first Sunday of this month. This is an event that has evolved into something akin to a national holiday. But the league (and the teams that play in this ultimate presentation) didn’t get there by accident. The key word here is “Preparation.” Neither the league nor the teams playing in the game would be there without months — if not years — of preparation for this ultimate presentation.

So too must it be for independent manufacturers’ representatives if they want to achieve similar success in … Read the rest

Reps Provide Dependability in the Field


“Our purpose is to keep people away from live voltage.”

Call it a daily reminder or simply a mantra for their business, but that’s what Grace Engineered Products does for a living. And to get the job done successfully, the manufacturer of electrical safety products has learned the value of working domestically with 26 independent manufacturers’ representative agencies. The company also has an international footprint with sales in Canada, Mexico, South America and Europe.

In achieving the level of performance and success that the company can boast of, Phil Allen, owner and CEO of the Davenport, Iowa, company, is quick … Read the rest

Following the “Right” Path to Success


“Always do what’s right.”

Those four words crop up time and again in even the shortest conversations with Murray Percival Jr., when he speaks about the independent manufacturers’ rep agency he heads.

Percival, who succeeded his father, Murray Sr., as president and CEO of the Murray Percival Company, Auburn Hills, Michigan, explains that “My father always said that if you follow those words, you will win 90 percent of the time!” If continued time in the territory can count as winning, those words are true since the company is celebrating its 57th anniversary this year. Percival, who maintains he was … Read the rest

Getting Answers to Real-World Questions


One of the real benefits of attending and participating in industry-specific trade association meetings is the networking opportunities that present themselves. In addition to the obvious benefit of being able to meet industry peers is the opportunity to ask questions and get real-world answers to those questions. Obviously that means attendees don’t always have to “reinvent the wheel.”

As reported by one manufacturer, that point was made late last fall when he was in the midst of making the move from a direct to an independent manufacturers’ representative sales network. The manufacturer made the move armed with the mistaken belief … Read the rest

The Ups and Downs of Operating in a Global Economy


The subjects of independent manufacturers’ representatives and their efforts in the arena of international trade have hardly been strangers to the pages of Agency Sales. Whether that means reps working with overseas manufacturers to market and sell their products in this country, or reps looking to sell U.S.-manufactured products overseas, the process is accompanied by any number of challenges. The fact is, the risks — not to mention the rewards — remain considerable.

Over the years as this publication has reported on reps’ involvement in the international marketplace, a number of truths remain constant. A perusal of interviews that have … Read the rest

Reps Bring Stability to the Territory


Ask Peter Zafiro why he and his company go to market with independent manufacturers’ representatives and he’ll be quick to let you know that his decision is based on a wealth of experience.

Zafiro, general manager, LinMot USA, Inc., an Elkhorn, Wisconsin-based manufacturer of industrial linear motors, says, “I’ve gone to market with a variety of business models over the years. I’ve worked with factory direct-only salespeople, hybrids of direct and independent reps and with independent reps only. What I’ve found is that I get the most bang for my buck with reps. Here’s why: I’ve found that reps are … Read the rest

The Importance of Keeping Customers and Principals in Balance


When Ed Young Jr. describes how his agency, Ed Young Sales Company, has survived and thrived since its founding more than 30 years ago, he stresses how important a very simple business philosophy has been as a guiding force.

“Call it my philosophy on being an independent manufacturers’ representative. I believe it is critical for the rep to maintain equilibrium with customers and manufacturers. A 50/50 balance is crucial! Without customers the manufacturers have no one to buy/use/require their products. Without manufacturers the customers would have no products to buy/use/require to meet their business needs. It’s kind of a simple … Read the rest

The Value in Evaluating Each Other’s Performance


Last month a conversation with a manufacturer covered the benefits of conducting employee evaluations. The manufacturer didn’t leave it there, however, and continued by addressing the benefits of conducting such evaluations with its network of independent manufacturers’ representatives.

According to the manufacturer, it’s common in his company when conducting employee evaluations to have the employee also fill out a form evaluating strengths, weaknesses, goals, etc. With this company, one of the firm’s regional managers completes the same exercise with the rep agencies in his territory. The relatively short form covers the expected areas of performance. Both the regional manager and … Read the rest

Rep Turned Manufacturer Depends on Reps


Several years ago Agency Sales published a lengthy series of articles that explored the subject of what constitutes a “Perfect Principal.” The series ran over three years and by the time it was finished more than 30 manufacturers were interviewed and profiled.

Since that series concluded in 2006, several MANA members have suggested we take another look at the manufacturer-rep relationship and examine it especially from the manufacturer point of view.

This month, we begin that effort again. If readers would like to recommend a principal that they work with for consideration in this continuing series, they are asked to Read the rest