MANA and SCORE: A Good Marriage

By

At the very least, conversations with MANA members in the Rochester, New York, area indicate that there’s a beneficial marriage to be made between the products/services offered by MANA and those provided by the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

Even before getting into what those Upstate New York business people have to say, however, it’s useful to visit both MANA’s (www.manaonline.org) and SCORE’s (www.score.org) respective websites. It’s there that visitors will see the full range of support programs that will offer reps the best path to success in the future.

While association members and regular readers of Agency SalesRead the rest

The Sales Power of Reps

By

The following by Scott Lau, Scott Lau Consulting, Midlothian, Virginia, appeared on MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page earlier this year. His consulting firm specializes in working with independent manufacturers’ representatives to increase sales and profitability and with small and medium-sized American and international manufacturers of architectural products to improve sales force effectiveness and increase sales.

While the emphasis of his column is on the effectiveness of the independent manufacturers’ representative in the building materials industry, his message certainly applies to other industries.

The goal of building material manufacturers is to maximize sales at the lowest possible cost and at the same … Read the rest

Some Social Media Guidance

By

Three books issue especially compelling warnings about the consequences of the careless use of social media. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson, Influence Redefined, by Stacey Hanke, and Got Social Mediology?, by Jay Izso, point out that social media practitioners should be aware that even the most offhand comments or critical views can cause lasting damage to a business.

Ronson relies heavily on real-world examples of mistakes individuals have made that have had a lasting impact on their lives and careers. Everything from a passing Twitter comment that was deemed racist, an insensitive joke transmitted … Read the rest

What It Takes to Be a Rep

By

In this article, and the one that follows, Agency Sales will explore how and why an individual might decide to become an independent manufacturers’ representative. Conversations with any number of MANA members demonstrate that it’s the minority who actually began their professional careers with the goal of becoming a rep. A number who have set that as their goal have done so primarily because they were related to the owner of an agency. In other words, they probably grew up in the profession.

As a result, those individuals occupy a position where they are the heir apparent to agency owners. … Read the rest

“Fire in the Belly” Continues to Fuel Rep Success

By

The website for Robert M. Bernardo & Associates, Inc. (rmbaa.com) is deceptively simple. The visitor looking for details about the Port Townsend, Washington-based agency will find the following:

RBA Inc. operates as Brokers, Sales Agents, Consultants, and Procurement Agents. With over 35 years of successful history in the building materials industry in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Africa, Europe and Asian Markets.

RBA Inc. Specializes in Sales, New Business Development, Management, Sales Management, and Team Building.

They are also known for their experience with Negotiation, Marketing Strategy, Sales & Marketing, International Sales & Procurement, Distribution Strategies, Governance, Start‑up Consulting, Transportation, Logistics Read the rest

Early Career Learning

By

The vice president of sales and marketing for a manufacturing firm was quick to cite his early career as an independent manufacturers’ representative as the major reason for his current success in working with reps.

According to the manufacturer, “When I started at ground level as a rep, I was doing changeovers in auto parts stores. I knew that if I began by doing everything I could I would eventually get out there in the field. That’s exactly what happened and I wound up being the agency’s top guy and took over an entire region for them. I knew that … Read the rest

Social Media — More People Use It Than We Know

By

Too often businesses fail to recognize and embrace the use of social media based on the mistaken belief that their customers don’t use it. That’s something that author Jay Izso maintains is a myth.

Izso, also known as “The Internet Doctor,” says this belief is based on something called “illusory correlation.” He defines that term as occurring when “…we take note of specific instances, pair them with other instances, and then arrive at the conclusion that one instance is related to another when, in fact, it is not the case.”

In his book Got Social Mediology? Using Psychology to Master Read the rest

Beat a Path to More Than Four Decades of Success

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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

By

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?

By

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

By

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

By

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