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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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