In Hiring Salespeople: No One Size Fits All

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One of the most valuable bits of advice that came from a MANAcast on the subject of “Hiring Salespeople for Your Manufacturers’ Rep Firm” was that “one size hardly fits all.”

By that, MANA-member Phillip Ferrell meant that when an agency is faced with the task of filling a sales position, there’s no one approach that is going to fit the needs of all agencies.

Ferrell, president of Agri-Sales Associates, which employs 20 salespeople, explained that by and large, his agency has followed fairly traditional steps when it comes to filling vacancies. “However, your approach to finding new people really … Read the rest

Rep Firm Finds a Home

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If ever there was a “friendly camp” for a rep firm to call home it proved to be Gallagher Fluid Seals, Inc.

According to Chris Gallagher, CEO of the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based company, “When we learned from Dupont, one of the manufacturers that we work with, that the owner of its distributor in New England (IES Technical Sales, Danvers, Massachusetts), was interested in transitioning out of the firm, we opened acquisition conversations with the firm’s owner Mike Berry.”

Gallagher explains, “IES is a segmental distributor for Dupont Kalrez and deals only with targeted customers in the semiconductor and vacuum … Read the rest

Strengthening the Relationship

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It’s hardly unusual that rep‑principal relationships start off very well, but before anyone realizes what’s happening, things begin to sour.

Part of the cause for this disintegration of the relationship is that once reps are signed on, they are all too often forgotten. A bad situation can be exacerbated when principals fail to offer reps any orientation, visiting the home plant is not encouraged or there’s no strategic plan and no real commitment to the rep way of going to market. It would appear that as long as the orders keep on coming, nothing has to be done to maintain … Read the rest

Rep Adapts to Market Needs

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MANA isn’t alone in celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Joining the association in achieving that milestone is Altherm, Inc., an independent manufacturers’ rep firm serving the plumbing and heating industry. And if there’s anything the agency can point to as a reason for its lengthy and prosperous tenure, it’s adaptability and flexibility.

“In dealing with the manufacturers that we represent, they’re always talking about the importance of alignment,” explains Tom Gallagher, president of the Ridgefield, New Jersey-based rep firm. “They’ll always tell us how important it is for us to be aligned with what they hope to achieve. What … Read the rest

MANAchat Explores Supply Chain Concerns

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Extended lead times, increased prices, supply problems, and pushback from customers combined to provide plenty of subject matter for a three-day MANAchat earlier this year.

An interesting side effect of the aforementioned, according to the 21 reps who participated in the chat, is that some reps find themselves having to fend off requests from principals to consider accepting commission cuts since higher product pricing has resulted in increased commission payments.

Discussion on that subject emphasized that all parties (manufacturers, customers and reps) are faced with the prospect of dealing with increased pricing. While those higher prices may result in higher … Read the rest

Defining the Word “Value”

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Elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales magazine, a rep offers his definition of the value that he delivers to the principals he works with. Conversely, a manufacturer recently communicated to Agency Sales how she defines the value proposition.

According to the manufacturer, earlier in her career she was faced with the task of justifying the continued use of her company’s network of independent manufacturers’ representatives. She quickly offered a convincing value proposition that tipped the scales in favor of retaining reps. Her experience serves as a valuable lesson to others faced with the same dilemma.

Here’s how that national … Read the rest

The Importance of Reps Marketing Themselves to Principals

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It’s critical that independent manufacturers’ representatives market themselves to existing and prospective principals just as if they are a product or service. That was just one of the important bits of advice offered by John Haskell (aka Dr. Revenue) during a MANAcast earlier this year.

According to Haskell, “When dealing with principals, the first thing the rep has to do is to think of themselves as a product. It’s important that they think that way. They’ve got to build themselves a business profile and a marketing plan that makes them look desirable to manufacturers.”

Haskell, a frequent contributor to Agency Read the rest

The Secret to Selling Commodity Products

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It’s very satisfying when the message promoting the value of reps gets repeated by an outside source. Recently, the following came across our desk from a company that provides a matchmaking service for manufacturers and reps. It’s interesting that the benefits cited by this company so closely echo the message that has consistently been repeated for years by Agency Sales and MANA.

According to the company, it’s important to consider the type of product that the manufacturer is taking to market. Off-the-shelf products tend to be sold through resellers. The reseller’s value add is same-day delivery. The more engineered the … Read the rest

Following Words of Wisdom

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Tom Schoenauer Jr. is more than happy he heeded the words his father spoke years ago; and not only did he heed those words, but he also took them to heart.

Schoenauer’s father, Tom Sr., served as the vice president of sales for a manufacturer that sold its products through a network of independent manufacturers’ reps. Among his duties in that position were hiring, supervising and paying reps. According to the younger Schoenauer, “Growing up I spent a great deal of time working in the shop. One thing I’ll always remember my father saying when he was writing out reps’ … Read the rest

Reps Should Find Their “Yellow Tux”

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“Be different.”
“Be remarkable.”
“Don’t be a ‘me-too’ salesman.”

Those are just a few valuable words of advice from someone who knows what he’s talking about.

While Jesse Cole works in a world far away from that of independent manufacturers’ reps, the lessons he’s learned along the way to becoming the owner of two multimillion-dollar baseball teams can serve as a roadmap pointing to success for reps.

In addition to owning the Savannah Bananas and Gastonia Grizzlies minor league baseball teams in the Coastal Plain League, Cole is the founder of Fans First Entertainment and the author Find Your Yellow Read the rest

The Downside of Being Less Than Honest

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A manufacturer with a long and fruitful relationship with reps was asked whether it’s ever been a good idea for her or her agents to hold back information. Without missing a beat, she offered the following: “How could that ever be a good way to operate? If anything, I’d strongly recommend a practice of full disclosure on any and all issues, because isn’t the real foundation of our business relationship built on information, communication, trust and education?”

She didn’t stop there: “How about when we’ve got a new product introduction? Shouldn’t it be of paramount importance for us to let … Read the rest

Post Covid: The Future for Reps

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MANA members, just as other businesspeople throughout the country, are gradually emerging from a tumultuous year. While the challenges for many have been daunting, a remarkable number of association members report that they have weathered the business, economic and Covid-related storms quite well. As a matter of fact, several reps report that by making specific changes in how they conduct business, they have enjoyed record or near-record years.

In an effort to pass along some success stories, late last year in the course of a MANA panel discussion, three MANA reps reported on changes that have proved positive for them.… Read the rest

Conducting Due Diligence

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After participating in a virtual conversation with three of his reps on the continued importance of reps regularly evaluating their principals, a manufacturer offered his thoughts on doing the opposite.

“I annually review how my reps are performing and when I find a problem or determine that something is amiss, I take care of it right away. Here are a few of the things that I’m concerned with.

“Before I even choose which reps to work with, I learn all about their length of tenure in the territory. After that, however, I regularly evaluate:

  • Among their lines, how many are
Read the rest

MANA Marks 75 Years of Service to Reps and Manufacturers

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The Manufacturers’ Agents National Association (MANA) celebrates its 75th or “Diamond” anniversary in 2022. And, while marking that milestone, the oft-repeated phrase, “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” comes to mind.

It was just five years ago that Charles Cohon, CPMR, the association’s CEO and president, noted that while “digging through” the first few issues of The Agent and Representative (the predecessor to Agency Sales magazine) it was notable that while MANA has undergone major change over the years, it was remarkable “how much it has remained the same.”

As he considered some of the changes … Read the rest

Principal Agreement Terminations

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MANA member attorney Scott M. Sanders identified three key areas to consider as he covered situations related to principal agreement terminations during a MANAcast:

  • Key contract terms and the ability for reps to collect unpaid commissions.
  • Potential ways around 30-day termination.
  • A discussion of state laws favoring reps when they make a claim for unpaid commissions.

At the outset of his presentation, which was followed by a question-and-answer session, Sanders maintained that independent manufacturers’ representatives were what he considered “road warriors.” As such, “They often take a long time to build up a book of business with a particular principal. … Read the rest

Finding the Winning Formula

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On the subject of the type of communication one manufacturer desires from its manufacturers’ representatives, one manufacturer appears to have landed right on top of a true winning formula.

Instead of asking for regular reports from the field, this manufacturer has asked its reps to only communicate when there’s something important to report. “The rep’s performance in the field shows us whether he’s doing a good job for us or not. If we were to push for regular reports, then that only muddies the water and to be perfectly honest, if we’re deluged with regular call reports, we’re not going … Read the rest

Embracing Backselling

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The concept of backselling seems to underlie so many conversations that Agency Sales has with independent reps when it comes to defining their relationships with their principals. So too is it the case with Tom Hoarty.

When he was asked, in general, how knowledgeable are manufacturers about what their reps do for them, Hoarty, Process Control Products, Burlington, Massachusetts, explains, “Sometimes you just don’t know what your principals don’t know. If a principal isn’t thoroughly knowledgeable about all that my company does for them as their representative, then it’s my responsibility to educate them.”

That’s a view that has long … Read the rest

Mobile Vans Worth 10,000 Words

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Talk about effective “show and tell” or “touch and feel,” that’s exactly what Ray Wilson, Techni-Reps, Inc., likes to do when someone brings up the subject of his agency’s two mobile product vans.

Wilson, who heads the Greensboro, North Carolina-based rep agency, proudly offers information about two Ford Transit product vans that have served as in-demand marketing tools in the North and South Carolina and Virginia territory in which it operates.

Here’s how the vans are touted on the agency’s website:

“We take the show on the road! We have multiple demonstration vans loaded with the latest products from the … Read the rest

Rethinking a Major Decision

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One manufacturer was fairly quick to back track on its decision to move from an independent rep sales force to direct salespeople. About 18 months after making the change the manufacturer went back to its time-tested and successful rep model.

According to the company’s sales manager, “We initially thought that we were at a point in our growth where it was economically justifiable for us to take our sales direct. To say we were wrong is an understatement. Not only did we come face-to-face with the economic problems just about everyone else has encountered, but we learned that there were … Read the rest

Dealing With the CRM Challenge

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  • Have manufacturer requirements that their reps fill out CRM reports replaced the daily, weekly or monthly sales reports reps have faced for years? It appears so.
  • Are these reports of any benefit to the rep or the manufacturer? Questionable.
  • Do manufacturers read them? Questionable.
  • Do they help reps sell better? Questionable.
  • Do reps fill them out; should they fill them out? Debatable.
  • What happens if/when a rep pushes back? Varied results.

As reps showed little reluctance to discuss this subject, these and other questions were asked and answered during the course of a MANAchat participated in by 31 MANA members … Read the rest

CRM: Some Legal Thoughts

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In the article on the MANAchat covering manufacturers requiring their independent reps to submit data and other sales call information to their CRM platforms, several reps observed that there could very well be some legal considerations affecting the rep’s independent status. In order to get some clarification on that matter, Agency Sales magazine contacted two attorneys that regularly consult with reps.

Gerald M. Newman is a veteran rep attorney and a partner in the law firm of Schoenberg Finkel Newman & Rosenberg, LLC. According to Newman, “While there are a number of factors the IRS considers when determining whether a … Read the rest

Finding the Right Rep

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Whenever a manufacturer is faced with the prospect of initiating the search for the right rep to work with, there are any number of factors that must be considered. Top of the list, however, is the importance of establishing a level of trust from the very beginning. That’s the advice offered by Peter Zafiro in a MANAcast conducted earlier this year.

“First and foremost, reps are the key to your business success,” maintains Zafiro, general manager of LinMot USA, Inc., a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of industrial linear motors. “Remember that reps are a part of your organization. Every manufacturer wants to … Read the rest

Avoiding a Problem Down the Road

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If there’s any concern that reps regularly have, it’s the danger that accompanies becoming too successful.

The typical scenario goes this way: a rep has grown business with one large customer well beyond expectations. As a result, the manufacturer’s attention is drawn to the fact that he’s writing very large commission checks to the rep on a regular basis. While on the one hand the rep may appreciate this situation, on the other hand, he’s aware of the fact that the manufacturer may decide to remove him from that account and replace him with a direct salesperson.

In response to … Read the rest

Battling the Ransomware Threat

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Last summer, headlines pushed aside pandemic news with reports that:

“Hackers Demand $75 Million to Unlock Firms Hit by Ransomware Attack.”

“What if Hackers Access My Business System?”

“Don’t Be That Employee: How to Avoid Ransomware Attacks at Home.”

Do these attacks pose a threat to reps, their manufacturers and the customers they both serve? Answers vary, but in general, responses offer cautionary advice on how to navigate what might be a potential minefield.

Preparation is mandatory, according to regular Agency Sales contributor Terry Brock. “Yes, this is something that everyone who uses a computer should be aware of and … Read the rest

Heading Off Attacks

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Earlier this year in his blog, Talking Healthcare Technology, Henry Soch reported on what tech users can do to prevent ransomware attacks and adds some U.S. Government information on what to do if you’ve been hacked.

So, what can you do to prevent disruption from ransomware attacks?

The U.S. Government Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends these best practices:

  • Require multi-factor authentication for remote access to OT and IT networks.
  • Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching end users. Filter emails containing executable files from reaching end users.
  • Implement a user training program and simulated attacks
Read the rest

Taking Advantage of the Rep Appeal

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Barb Smith’s passion for her agency and her choice of career have translated into a belief that today she would be unemployable with any other company.

Smith, who heads Barbara J Sales, Inc., a woman-owned business working in commercial construction focusing on innovative building envelope products, opened her own agency 26 years ago after working in a large company for 16 years. She became familiar with the world of reps while working for another large organization that had worked with reps throughout the United States. “I started with them as a direct employee working a small territory. Three months after … Read the rest

The Rep as Consultant

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It’s not completely unusual that a manufacturer that is new to working with reps will contact Agency Sales in an effort to get advice on how to smooth the water in the new relationship.

When that happens, one suggestion that is made is to consider the experience of one manufacturer who developed a formalized plan for working with his reps. Here’s how he explained it: “After getting as much information as I could from MANA, I then approached the first rep that we had begun working with to act as a sort of consultant for us. This could have been … Read the rest

Following a Career That Rewards Effort

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Matt O’Grady’s father, grandfather and uncle were all policemen, so naturally — he became an independent manufacturers’ representative. While obviously not following the same career path as some other family members, today he sounds perfectly happy and content as president of CAM Associates, LLC, with locations in Itasca, Illinois and Delevan, Wisconsin.

As he looks back on how and why he became a rep, O’Grady explains that as a student at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, “I majored in communication because I felt no matter what career I pursued, I would have to be an effective communicator. At the … Read the rest

CRM — Friend or Foe?

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While it may be impossible to identify what follows as a trend, the fact remains there have been a number of MANA members who have recently contacted the association with their thoughts on what some term as “onerous” requirements that they provide regular updates to their principals on their principals’ CRM systems. At the very least, if it’s not a trend, it’s certainly an area of concern.

Perhaps serving as a preface to a discussion of this subject are comments that have appeared recently in Agency Sales. For instance:

  • “Maintaining a manufacturer’s CRM (often salesforce.com), rep salespeople lose time
Read the rest

Self Motivation

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In the course of listing a menu of the reasons his company has gone to market with reps, one manufacturer let Agency Sales magazine know what really gets him enthused about working with his nationwide network of reps. “We never have to spend any time worrying about them getting out of bed in the morning and having them make sales calls. They do that all by themselves.”

He continued, “While we are totally committed to reps nationwide, we do have one small territory where we have a three-person direct-sales office that handles a few accounts. Even though they’re located near … Read the rest