Rethinking a Major Decision


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

  • 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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?


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, rep salespeople lose time
Read the rest

Self Motivation


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

Rep Councils — The Perfect Communication Tool


If comments from reps and manufacturers who participated in a series of MANAchats were any indication of the effectiveness of rep councils, all manufacturers have to do is to ask their reps to participate and reps will readily accept the invitation. Attesting to the importance of a manufacturer having a rep council, one rep offered the opinion that “If I was interviewing for a line, one of the most important questions I’d want an answer to is whether they have a rep council. If they do, then that’s a very strong signal that that’s the kind of company that wants

Read the rest

A Rep Council Checklist


While the previous article describes what transpired earlier this year during the course of a three-day MANAchat devoted to the subject of rep councils, what follows can serve as a primer or checklist to consider when approaching the rep council from either the manufacturer or rep point of view.

✔ Communicating Goals

At the outset, to ensure that your plans for operating a rep council don’t proceed in a vacuum, it’s critical to communicate.

Communicate with every person who will be involved with the operation of the council. As to what you’re going to communicate, start with the goals you … Read the rest

From Coal Mining to Sales


Over the years Agency Sales has reported on many individuals who have made the leap from any number of professions to become independent manufacturers’ representatives. Former teachers, professional baseball, basketball players, golfers, nurses, and even an FBI agent have detailed their changes in profession.

This brings us to Rich Deering, who early in his career worked as a coal miner. Today Deering heads Industrial Sales Associates, Inc., (ISA) in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition to MANA, ISA is a member of the Power-Motion Technology Representative Association (PTRA).

The agency’s website acquaints visitors with the fact that as an independent manufacturers’ representative, … Read the rest

Parting the Right Way


A rep contacted Agency Sales recently to relate how two manufacturers recently terminated him and several of his peers throughout the country.

According to the rep, “With the first manufacturer, a change in their sales management pointed them in the direction of going direct rather than staying with their rep network; we had heard of their decision early on via the industry grapevine. When we asked them about it during the year, they confirmed what we had heard. Instead of bailing immediately, we opted to stay with them without seeking an immediate replacement on our line card. We did that … Read the rest

Staying on the Offensive


Rather than waiting for the proverbial next shoe to drop, Vic Myers Associates (VMA) went on the offensive when it came to dealing with the understandably onerous restrictions that agencies like it and others had to work their way through during the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic.

An important part of that offensive move was the acquisition in February of new headquarters space in Arizona, specifically for the purpose of allowing VMA personnel, customers and principals to meet face‑to‑face.

With four main offices located in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, VMA is an agency engaged in the representation of instrumentation and … Read the rest

Anxious to Get Out in the Field


As lockdown restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic continued to be lifted, it sounds like Linda Gunter was feeling the same restlessness and impatience she faced in her previous career as a paralegal. She couldn’t wait to get back out on the road meeting face-to-face with customers.

Gunter, president of Gunter Medical, LLC, San Antonio, Texas, admits that it’s not easy for her to sit still. “I’m a people person. I just can’t sit on a computer all day or sit behind the desk. I’ve got to be out there meeting with people.”

That’s why when the travel and customer … Read the rest

Tips for Restarting a Rep Council


Over the course of several virtual networking presentations conducted by MANA during the last year, one subject continued to raise its head — rep councils.

Combining several conversations that transpired among manufacturers that tuned in to the presentations, one that remains pertinent was an exchange between two manufacturers, one of whom was looking for tips on how to restart his council after a lapse of several years. The advice from the other manufacturer was: “The best place to start is to look to your beginnings. Don’t build on what you did previously. Take a look at what your problems were, … Read the rest

To Plan or Not to Plan


MANA and Agency Sales magazine have long advocated for independent manufacturers’ reps to have a business plan for their agencies — and not only have the plan, to but update it regularly. The adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” comes to mind as reps are constantly reminded of the importance of updating and communicating the existence of their business plans to principals.

Even the quickest review of articles that have appeared in the association’s monthly magazine over the years will reveal a constant reference to the importance of business plans. Then there’s the contents of innumerable … Read the rest

Thoughts From An Old School Rep


When he’s asked to describe himself, Marc Carver maintains he’s simply “…an old-fashioned rep. If anything, I am old school. I want to see my customers eye-to-eye, face-to-face. I am just a people person and I love what I do. I think my personality is perfect for being a rep, as I like to be self-employed and have no one to answer to except myself along with my customers and vendors’ greatest needs.”

Today, with more than 35 years under his belt as an independent manufacturers’ rep, Carver heads Carver & Associates, LLC, located near Portland, in Lake Oswego, Oregon. … Read the rest

Conducting Effective Sales Meetings


Earlier this year, MANA addressed the subject of conducting more effective sales meetings for its manufacturer members.

At the outset of a MANAchat moderated by MANA President and CEO Charley Cohon, it was emphasized how an effective sales meeting can go a long way in creating an environment where a rep will truly want to work with a manufacturer and devote more time to a line than might be justified by the commission paid.

“What it comes down to,” according to one chat participant, “is that you’re competing for your rep’s mind share, and effective sales meetings can help you … Read the rest

Where and How to Find Rep Salespeople


“When I start thinking about adding someone to my agency, I know I’m in for a rough ride. Just about everyone working in my industry right now is in the 50- to 70-year-old range. It’s more difficult now than ever before to find someone younger who might be interested in carving out a career as a rep.”

“I was so desperate the last time I had to hire someone that I developed a flyer describing the position and ran around town dropping it off in the hopes someone would be interested. I don’t think it’s a surprise to me or … Read the rest

Tips for Getting — and Keeping — the Rep’s Time


Getting and keeping a fair share — if not more — of the rep’s time in the field remains a challenge for manufacturers. At least that was the consensus of half a dozen manufacturers who were queried in telephone and email interviews. To follow are some of the typical responses to the question: “What’s your major concern with working with reps?”

  • “If we’re going to represent 25 percent of the rep’s income, then I want a quarter of his time in the field.”
  • “We want to know that we’re high on the rep’s line card and that he spends the
Read the rest

Line Profitability Remains Key to Rep Success


The February issue of Agency Sales magazine profiled a MANA-member firm that at its beginning was willing to take on any line it could secure. Once the agency turned the corner to profitability, however, the agency owner explained, “Now we keep our product focus narrow and limited so we can effectively serve the objectives of the manufacturer, designer, builder and distributor.”

And elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales, we describe how at its inception one agency took on 60 lines of products to represent. Now that agency has whittled its representation to a dozen because there’s no way … Read the rest

The Time-Honored Practice of Evaluating Lines


The practice and the accompanying benefits of line productivity analysis are hardly new.

Consider the description of the process and the advice offered on the subject earlier this year by MANA’s Charles Cohon during the MANAchat described elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales.

In addition, the subject was discussed and analyzed in depth in the Operations Manual for Manufacturers’ Representatives Firms, a lengthy publication produced with MANA’s assistance in 2006. In that manual the following endorsement for line productivity analysis was offered: “Regardless of the size of your representative firm, knowing and understanding each line’s profitability is … Read the rest

Keeping Focus on the Business


It’s been more than two decades since Agency Sales magazine visited with Maureen Ingram, owner of The M&M Sales Company, and while over the years change has remained a constant for her agency, there are three things that haven’t changed:

  • Her adherence to the power of focus.
  • Her belief that strong relationships serve as the foundation for her agency’s success.
  • And finally, the maintenance of one of the agency’s core beliefs to provide POS (Positively Outrageous Service).

The Columbus, Ohio-based agency represents a variety of manufacturers that sell products to gift shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, hospital gift shops, major chains … Read the rest

Making the Move — Properly


It’s hardly uncommon for sales and marketing executives to move to new companies every couple of years. Some do it because the road to the top in their company is blocked. Others do it because they are unhappy with their present jobs. And some do it simply because they become bored very easily once they accomplish what they set out to do.

Whatever the reason, when marketing people who manage a team of agents leave, they often cause chaos in the field without knowing it. Being an agent is living life on the edge of uncertainty. Commission checks are often … Read the rest

Post-Covid What Changes Are Permanent?


Thoughts of what happened to everything from drive-in movies, blacksmiths, and stagecoach drivers — not to mention the traditional handshake — come to mind when considering the changes in how reps have conducted business as the more than year-long pandemic winds down.

Think for a moment about the absence of in-person sales calls, not to mention the fact that many of the offices reps used to visit are now empty as purchasing and specifying personnel work from home. Then there’s the marked increase in the use of virtual Zoom or Skype meetings and the increase in the use of email … Read the rest

Finding a Niche With Smaller Companies


A drive to build a solid foundation for a career as an independent manufacturers’ rep coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit pointed Owen Swift in the direction of opening his own agency in 2017. Today, Swift heads Swift Scientific, LLC, Coventry, Connecticut. His one-man agency represents premium manufacturers of scientific laboratory equipment, reagents, and biologics and matches unique research and development technologies with specific lab applications.

Swift’s career background includes more than 15 years providing automation equipment and specialized consumable supplies to life-science researchers in the Northeast United States. His experience spans the drug development pipeline from discovery and basic research … Read the rest