Proactive Communication Saves the Day


A manufacturer recently related to Agency Sales magazine how when one of his best performing reps erred in a personnel decision, a potentially disastrous situation was quickly defused.

Here’s how he described what happened: “A one-man operation that I’d describe as one of our very best reps had reached a growth point where he had to hire another rep to take some of the load off himself. Unfortunately, he made the wrong decision. From the first day the new rep started working, there was a falloff in performance from the rep firm. We noticed it right away when we didn’t … Read the rest

Women Open Their Own Doors to Rep Careers


The independent rep profession has much to offer to any budding entrepreneur willing to take a chance. But to listen to the participants in a MANA teleforum early this summer, it’s an especially attractive and welcoming career for women.

That was one of the key takeaways from a session entitled “Opening Doors for Women Rep Owners.”

The three participants in the teleforum each offered their view of the profession and stressed that the business opportunities, flexibility, and the opportunity for women to exercise their multi-tasking abilities were especially important.

Participants in the teleforum were:

The Reality of Being a Rep


When Claudia Cort decided to open her agency doors more than eight years ago she admits that she was aware she was facing a daunting task, but “I never knew it was going to be as hard as it was. I had spoken to other reps ahead of time so I thought I knew what was in store for me, but they never told me how really hard it was going to be.”

Despite that beginning, Cort, Cort Marketing Group, LLC, Eden, Maryland, has prevailed and now the agency, which includes her husband Peter and four sub-reps, serves the kitchen … Read the rest

Keys to a Working Relationship


In the course of a conversation late this summer, a rep put forth his thoughts on the type of relationship he looks for with his principals.

“I’ve been in this business for more than 30 years and my agency has been in business a little over 50 years. During that period of time, I’ve learned to truly value working with new companies that have a continual supply of new and innovative products. On top of that, I’ve learned that any time I am able to locate a manufacturer that appreciates the synergy that exists between their products and all the … Read the rest

Maximizing the Value of Field Visits


“You hired us to increase sales, not to be your travel agents or ‘yes men.’” That’s how one rep described his reaction to a principal’s request that they make all the necessary arrangements for a visit to the territory, including getting plane tickets, making hotel reservations, not to mention setting up appointments with customers.

According to the rep, “When the principal’s new sales manager came on board for one of our lines one of the first things he asked was that we prepare for his visit in the field. Let me emphasize that there was no particular reason for the … Read the rest

Zink Foodservice Makes Move to ESOP


In addition to the changes that any company experiences during the course of a more than 40‑year history, Zink Foodservice, led by Jim Zink and Mike McGuire, made the major change last year from a family-owned business to an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).

Zink Foodservice provides comprehensive sales, marketing, distribution and installation services for manufacturers and authorized dealers of foodservice equipment and smallwares. The agency, headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, has more than 70 associates (40 of whom are focused on sales), located in 10 office locations and four culinary centers in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio; Chicago and Indianapolis.

(As … Read the rest

What’s Important for Manufacturers?


Independent manufacturers’ representatives are hardly the only participants on MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page. A recent visit to that location on the Internet found two manufacturers weighing in on issues important to them and their peers.

For instance, in a contribution entitled, “What Do Manufacturers Look for in a Rep?,” Charles Ingram, vice president of sales & marketing for Eriez Magnetics, maintains that “The best manufacturer-rep relationships are those where both parties respect each other, understand their mutual expectations and have shared business values. While manufacturers may have some variations on the attributes of rep organizations they wish to represent them, … Read the rest

Time and Circumstances Change Expectations


Time was that reps sold products and received a commission check. It was as simple as that and the arrangement seemed to suit both sides — manufacturer and rep. But times have changed and so have what each side expects from the other.

That scenario served as the beginning of a conversation with Craig Lindsay, CSP, CPMR, founder and president, Pacesetter Sales & Associates, an independent manufacturers’ representative agency selling safety and industrial supplies to the industrial market across Canada. As the conversation progressed, however, several variables were thrown into the mix and the relationship isn’t quite as simple as … Read the rest

IUCAB Names George Hayward Award Winner


photo of Peter FeiglIn Europe, manufacturers’ representatives are called “commercial agents.” And each year the Internationally United Commercial Agents and Brokers (IUCAB) chooses an exceptional commercial agent to receive IUCAB’s annual “George Hayward Award.”

This year’s winner Peter Feigl, of Peter Feigl Handelsagentur in Austria, gave an extraordinary acceptance speech. With Peter’s permission, we are reprinting his speech in Agency Sales magazine:

My name is Peter Feigl, I am 40 years old and I’m from Linz in Austria. At the beginning of my working life, I made an apprenticeship as a mechatronics. Then I became a field manager. And now I am a … Read the rest

Sub-Rep Success in a Niche Market


Earlier this year when Grant Melocik, Grant Melocik Sales, notified MANA that he was not renewing his membership, that information was of the “good-news, bad-news” variety. Obviously, the bad news was he wasn’t keeping up his membership; but the good news was he was at the point in his professional career where he was looking forward to a well-earned retirement.

In his explanation for not renewing his membership, Melocik emphasized that “I did want to thank MANA for all that I have been able to learn from the organization and for the contacts that allowed me to pick up additional … Read the rest

Looking to the Future


Concurrent with the publication of an article on the importance of succession planning in Agency Sales earlier this year, a manufacturer wondered how far he could go when it comes to asking about an agency’s future plans.

According to the manufacturer, “Thankfully, I’ve been in the position where I really haven’t had to worry about what my reps are going to do in the future because, by and large, each of the firms I work with have been more than willing to share information that pertains to how they operate now and what their future plans might be. These are … Read the rest

Whittemore Company Marks Centennial


When Agency Sales was notified earlier this year of The Whittemore Company’s goal of expanding its territory into Kansas and Missouri, it couldn’t help but cast a spotlight on the agency’s rich history stretching all the way back to 1918 to the time when World War I was winding down and a flu pandemic was working its way around the world.

As the company readies itself to celebrate its centennial anniversary this year, Dave Zaval, who heads the Addison, Illinois-based agency, took the opportunity to recount not only how he forged a career as an independent manufacturers’ rep but also … Read the rest

Seeking New Opportunities in Canada


Since he’s the relatively “new guy on the block,” Bernat Riera can’t be blamed for having the normal concerns that any start-up rep firm has. Attracting quality principals, gaining a presence on the Internet, negotiating exclusivity with principals in the territory, etc., are all matters that keep him busy.

But if anyone has the qualities that will make it work, it should be MANA-member Riera, who heads Les Produits BR, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

Before beginning his journey as an independent manufacturers’ rep earlier this year, Riera packed several years of selling experience under his belt. Ten years as a pharmaceutical … Read the rest

Dealing With Rep Turnover


Don’t ever underestimate the value of being able to network with non‑competitive peers.

That’s what one manufacturer found during his attendance at an industry meeting. While this manufacturer had been working with reps for years, he had recently undergone considerable turnover among his reps. As a result, he was faced with the prospect of hiring new firms. But since it had really been several years since he had to go through that process, he was a little wary of what he was going to do. Coming to the rescue were several of his industry acquaintances, who offered a number of … Read the rest

More Advice on Succession Planning


In the article that precedes this one, MANA President and CEO Charles Cohon takes aim at the subject of succession planning. As he draws upon real-world examples of why succession planning is so critical and addresses many of the how-to steps to take in order to get the job done, it’s worth noting that MANA and Agency Sales magazine have for years espoused the critical benefits of planning, forming and executing an effective succession plan.

More than a decade ago, under the heading of “There’s No Success(ion) Without a Plan,” this publication pointed out that the existence of a workable … Read the rest

Eastern Canada MANA Members Meet


It didn’t take long for Bernat Riera to take advantage of his MANA membership. Shortly after joining the association the Waterville, Quebec, rep put the wheels in motion for the first of what is hoped for several networking meetings for members in Eastern Canada.

Riera, Les Produits BR, explained that the initial meeting in February was to be followed by another last month. “Several MANA rep members from the province of Quebec met with the joint goals of networking and identifying common interests. Our agencies basically cover eastern Canada and some represent lines for the entire country. The results of … Read the rest

Looking at More Than the Bottom Line


“There’s much more to judging performance than just looking at the numbers.” That’s what one manufacturer emphasized in a recent phone call when the subject came to evaluating reps’ performance. The manufacturer admitted that he — just like so many of his peers — had spent years measuring their reps’ performance by just looking at sales figures.

“I’ve been the head of sales for more than 20 years and most of that time has been spent working with our outsourced sales staff. During the majority of that time our reviews were pretty standard. We looked primarily at sales figures from … Read the rest

MANA and SCORE: A Good Marriage


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 ( and SCORE’s ( 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


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


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


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


The website for Robert M. Bernardo & Associates, Inc. ( 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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