With Gratitude for a Job Well Done


Charles Cohon, MANA’s president and CEO since 2011, retires at the end of June. As someone who works at MANA, I want to say that those who hired him in 2011 made an outstanding and excellent choice. Thanks to his leadership skills, the MANA of today differs significantly in a positive way from when he took over.

During his tenure, he created a long-term strategic plan with the help of a strategic planning committee. We retained Mary Byers, coauthor of Race for Relevance, to help in this process, and the implementation of the plan resulted in a significant improvement … Read the rest

Relationship Reviews — Strengthening the Partnership Between Manufacturer and Rep


One of MANA’s highest priorities is helping manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers develop mutually profitable, interdependent, and long‑lasting relationships. Part of the process includes relationship reviews — manufacturers’ representatives and principals should constantly be reviewing each other’s performance with the goal of improving the relationship.

Improving the relationship involves both of you. On our own, we fail to see how others perceive our performance. We think we do okay, but unless someone comments on how we do something, we never know. We may do something we think is fine and it drives the other party nuts. They do not say anything, … Read the rest

What to Look for When Searching for Manufacturers’ Representatives to Represent Your Company


To be successful in sales requires creating high-trust relationships with customers. We like to buy from those we know and trust. When you search for manufacturers’ representatives to represent your company, you want to find those with high-trust relationships with the customers for what you supply. They created those relationships by helping the customers with the other products they represent that do not compete with what you supply.

How do you create that list of other products? If you already work with independent manufacturers’ representatives, check out their line cards for the companies they represent. Not working with manufacturers’ representatives … Read the rest

Are You Planning to Sell Your Manufacturing Business?


As a manufacturer who partners with manufacturers’ representatives, we hope you create relationships with your manufacturers’ representatives that work well for both of you and last a long time. Your manufacturers’ representatives create high‑trust relationships with customers who then purchase what you supply because of that trust, and as a result, your business becomes profitable. A win‑win for both.

History indicates that not an insignificant number of those who purchase manufacturing businesses who outsource the sales function to independent manufacturers’ representatives terminate the manufacturers’ representative agreement following the completion of the sale.

Why might they do this?

They look at … Read the rest

Has a Principal Recently Terminated Your Agreement?


It’s not uncommon for me to get phone calls from MANA manufacturers’ representative members who start the conversation by telling me a long-term principal they’ve worked with just notified them they were terminating the relationship.

When they tell me that, I then ask, “So, how long has the new guy been working there?” In 100 percent of these calls, the answer is, “There has been a change in management.”

If the new owners have experience with manufacturers’ representatives and understand the value manufacturers’ representatives provide, they would not have canceled the agreement. If they are new to working with manufacturers’ … Read the rest

How We Communicate With Each Other Has Changed


I owned and operated a manufacturers’ representative business back in the last decade of the last century. How I communicated with my principals (and vice-versa) differs from the communication options available today. Back then we used landline phones, fax machines and the U.S. Postal Service. Manufacturers’ representatives were asked to fill out “call reports.” Needless to say, more options exist today, such as emails, texts, virtual meetings, social media, and online CRM reports. Life is definitely more complicated.

One thing has not changed and that is the need for good, open communication between manufacturers’ representatives and manufacturers. Manufacturers and manufacturers’ … Read the rest

How Manufacturers’ Representatives Interact With Customers Has Changed


There is no doubt that how salespeople interact with customers differs now than just a few years ago. Not just due to the COVID‑19 pandemic — it changed even before that. Technology and younger generation customers with different values impacted salesperson/customer relationships. Meeting with customers in‑person became a greater challenge.

Obviously, to remain successful in the new environment, you must adapt and make changes. Here are some thoughts to help guide you to the new “New.”

First, believe that we live in an abundant world and we have choices. Are all your principals collaborating with you as “Partners in Profits” … Read the rest

Things Change


One thing that’s guaranteed in life — things change. Sometimes the changes are significant. For example, just look back at the past two years. Life today differs significantly from what it was in 2019. Other times, the changes are gradual, sometimes so gradual we fail to notice.

In the manufacturers’ representative world, the companies the manufacturers’ representatives work with change. The company name remains the same, but it’s no longer the same company you signed up with 10 years ago. The same applies to the manufacturers’ representatives the manufacturers work with. In some cases, the changes are positive and the … Read the rest

Direct Sales Employees vs. Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives


Manufacturers have a choice when it comes to selling their products or services. They can hire direct (W2) sales employees or outsource the sales function to independent manufacturers’ representatives (1099 Independent Contractors). Which makes the most sense?

Some people use economics to make the choice. Which alternative costs more?

When you hire a sales employee, you cover their basic compensation (salary, bonus), their health insurance plus all the withholding associated with the compensation (Social Security contributions, Medicare, etc.).

When you outsource the sales function to an independent manufacturers’ representative, you only pay them a commission when they book orders for … Read the rest

Why Do Reps Want Exclusivity?


When you reach out to manufacturers’ representatives and work on creating a business relationship, one topic that comes up in the negotiations is “exclusivity.” Professional manufacturers’ representatives that perform well for the companies they represent will not sign an agreement without some form of exclusivity.

First, let’s define “exclusivity.” Exclusivity means the manufacturers’ representative gets credit for all sales in the defined territory, Yes, that means sometimes they may get credit for an order they played no part in getting. But those orders make up for orders the rep did all the work to earn but didn’t get because the … Read the rest

Professionalism and Trust


Sales are about relationships. Take any sales course today and you learn your purpose is not to get purchase orders but to help customers solve problems. If the customer senses that, they start to trust you and they go on to buy from you.

MANA strongly supports the concept that professional manufacturers’ representatives need to also treat the manufacturers they represent as customers. The relationship you create with your principals needs to be high-trust. When your principal trusts you, you work together as partners. The result? You increase orders, a benefit for both of you.

The same holds true for … Read the rest

Welcome to the Next Decade. Where Did the Last One Go?


During the last decade, we saw many changes. Our activity level substantially increased and how we communicate with each other continues to evolve (social media, texting). Like a “New Year Resolution,” how about creating some “New Decade Resolutions” to help adapt to these changes?

The challenge you face relates to your activity level increase. What motivates you to take time from your busy schedule to invest in making plans on what changes you need to make to adapt? To get you out of the rut in which you find yourself and on to a different path, one that leads to … Read the rest

The Importance of Mentoring and Learning


Why is this important? We all know the definition of insanity, where we keep doing the same things over and over again and expect the results to change. To change the results, we need to act differently.

We can change in a couple of ways. Go with our gut instinct and hope it turns out okay. The alternative? Get guidance from an experienced person, someone who knows and understands the issue, and use this knowledge and experience to significantly improve results.

What makes this so challenging in today’s world is we are all so busy we don’t have time for … Read the rest

A Main Purpose of MANA Is to Help Our Manufacturers’ Representative Members Succeed and Grow Their Businesses


A look at our membership shows significant diversity. Our largest member employs 53 outside sales employees, the average is five employees and 20 percent are one-person operations. Forty-one members started their manufacturers’ representative businesses within the past two years. Our average member started their rep firms 33 years ago and our oldest member started in 1918. MANA manufacturers’ rep members sell into diverse markets as well, from OEM accounts, reseller (wholesalers, distributors, retailers) accounts, government accounts and end-user accounts. We really do have a diverse membership.

Diversity exists in one other important area as well, and that is how professionally … Read the rest

Manufacturers Requiring Their Reps to Perform More Tasks — How Should Reps Respond?


When I owned my manufacturers’ representative business back in the last millennium, my principals wanted one thing from me — orders! Our members now tell me principals still want orders, but other activities as well — filling out online CRM reports, market research, succession plans, and more. What’s a rep to do?

Last year, I made a presentation to 20 roofing manufacturers’ representatives. During the Q&A, one participant asked, “Are principals asking MANA members to fill out online CRM reports?” I asked the group, “How many of you have principals who asked you to fill these out?” Half the hands … Read the rest

The Changing Rep Business Model


Back in 1988, I started a manufacturers’ representative business. Back then, we used fax machines to communicate with each other and thought that was high-tech.

The world and consequently the manufacturers’ representative business changed significantly since then. The question we want to address is, “How has it changed recently and how do we help our MANA members successfully adapt?”

Technology made a huge impact on how manufacturers’ representatives operate today. We all know that, and you adapted and use it effectively. Websites, e-mails, social media, smartphones, tablets, apps, etc. pose no serious challenges. As a matter of fact, technology provides … Read the rest

The Importance of Principals Having a Professional Approach to Prospective Reps


When a manufacturer approaches a prospective manufacturers’ representative, the manufacturers’ representative wants to learn two things. First, does this company supply a product or service my customers need? If yes, the next thing they want to learn is, do they understand the professional way to work with us?

What do we mean by that?

Before coming to MANA, I owned a manufacturers’ representative business. Prior to that, I worked as a sales manager for a company that sold through independent manufacturers’ representatives. That experience, along with what I learned here at MANA, taught me there are three kinds of principals. … Read the rest

Backsell the CFO


Save the Life of Your Manufacturer-Rep Relationship

In June I attended the MANA Attorney Forum and AMRA (Alliance of Manufacturers’ Representative Associations) meetings. At both events, I heard a recurring theme: when high-quality manufacturers create relationships with professional manufacturers’ representatives, the results way exceed expectations. Unfortunately, I also heard about the other types of relationships, the ones where a management change results in disappointment for both parties. Two totally diverse groups; rep-savvy attorneys in one, association executives in the other, both with the same message.

What motivates someone to take something that works and change it so it doesn’t? What … Read the rest

The Purpose-Driven Salesperson


One of this month’s articles deals with the relationships manufacturers’ representatives create with customers. As I read the initial draft of the article, it brought back memories of when I had my manufacturers’ representative business; specifically, what happened right after I signed an agreement with a new principal.

I graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree. My first job was as an assistant to the plant engineer at an instant coffee plant. Thirteen years later, I left the coffee business and began a sales career. In 1988, I started my own manufacturers’ representative business.

Shortly after I signed an … Read the rest

MANA Products and Services


People ask me quite frequently, “Why should I join MANA? What does a MANA membership do for me?”

When I started at MANA after retiring from a long sales career, I reverted back to the approach I learned when I first started in sales. Those of you who have been around long enough may remember the “Features and Benefits” approach that sales training companies taught then. So, back then I answered, “MANA offers a directory of manufacturers and that helps you find principals to represent.”

Today, I answer the question quite differently.

Over the 15 years I’ve worked at MANA, … Read the rest

Learning From the Best Practices of Others


As a MANA member, you can learn from other members’ best practices, a membership benefit. Let’s face it: we live in a changing world and the change accelerates every day. New issues come up and to survive and grow, you need to learn to effectively deal with them. What worked in the past no longer does. Why not tap into the other members’ collective wisdom and knowledge for solutions?

The Agency Sales magazine articles you read provide information on how members deal with some issues. Members also post discussion questions on the MANA LinkedIn group and other members respond with … Read the rest

Single-Person Manufacturers’ Representative Have You Thought About Selling Your Business?


Most multiple-person manufacturers’ representatives sell their businesses when they retire. While they owned the business, they created value in the business, value they exchange for dollars they add to their retirement accounts. The manufacturers’ representatives’ principals retain sales continuity in the territory; the new owner fulfills the dream of operating their own business. Works out well for all of them, doesn’t it?

For single-person manufacturers’ representatives, we see a different story. Rarely, if ever, do they sell their businesses when they retire. We hear two stories when we talk with them. They decide they no longer want to work and … Read the rest

Handling Disputes Between Manufacturers’ Representatives and Manufacturers


Most of the time, manufacturers’ representatives and manufacturers get along fine. Sure, there are minor issues, but the two resolve those quickly and life moves on. Sometimes disputes become major and disruptive, to the point where business activity significantly reduces while the two parties battle with each other — definitely not a desirable situation.

What approach works to settle the differences? That depends. Do both parties want to resolve the problem and move on? If, so can they discuss the issue unemotionally and look for an alternative to either side’s stand that meets the goals? Sometimes you need to be … Read the rest

Create Your Path to Prosperity


About a third of the new agent members who join MANA every month are start-ups. By start-up, we mean they have been in business anywhere from one year to just preparing to start. I call all new members who join each month and I learn from these calls that start-ups share similar backgrounds. They previously worked as a direct salesperson for a company. They know how to sell. The customers they sold to, and plan to sell to, know them, trust them, and buy from them.

However, they lack skills to professionally run a business because they never owned a … Read the rest

Line Profitability Analysis


image from Hannover FairAbout 10 years ago, MANA led a dozen manufacturers’ representative members on a trade delegation to the Hannover Fair in Germany. The night before the fair opened, we hosted a dinner for the delegation so they could get to know each other. We asked each to get up and say something about themselves and their manufacturers’ representative business.

One told us he needed to find several replacement lines, that’s why he came. He went on to say he participated in the Manufacturers’ Representatives’ Educational Research Foundation’s (MRERF) Certified Representatives’ Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR) program. One course taught him how to … Read the rest



Spend time as a manufacturers’ representative, you eventually learn you can lose an important line for doing too good of a job. What? They fire you for being too good? Yes, it does happen. While most manufacturers understand and appreciate the value their manufacturers’ representative partners provide, a few see it differently.

They look at the commission check they send the manufacturers’ representative and conclude they save money if they employed a direct salesperson. From a pure accounting point, that makes sense. They assume the direct salesperson brings in the same order value as the manufacturers’ representative. How valid is … Read the rest

Negotiating Fees for Missionary Work


I periodically receive phone calls from MANA manufacturer members telling me a prospective manufacturers’ rep requested a fee to take on their line. “I thought reps work on a commission basis only, what’s this about?” they ask.

If the manufacturer has little or no business in the territory, it takes more time to develop the business. And, time equals money. While customers trust the rep you want and buy from him or her, they also trust and buy from other salespeople who call on them. The manufacturers’ rep with the missionary line has to work really hard to replace the … Read the rest

How Manufacturers’ Agents and Manufacturers Learn to Become “Ideal” Partners


This Agency Sales issue focuses on how manufacturers’ agents and manufacturers learn to become “ideal” partners with each other.

First, let me answer the question, “Why does that matter?”

Manufacturers’ agents want to represent the highest quality principals willing to work with them. To them, the “ideal” principal equals a quality principal. The higher quality the principals they represent, the more “ideal” and the more they sell and the more successful the business becomes.

Manufacturers want to sign up the most professional manufacturers’ agent willing to work with them. To them, the “ideal” manufacturers’ agent equals a highly professional manufacturers’ … Read the rest

The Professional Edge


MANA defines itself as The Association for Professional Manufacturers’ Reps and Those Who Aspire to Be Professional, and Their Manufacturer Partners.

What do we mean by professional and why is it important for you to be professional?

Let’s discuss the importance of your being professional first. A “natural selection” process exists when manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers connect with each other. A Fortune 500 company won’t set up a relationship with a one-person rep who just started his business three months ago. Nor will a 25-person, 30-year-old rep agency sign an agreement with a start-up manufacturer with only five million dollars … Read the rest

The Agreement You Sign Today Affects Future Commissions


MANA periodically and not infrequently receives requests for a “simple” agreement. We offer the Manual for the Creation of a Rep-Principal Agreement that includes sample agreements, but those apparently fail the “simple” test. Want a “simple” agreement? Take one of the sample agreements and delete what the user considers unnecessary.

Several years ago MANA spent considerable effort to create the Manual for the Creation of a Rep-Principal Agreement. The New York/New Jersey MANA chapter instigated the effort and the MANA attorney members donated considerable time to put it together. We updated the manual last year. We intend the manual

Read the rest