$200,000 Down the Drain

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

“There are worse things than unsuccessfully trying to find a direct salesperson,” said the manufacturer who called me today.

Let me tell you about the call.

Most of the phone calls I’ve gotten from manufacturers recently start out like this: “I have been trying to recruit a direct salesperson for quite a while, but none of the applicants that have contacted me are even close to qualified, so I need to talk to you about reps.”

Today’s call started out like most calls I’ve received recently. The manufacturer and I spoke about some of the more common reasons to use reps:

  • Existing relationships with important customers.
  • Market knowledge in their territory.
  • Experience in their market space.

We also spoke about the fact that even in the current tough hiring environment, reps are still abundant for most markets MANA members serve.

I shared with the manufacturer that searching for direct salespeople and not finding qualified candidates was a common problem. Then he stopped the conversation to correct me.

“My problem is not that I have been searching for direct salespeople and didn’t find qualified candidates. My problem is that after a long search that didn’t turn up qualified candidates, a year ago I got impatient and decided to settle on the least problematic of the candidates who did apply.”

“Between salary, expenses, and medical insurance, I have spent $200,000 on the salesperson I hired a year ago, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. $200,000 down the drain. That’s why I am calling you today to talk about reps.”

“So, you see,” he concluded, “There are worse things than unsuccessfully searching for a direct salesperson. Worse than unsuccessfully searching for a direct salesperson is unsuccessfully hiring a direct salesperson.

The manufacturer’s lesson learned: Take advantage of experienced, expert MANA rep members to take your product to market. And then you won’t have to call me about $200,000 that went down the drain.

Note: The manufacturer’s comments have been edited for space and clarity.

Charles Cohon, CPMR, is CEO and president of MANA. In 2016 Cohon earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation after completing American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) coursework and testing. Cohon also earned an MBA with honors and with concentrations in strategic management and entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and was founder and owner of a very successful Illinois manufacturers’ representative firm for nearly 30 years before joining MANA.