As Long as You’re There Anyway….

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

“I just got a call from a prospective principal who has an exciting product but no existing sales in my territory,” said the MANA rep member who wrote to me for assistance.

“The manufacturer said, ‘You’re calling on those customers anyway. It doesn’t cost you anything to mention my product while you are there.’ Can you help me write an email that explains opportunity cost?”

This is a common problem, so I am sharing my response in this issue of Agency Sales magazine.

Let’s say that you have a line called Alpha. Historically, if you make five sales calls to promote Alpha, you earn an average of $1,000 in commissions. So every sales call you make to sell Alpha products earns you $200.

Let’s also say that you take a pioneering line called Beta. And you know from experience that it will take a year of promoting an unknown brand before customers get comfortable enough to start to buy it. During the first year, you earn zero dollars for each Beta sales call.

When you go into a customer to make a sales call, you can either promote Alpha and make an average of $200 or promote Beta and make zero dollars.

You lose out on the $200 average commission you would have made if you had promoted Alpha every time you promoted Beta. So $200 is your opportunity cost when you make a Beta sales call.

That is why reps who take on a pioneering line frequently receive a monthly Market Development Fee (MDF). The MDF contributes toward offsetting the rep’s opportunity cost when they take on a pioneering line that may not pay any commission during the first year a rep takes it on.

To learn more about Market Development Fees, visit the “Steps to Rep Professionalism” program in the member area of the MANA website ( See step 3, “Developing/Pioneering New Markets With Professional Manufacturers’ Representatives.”

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.

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