Backselling Emergency!

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

What is backselling? It’s how savvy reps invest a little time every month to ensure their principals understand those reps’ value. They communicate with principals as if the line were in jeopardy even when it is not because they know that anything they say after the line is in jeopardy will sound like an excuse instead of communication.

Backselling means that no major principal ever has reason to think: “You know, I haven’t heard from Rep XYZ for months; I wonder if we’re getting good value for the commission check we send each month.”

Before Covid, backselling might have meant making sure that each major principal received news of some success or an activity relating to that line every week. It was a steady drip, drip, drip of communication to reinforce each principal’s positive impression of that rep.

Now, that steady drip, drip, drip of communication needs to turn into a fire hose.


Your principals know you are effective in face-to-face customer meetings. But, now that text, phone, and video chat have replaced most face-to-face meetings, your principals may wonder if you are effective in this new environment. And the only way they will know is if you tell them.

Here are some real-life examples of the kind of messages your principals need to receive:

  • “Now that many of my customers are working from home, I have had more success getting people like (customer) to take my calls than ever before.”
  • “Fortunately, (customer) and I have a long relationship. I have permission to text him, so my messages get through on a priority basis.
  • “I spoke with (customer) today. He always used to let all his calls go to voicemail, but I think he is lonely after being stuck in his house for ten months. We spoke for an hour and a half!”

More than ever, it’s time to communicate with your principals as if the line were in jeopardy even when it is not. The line you save may be your own.

Note: Backselling is a word coined by John Haskell, a frequent contributor to Agency Sales magazine and author of Profit Rx under his pen name, Dr. Revenue®.

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.