Eight Elements of a Powerful Partnership

by Keynae Agnew, CPMR, Agnew Pacific Enterprises, LLC

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”
— Halford E. Luccock

MANA’s “Partners in Profits” philosophy has contributed to so many successful rep-manufacturer relationships that when I saw research giant Gallup Inc.’s recent “Eight Elements of a Powerful Partnership” article, I knew it would be a valuable resource.

According to Gallup, those eight elements are complementary strengths, a common mission, fairness, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, communication, and unselfishness. Let’s drill down and see how those elements build and support great rep-manufacturer relationships.

Complementary Strengths

Reps’ strengths include local market knowledge, access to local decision makers, and a bundle of products that support each other. Manufacturers’ strengths include quality products, fair prices, and competitive lead times. What could be more complementary?

A Common Mission

Reps and manufacturers who succeed together make mutual decisions on what success looks like. Is it hitting a particular dollar sales volume, successfully introducing a new product, capturing new customers, or retaining current customers? Agreeing on a goal and working together to achieve it is key to successful partnerships.


Reps need a fair return on the time they invest in a manufacturer’s products to stay in business, and manufacturers need a fair share of their reps’ sales time for the commissions they pay. Knowing each other’s expectations of fair contributions to each other’s success and ensuring those contributions don’t fall short makes for enduring rep-manufacturer relationships.


Partners don’t try to micromanage each other or ask for “proof you’re doing your job” reports that they never intend to read. If you don’t trust the people you choose as partners, they will sense it, and their enthusiasm for continued partnership will falter.


Even The Odd Couple’s Felix Unger and Oscar Madison found that their very different styles were not a deal breaker for their relationship. Partners with very different styles can still forge profitable, successful partnerships if they can set aside judgments about style and instead make judgments based on successfully meeting mutual goals.


Forgiveness after a failure is important, but assuring forgiveness before a failure is even more important. If your partners don’t know in advance that they have permission to fail, they won’t set real stretch goals that might be beyond their reach.


With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, the medium is not the message. Especially when you are dealing with a traveling field sales force that may not always have WiFi available, accepting communication by the salesperson’s choice of text, email, or phone fosters strong relationships. If the frequency or level of detail needs adjustment, let your partner know swiftly to allow them to adjust.


In successful partnerships, karma is very real. Give your partner a little extra sales effort or a little extra commission, and the results that come back to you will be abundant.

Want to read more about Gallup’s research on powerful partnerships? Visit https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/122639/partnership-foundation-common-mission.aspx.

Keynae Agnew, CPMR is CEO/president of Agnew Pacific Enterprises, LLC, representing medical and scientific instrumentation manufacturers since 2010. Prior to starting her agency, she gained experience working as a manufacturers’ representative for Nord Scientific. Her work history includes over 14 years of molecular biology laboratory experience in industry and academic research. Agnew graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Biochemistry. She serves on the leadership team of MANA’s special interest group “A League of Their Own” (ALOTO), the Board of Directors for MANA, and the Board of Directors for the Health Industry Representatives Association (HIRA).

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