How We Communicate With Each Other Has Changed

by Jerry Leth, Vice-President and General Manager, MANA

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’ representatives need to establish high-trust relationships with each other for there to be good, open communication. And you must communicate in a manner that works well for both of you. If it only works for one, it ends up not working for either.

In discussions with MANA manufacturers’ representative members, online CRM reports appear to be one of those communication modes that does not work well for them. It’s bad enough if just one principal wants them. It gets worse and worse the more of their principals ask for them. These reports take time to fill out — the more of them the manufacturers’ representatives fill out, the less time they have to be with customers. Ask yourself this question: “If my manufacturers’ representatives are spending less time helping customers, can I expect their sales to go up or go down?”

Work with each other when you are setting up a new relationship on how you can effectively communicate with each other. This also applies to those who have been in longer relationships as communication technologies evolve and new options become available. Take advantage of them but only in a way that increases the probability that sales increase.

In this issue of Agency Sales magazine, you will find an article by Jack Foster titled, “MANAchat Tackles the Need for Effective Communications” that addresses this topic. You can learn more by logging into the member area of the website and going to step 4, “Develop Trust and Open Communications With Manufacturers’ Reps,” of the “Steps to Selling Through Independent Reps” program in the “Professional Development Resources” section.

Do work with your manufacturers’ representatives on how to communicate effectively with each other. The time invested brings a huge return.

Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice-president and general manager, started as membership manager in August 2000. Previously, he owned and operated Letco Tech Sales, Inc., a MANA member, multi-line professional outsourced sales agency he founded in 1989. Before starting his own agency, he managed a network of manufacturers’ reps as vice-president of sales and marketing for torque and tension equipment. Leth graduated from Stanford with a mechanical engineering degree. He started his career at Hills Brothers Coffee in San Francisco in engineering and production before embarking on a sales career.

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