by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA
When manufacturers call me looking for help finding reps, I suggest that they take a lesson from gold miners. If you are looking for gold, start by looking for quartz.
Gold often occurs in between quartz crystals. Looking for quartz can help you find gold you otherwise would have missed.
How do you look for “quartz” during a rep search? Let me give you an example, and for the sake of this example, I will oversimplify.
Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of nails. You do a search for reps who sell nails and the list is disappointingly short.
It’s actually even worse than that, because the reps you found who sell nails already have a built-in conflict on their line card. They already represent a nail manufacturer: when you call them, many can’t represent you too.
Instead, you need to look for “quartz,” and search for reps who sell fasteners. Now you find reps who sell screws, nuts and bolts, but don’t have a line of nails. Perfect fit! But just a start.
Broadening the search, you also search for reps who sell complementary non-competing products. This takes some thoughtful reflection on your part. What kinds of reps would have great contacts to sell nails? Reps who sell hand tools, like hammers, would have great contacts to sell nails.
I suggest that manufacturers ask themselves, and perhaps some of their best customers, “In addition to my products, what else do my best customers buy?” Then they can get some categories that give better results.
If you are a manufacturer who needs help finding reps or a rep who needs help getting found by manufacturers, reach out to MANA by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.