Jack of All Trades — Master of Some!

by Tim Ryder, President, Ryder Sales Agency, Inc.

The adage of being a “Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” does not necessarily apply to independent manufacturers’ representatives. While the “business” end may require that we become “Jacks” of the many facets of running our agencies (such as HR, IT, accounting, engineering, healthcare, management, etc.), our “profession” requires that we are “masters” in the selling process.

Most of us got into the manufacturers’ representative business because we had a certain set of skills in selling that gave us the confidence not only to make a living in sales, but to make a career out of it. MANA understands this, and that’s why the association’s mission is “to advance the professionalism and utilization of the independent manufacturers’ representatives.”

MANA recognizes that the selling process has changed over the years and will continue to change. Technology has had a significant impact in the fields of buying and selling. We are all finding out that the tried and true approaches to selling we used in the past are quickly deteriorating. So, in trying to keep pace with this ever-changing environment, MANA has included a number of options and media offered as benefits to their members:

Nearly every issue of Agency Sales magazine includes an article covering some aspect of sales training.

For those who can invest in their companies and take four days away from their business, MANA’s sales training partner MRERF (Manufacturers’ Representative Education Research Foundation) offers the CSP (Certified Sales Professional) course. This four-day sales certification program earns credibility by concluding its last day with a test to demonstrate that the materials presented were well absorbed by the students. The public price for CSP is $1,895, but MANA members receive a discounted rate of $1,595. Check out mrerf.org for dates and locations of upcoming classes.

Another successful sales training partner of MANA’s is SalesWise (saleswise.ca). SalesWise and MANA often partner to offer Teleforums (webinars, but voice only). SalesWise also offers a highly effective ongoing sales coaching program at an affordable rate.

MANA’s free resources on sales training are highly concentrated in their library of Teleforum voice-only recorded seminars on such sales topics that include:

  • “Selling to Attila the Hun”
  • “Backselling to Principals”
  • “Strategies to Help Your Rep Firm Run More Effectively”

Other sources that MANA members report using with good results include traditional sales training from companies like:

  • Dale Carnegie (dalecarnegie.com)
  • Miller Heiman (millerheiman.com)
  • Sandler Training (sandler.com)
  • Wilson Learning (wilsonlearning.com)

Another element of sales training is working through a challenging sales issue with an experienced mentor. MANA members can access MANA’s Wisdom Council — consisting of highly-experienced MANA members who make themselves available to other MANA members.

Or, you can put a tough sales problem in front of a larger audience. MANA members can post the problem to MANA’s “Member-Only” LinkedIn group.

Whether you are a seasoned veteran in sales or are just getting started, continuous improvement is a key element not only to survive, but to thrive in a very competitive, ever-changing environment. Just continuing to use the same techniques and approaches that may have brought you past, and even current, successes is not a guarantee for future ones. You need to incorporate up-to-date solid sales training into your regimen. Because another adage reminds us: “Practice does not make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect.”

Tim Ryder is president of Ryder Sales Agency, Inc., located in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Ryder Sales specializes in supplying OEMs and distributors with components and raw materials used in manufacturing industrial and consumer products. For more information, visit www.RyderSales.com. Ryder is a past MANA Board of Directors member and has served as past president and board member for WAMA (Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers’ Agents).