Lewis and Clark, and Reps

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

Reps will tell you two of the same things that Lewis and Clark would have told you.

  1. Sometimes the only way to discover what’s out there is to go and look.
  2. When we go out and look, some of the value we generate won’t benefit us immediately. But often, we can store that value and use it strategically when the time is right.

Going out and looking, exploring the territory, and meeting people face-to-face were why Lewis and Clark left Missouri to explore the newly-acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Going out and looking, exploring the territory, and meeting people face-to-face is also how many reps describe their careers.

Generating something of value that won’t benefit us immediately is something that Captain Meriwether Lewis wrote about in his journal on June 9, 1805.

“We determined to deposit at this place … all the heavy baggage which we could possibly do without, and some provisions, salt, tools, powder and lead &c., with a view to lighten our vessels … Accordingly, we set some hands to digging a hole or cellar for the reception of our stores. These holes in the ground, or deposits, are called, by the engages, ‘caches.’”

What value do reps generate as they travel that they cache along the way to use later?

They build and cache strong relationships with customers who are not yet ready to buy that will get them access to decision makers when needed. They cache reputations as trusted resources so customers who need their products will call them and buy from them. They cache goodwill that will eventually turn into orders.

Because reps know that even though they start their careers by deciding to go out and look, eventually, their territory won’t be a pioneering territory.

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.