MANA the Matchmaker

By Tom Hayward, CPMR, United Sales Associates

So really, as a MANA rep member what has MANA done for you lately?

Well, you get the iToolbox e-mails, and with each month a new Agency Sales magazine arrives. Good stuff. Oh, and there are the legal resources, consulting services, contract guidelines, videos, webinars, educational programs and discount programs. And yeah, MANA is the driver in getting commission protection laws put in place. Maybe through MANA you have landed a line to represent every now and then?

So I guess with all of this available to us it is easy to justify investing about $300 a year for a MANA rep membership. But you say, “I want more.” OK — how about using a seldom used MANA resource — the other rep members?

As agency rep owners, mutually beneficial peer relationships are essential for reasons including benchmarking, creativity and sanity. However, finding these relationships takes focus, effort, and then commitment.

One way we find peer relationship prospects is by going to events like a principal’s sales meeting, a trade show, a seminar, or to a program such as Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR). These are environments where peer relationships can naturally start and develop.

Events like these can be great, but alternately you can proactively target peer relationships by utilizing the MANA rep database to find MANA reps with the demographic criteria you are seeking. Consider it a dating site for reps that have a passion for being professional. The MANA rep database allows you to see the number of salespeople that a MANA rep member has, the categories they represent, the geographies they cover, where they are headquartered, and how long they have been in business. You also can get their website/phone for further insight as needed.

So if, for example, you want to arrange a “Dutch treat” breakfast in Peoria, Illinois, to discuss sales rep incentive plans with MANA reps that are multi-person but non-competing. With the MANA rep database you have the resources available to create a target group that matches up. From there, you can reach out via phone/e-mail and propose the concept and see where it goes. You can get this database from the member area of the MANA website, or MANA staff can assist in getting a database to you.

Living in Cincinnati, Ohio, I am fortunate to be in a region that has a formal “mini-MANA” association called Manufacturers’ Agents of Cincinnati (MAC). There are over 50 member agencies (most of which are also MANA members) that get together regularly in an educational and networking lunch event. Some reps compete, but it is a group that openly shares ideas to the betterment of all. MAC came to be after a small group of passionate reps met in a “breakfast format” similar to what is described above. They soon realized that there was enough energy in the region to organize and perpetuate the gatherings. Forty-five years later there are still enough of us finding value in getting together.

MANA is unique in that the association attracts similarly minded agency owners across many categories. As a result of being a MANA member, the database is a resource available to help us advance our peer relationships. Whether it turns into a breakfast or an organized association remains to be seen.

Tom Hayward is with United Sales Associates (Cincinnati, Ohio), a 15-person agency covering eight states and focused on the marketing and training of personal protective safety equipment and related products. Hayward has been with United Sales since 1989, and became a CPMR in 1997. USA has been a proud MANA member since the agency was founded in 1982.