New Sales Manager — Now What?

by John Haskell

When a principal changes its regional sales manager or general sales manager it can spell trouble for the independent rep firm. What can you do to accomplish these changes in a non‑threatening manner?

One major caveat — I don’t believe the title “regional sales manager” is an appropriate title for people the manufacturers send out to work with a rep sales force. If a rep firm needs a factory sales manager to be supervising them, something is wrong. The rep firm is the branch office of the factory. The rep firm should be supplying its own management of its sales force. That’s what commission dollars are for.

In all honesty, my feelings are not shared by most of the principals who pay commissions to reps, so we are stuck with the title “regional sales manager” for now. So what should a rep firm do when a new RSM is put in place?

The first time a new RSM works with anyone in your firm, make sure that he meets all of the key people at the agency. If possible, get the RSM to your headquarters with a very detailed agenda for introducing the RSM to the rep firm.

Profile Presentation
The first thing to be given to a new RSM is the rep firm profile. You should have a good one that clearly presents the market and your approach to selling in the market.

Line Card Presentation
This may be “touchy” with some reps, but I feel strongly that the way to get off to a good start with a new RSM is to let him or her know exactly what lines you carry and how his or her line fits in your package. Some RSMs are not educated at all in multiple-line-selling. This education must start from day one. The RSM needs to learn about “synergy” and how it works to the advantage of his or her line.

How Your Agency Works
It is important to educate the new RSM on who does what in the agency — and, how the agency works as a sales organization. This should include how you report information and plans to the principals and what you do to create exceptional teamwork with your RSMs and principals.

Other Education
Telling the RSM about MANA and all of the manufacturer programs available to help principals create success with their reps is an important part of the education process. In some industries the rep association has special programs to help manufacturer management succeed with their reps. MANA has its highly successful day-and-a-half manufacturer seminars in Chicago and MAFSI (Manufacturers Agents for the Foodservice Industry) has created a one-day Sales Management Forum for Manufacturer Personnel as a part of the MAFSI bi-annual educational conference. Recommending programs like these is another important part of educating your new RSM.

Bottom Line
Be prepared with a solid program to inform and orient a new RSM and help the RSM be successful. When the RSM wins, you win!

John Haskell, Dr. Revenue®, is a professional speaker and marketing/sales consultant with more than 40 years’ experience working with companies utilizing manufacturers’ reps and helping rep firms. He has created the Principal Relations X‑Ray, spoken to hundreds of rep associations and groups, including 32 programs for MANA from 2001 to 2005. He is also a regular contributor to Agency Sales. For more information see or contact