When we talk about MANA members, the first word that always comes to mind is professionalism. The reason is that MANA is the number one resource for professional reps, reps who aspire to become professional, and principals who set high standards of professionalism of reps they choose to be their partners.

In speaking with many of MANA’s rep and principal members, I’ve uncovered a number of ways that professional reps distinguish themselves from reps that still need to work on their professionalism.

What are the two most commonly mentioned ways that professional reps distinguish themselves? Professional reps:

  • Work on their business, not just in their business.
  • Are business people in sales, not salespeople in business.

But are those just slogans, or are they really shorthand for some of the best practices we see among professional reps, such as these:

  • Written business plans and objectives, not just sales plans for each of the rep’s key principals, but also a five-year plan for the rep company itself.
  • A “hot list” of potential candidates for sales positions kept handy so that the firm can swiftly take advantage of opportunities to expand its coverage within its current territory or expand into new territories.
  • Annual reviews of the rep firm’s line card to reconfirm that each line is still synergistic with the rest of the line card. This lets the firm release lines that no longer fit the line card and reallocate time that would have been spent on those lines to working on synergistic lines that are part of the firm’s long‑term plans.
  • A continuous commitment to training and education, either on the products the firm sells or the skills that sustain and enhance the firm’s selling and business operations.
  • Succession plans that allow the rep owner to receive the value of his or her firm upon retirement and the rep firm’s principals to have continuity of sales services once the rep owner retires.

So when you find a rep firm where the owners and employees have solid plans to be better next week than they were this week, better next month than they were this month, and be better next year than they were this year, then you’ve probably found a true professional, and a highly valued partner in profits for all the principals on that rep’s line card.