Relationship Reviews — Strengthening the Partnership Between Manufacturer and Rep

by Jerry Leth, Vice-President and General Manager, MANA

One of MANA’s highest priorities is helping manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers develop mutually profitable, interdependent, and long‑lasting relationships. Part of the process includes relationship reviews — manufacturers’ representatives and principals should constantly be reviewing each other’s performance with the goal of improving the relationship.

Improving the relationship involves both of you. On our own, we fail to see how others perceive our performance. We think we do okay, but unless someone comments on how we do something, we never know. We may do something we think is fine and it drives the other party nuts. They do not say anything, and the relationship suffers.

An effective way to start the review process is for both parties to agree that they share the common goal — to improve the relationship. They agree also not to play the blame game.

We improve relationships in many ways. We act in a trustworthy and ethical manner, which certainly helps. Consider others, though. What about communication? Do you exchange useful and pertinent information that really helps the other party? You know where I am going on this one already, don’t you? If the manufacturer requires you to fill out online sales reports, replacing those with the exchange of useful information goes a long way to improve the relationship. An honest and open dialogue on what information is needed and why it is needed creates a much better way of collaborating.

Other areas where we collaborate are territory visits by the principal. Plan those well and the relationship grows. “Wing it,” and the opposite happens.

As a former manufacturers’ representative, I experienced great relationships with most (not all) of my principals. I know they exist; I also hear this from current MANA members. Yet, when I speak with other members, I sense they believe great relationships with principals are not possible. Change that belief and attitude. Give it a try; you may be very pleasantly surprised.

Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice-president and general manager, started as membership manager in August 2000. Previously, he owned and operated Letco Tech Sales, Inc., a MANA member, multi-line professional outsourced sales agency he founded in 1989. Before starting his own agency, he managed a network of manufacturers’ reps as vice-president of sales and marketing for torque and tension equipment. Leth graduated from Stanford with a mechanical engineering degree. He started his career at Hills Brothers Coffee in San Francisco in engineering and production before embarking on a sales career.

Fill in these details and we’ll send you a link to run a FREE trial rep search!


Prefer not to share your info? Go directly to MANA’s RepFinder® database without registering!

Fill in these details and we’ll send you a link to run a FREE trial manufacturer search!


Prefer not to share your info? Go directly to MANA’s LineFinder® database without registering!