The Professional Edge

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

What do we mean by professional and why is it important for you to be professional?

Let’s discuss the importance of your being professional first. A “natural selection” process exists when manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers connect with each other. A Fortune 500 company won’t set up a relationship with a one-person rep who just started his business three months ago. Nor will a 25-person, 30-year-old rep agency sign an agreement with a start-up manufacturer with only five million dollars or less in sales. The goal for both parties is to find the highest quality partner that is willing to work with you.

The higher your professionalism level, the higher the quality of your partner in the relationship. This applies to both manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers. The higher the quality of the partner in the relationship, the more successful you become.

As a manufacturers’ rep, how do you rate on the professionalism scale?

  • Professionals create and implement strategic plans.
  • Professionals know how to interview prospective principals so they end up representing quality principals that are good fits.
  • Professionals negotiate agreements with principals. They do not just sign what a principal sends and return it.
  • Professionals negotiate shared territory development fees with principals who want them to perform missionary work or pioneer a virgin territory.
  • Professionals communicate relevant information with principals. They don’t send them call reports.
  • Professionals periodically evaluate the effectiveness of their principal relationships.
  • Professionals work with principals as partners in profits.

How Do You Raise Your Professionalism Level?

MANA offers information, “how to” manuals, professional development programs and counseling that can help you raise your level of professionalism. Take advantage of your MANA membership to increase your level of professionalism. It can mean more dollars in your pocket.

A final note: There is no correlation between professionalism and agency size. We know many one-person MANA reps who operate as real professionals. Their success results from that professionalism.

Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice-president and general manager, started as membership manager in August 2000. Previously, Jerry 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. Jerry 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.