Things Change

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

One thing that’s guaranteed in life — things change. Sometimes the changes are significant. For example, just look back at the past two years. Life today differs significantly from what it was in 2019. Other times, the changes are gradual, sometimes so gradual we fail to notice.

In the manufacturers’ representative world, the companies the manufacturers’ representatives work with change. The company name remains the same, but it’s no longer the same company you signed up with 10 years ago. The same applies to the manufacturers’ representatives the manufacturers work with. In some cases, the changes are positive and the relationships improve over time. In others, the opposite happens. If the changes are significant and happen quickly, they’re easy to see. If the changes are minor and occur over a longer period, they’re not.

How does one go about identifying these slow-moving changes? First, admit to yourself this does happen and you need to commit yourself to take action regularly to identify where and in what direction these changes occur. Create a repeated event on your calendar where you set aside a few hours to analyze your current reality. In the case of manufacturers’ representatives, perform a Line-Profitability Analysis. You can find resources in the member area of the MANA website in the “Steps to Rep Professionalism” program to help with this. Manufacturers, do the same type of analysis on how each of your manufacturers’ representatives performs for you.

If the analysis identifies a negative trend, your first question should be: “Is there something I can do to turn this back in a positive direction? If so, take that route. If not, maybe because of significant personnel changes, time to take a different route. We live in an abundant world and can make changes. Remember, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length of the hole!

For manufacturers’ representatives, when you start on the path to signing up new principals, the first question to ask yourself is, “How well do I market my company to prospective principals so they sign up with me rather than some other manufacturers’ representative?” For manufacturers, your first question is: “How well do I market my company as a great partner to work with so professional manufacturers’ representatives sign up with me?” If the answer is “not that great,” start there. Take action to significantly improve your marketing resources. Once you do, go to the RepFinder® or LineFinder® and look for new partners that significantly improve your profitability.

Not making a commitment to taking action is not an option!

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.