Transforming the Rep Industry (Part 1)

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

Celebrating MANA’s 75th anniversary last year led me to reflect on how MANA has transformed how reps and principals work together.

In this two-part series, I look at ways MANA has changed the rep industry just since I became MANA’s CEO and president in 2011.

Rep Search Reinvented

MANA’s Board of Directors set a goal that MANA would create the industry-leading platform for connecting representatives and manufacturers. MANA now has revolutionary smartphone app and browser-based matchmaking that outperform any other platform on the Internet.

Market Development Fees

MANA’s educational campaigns have dramatically changed awareness of Market Development Fees (MDF).

Reps I spoke to in 2011 who were taking on pioneering lines often worked for free until orders started to flow because “that’s how things are done.” Thanks to MANA’s work to champion change, now most reps considering a pioneering line know to ask for MDF, and many manufacturers offering pioneering lines expect to include MDF in their contracts.

Academic Awareness

Two common complaints from reps are:

  • Recent college graduates reps’ principals hire as regional managers know nothing about reps.
  • Recent college graduates reps try to recruit for their own companies won’t go to work for a rep because they know nothing about reps.

The solution is to get information about reps included in academic curricula. However, the only way to get academic decision makers to include information about reps in academic curricula is with the credibility that comes from having articles about reps appear in academic journals, which has not happened since the 1980s.

MANA played a critical role in turning this situation around, and in 2022 articles about reps appeared in The Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management and Industrial Marketing Management.

In Part 2: Strategic partnerships, extended post-termination commission, line card profitability analysis, and international connections.

Charles Cohon, CPMR, is CEO and president of MANA. In 2016 Cohon earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation after completing American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) coursework and testing. Cohon also earned an MBA with honors and with concentrations in strategic management and entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and was founder and owner of a very successful Illinois manufacturers’ representative firm for nearly 30 years before joining MANA.

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