Expanding the Pie, Not Just getting a Bigger Slice

sharing info

By Karen Jefferson

Sharing information is a good thing. When reps share best practices for running a better rep firm, they create better reps. Better reps improve the industry. An improved industry increases sales.

I grew up as a rep. Because I was steeped in that life, I still speak like a rep, even though I now run MRERF. My parents started their rep firm in 1964 in the basement of our house. We sold board level components in the electronics industry. My folks were members of their industry rep association for most of their working lives. In the electronics version of CEMRA they found great colleagues, information and opportunities. For many years, Lindberg Company (like many rep firms) was a mom and pop shop. In the 70’s we frequently entertained regional sales managers at our home, having a home cooked steak dinner or pizza brought to the house. Either menu was a welcome respite for the RSM that was tired of hotel rooms and eating in restaurants. The chance to kick off the shoes, put their feet up and pet the dog while talking shop… or not. 

Not only were regional sales managers frequent guests in our home, but other reps were, too. In our territory, my mom and dad would often mentor new reps. This was in the 70’s, and then, as now, the issues were unique and common at the same time. Questions on how to reconcile commissions, create good processes, formalize call reports, or compensate salespeople were all open for discussion. 

You might wonder why my parents would share their best ideas with their competitors. The answer is simple: my parents did not see the reps they were talking to as competitors, even though they were selling similar products.

My parents saw bad reps as the competitor. Bad reps will turn off manufacturers from using reps.  The reputation of bad reps precedes not only the bad ones, but also the good ones. 

A mindset of abundance is key. There are enough manufacturers and enough customers to go around. No one can fill 100% of the need. There is room for all of us. And when reps act with ethics, honesty and integrity, we all benefit from the abundance that exists. We all benefit from the good deeds that each of us does. When you come from a perspective of abundance, sharing best practices is no longer a threatening act. It is an act of generosity and expansion.

My parents belonged to a best practices group, sometimes called a “No Name Group” or a “Snowball Group” (I have no idea where that came from). Best practices groups come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. My parents’ group actually had a name, “LMNOP,” which was an acronym for its members:  Lindberg, Mankus, Northport or Penzner.  They were all reps in the electronics industry. They had one common line which initially brought them together. Over the years, they had several more common lines. They were respected by their peers as well as the factories they represented. LMNOP developed into a formal group. Not only did they have a name, they had bylaws, membership dues and an annual meeting to share best practices, new ideas and build relationships. 

We all want to make the best use of our time. And yet we frequently end up re-creating the wheel because we do not know what other people already know. We do not know who these people are. And we do not know where to find them. CEMRA and Electro-Federation help us find those people within the electrical industry. With both organizations we find people that have expertise and ideas about how to improve our businesses. CEMRA helps you find those people outside of your industry. Yes! People outside of your industry can help you improve things in your industry! CEMRA belongs to MRERF, the Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation, to bring its members best practices from reps in 17 industries. The power of CEMRA on steroids! The exponential power of multiple industries and perspectives to improve all the contributors to the conversation. Maximize your firm by taking advantage of CEMRA member benefits. Whether it is Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR) or Manufacturer’s Best Practices (MBP) you can expand your opportunities and leverage the experiences of others. 

Electro-Federation, CEMRA and MRERF give you the opportunity to learn from others so you can ramp up quickly, save money and improve business. 


Karen L. Jefferson CPMR CSP is the Executive Director of MRERF.  CEMRA brings its members a unique opportunity in the form of professional development opportunities from MRERF, a charitable education foundation . MRERF brings together reps, manufacturers and distributors in 17 different industries to share best practices. Learn more at www.MRERF.org  


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