First, before we dive into what makes your company ready for sales reps, let’s look at what is a Manufacturers’s Sales Representative and what will they do for you.
A Manufacturer’s Representative, also called agent, manufacturer’s rep, sales representative, or sales rep – or more commonly, just “rep” – is a self-employed person who contracts direct selling and marketing services to one or more related, but normally non-competing, companies in a particular industry.
The job of a rep is basically to “represent” the manufacturer’s, distributor’s, or importer’s line of products to prospective buyers, and make sales. Those buyers are typically retailers but may include wholesalers, distributors, or service businesses as well, depending upon the industry and/or product line.
As part of their service, reps call on prospect businesses and present the client’s products in a positive light (as a way to solve the buyer’s marketing needs). Effective reps must answer product questions intelligently; offer promotional materials, terms and other information; and ask for orders and re-orders in person, or by phone, fax, or email, and increasingly, via their web sites.
If you are looking to hire a sales rep … make sure your company is READY for sales reps
Most legit reps will not be interested in taking on your line until you’ve established yourself in the marketplace or been in business for several months to a few years. (When I was an active sales rep, I loved ‘newbies’, but I was the exception!) Making those first retailer sales calls yourself and selling your line to a few key accounts is an important early step. Selling your line will provide experience and feedback from wholesale buyers about your products before taking on reps.
- Unfortunately, there are plenty of horror stories about new companies coming and going without fulfilling orders or paying reps their commission. (Happened too many times while I was a sales rep.)
- Sometimes, small companies can’t handle the growth that a new rep will bring them, others just don’t have their businesses in order, and others … (well, you get the picture.)
Experience selling your products at wholesale to a local retailer, before hiring a sales rep, will help you appreciate what reps do for you, and generates a presence in the marketplace. This adds value to your line when approaching potential reps, that you have established, successful accounts. Consider this a trial period where you work out the kinks in your ordering and delivery system. A store or two will be more forgiving of your inexperience than a large rep firm!
The sales statistics you accumulate during this process help give your company distinction and awareness when you present your product line to a potential sales representative. Telling a rep that your re-order rate is 75%, or that stores turn-over your inventory 3 times a year, provides the type of news a rep longs to hear, about a prospective product line. Having experience working in the business will enhance your confidence, as well as potential sales partners, in your line and your systems!
Bottom line: Make sure you (and your staff) are ready to take your business to the next level before looking for a sales representative.
We will talk more about sales reps, their roles, and importance in your marketing plan over the next weeks.