1. Training. Unless the manufacturer produces non-technical products like brushes or socks, training is critical. Even non-technical products do not make a new representative exempt from being training on procedures, operations standards, customers support expectations, etc. In some cases, principals cover part or all of expenses for reps’ training tools, courses (if necessary), or travel (if the independent rep is expected to visit the principal’s office or manufacturing facilities).
According to Jacob Webb, Vice President of NewLook International, Inc., a specialty coatings manufacturer, “we try to alleviate the financial burden of travel for new hires whenever we can. Depending on what is negotiated, we’ll either pay for some or most of the cost of travel when training new reps. This gives our reps greater confidence in our ability to support them in the field. And it signals economic strength.”
Independent sales reps fail when they do not have sufficient product knowledge to confidently and competently promote their manufacturers’ products. The bottom line is, If a manufacturer’s rep is not comfortable selling a product, they won’t. And training should not be limited to just the initial stages of the relationship as products are upgraded or improved. So training must not only be comprehensive, but also ongoing.
2. Initial Travel Period. A rep’s first few months can be brutal, especially when pioneering a new market or territory. Many news reps need hand-holding. Principals should consider making a corporate employee available to travel with the sales rep to make the initial sales presentations easier. This assistance helps new reps develop a more profound understanding of the product line. It immediately exposes them to common customer questions or troubleshooting issues that they will have to respond to when out from under the proverbial wing of their principal.
3. Sales and Marketing Collateral. Independent reps should be armed with as much sales and marketing collateral as possible. Brochures, catalogs, color charts, pamphlets, fliers, product samples-all very helpful marketing materials. There is no legitimate reason why a principal would withhold this critical material.
4. Fast Response. When manufacturers reps submit requests for quotes or troubleshooting feedback, the principal must respond as soon as possible! A rep’s ability to successfully support customers is dependent upon their ability to respond to customers’ needs in a timely manner. It may seem obvious that principals benefit, too, when responding quickly. Surprisingly, poor response time is one of the most common complaints from independent manufacturers’ representatives.
5. Sales and Order Tracking. Sales representatives do not have a guaranteed commission. They have to work for every dime they earn. Their ability to do so requires access to critical information that principals should provide, including:
6. Customer Lists. Principals should provide their reps with lists of existing customers. User lists or installation lists can be leveraged by independent sales reps when marketing to new customers. It helps demonstrate the compelling value proposition of the principals’ products. Like most other items on this list, it is in the principal’s best interest to provide this information to their reps.