Harnessing Rep Power

October 14, 2008
I know I’m probably stepping on columnist Andrew Ard’s toes by picking this topic, but this one’s for the manufacturer’s representatives, whose role is to effect the sales of a given brand to customers in their assigned geographic territory.

 Over time, many things change in the basic seller/buyer relationship between an ESC and a manufacturer. Products evole and customers come, stay, and a few go. But one area that is now experiencing especially rapid change is the role of manufacturers reps that service ESCs.

Answering key questions
There once was a time when reps “called on” customers. Servicing a customer is essential today an requires a more intimate knowledge of the people, successes, and challenges that face an ESC. You as reps must get to know your customers better. Some of you are pretty good at it, some of you get by, and some of you are not as good at it as you think. In each scenario, you can and you need to improve. Each one of you who are reps do the same thing, but do any of you work on positioning yourselves as focused on something other than the number of brands you represent?

Doing things differently
There are some reps who see the opportunity to bridge the gap between lighting and audio-video,You as reps must get to know your customers better.

customers better
while others have chosen to align with product specifiers and other non-AV based product applications. But go along with me and ask yourselves why you are not positioned differently than the next best rep in the territory? Do you support an engaging website with an interface to the online facilities that your manufacturers offer for order management? Why not become the sales order management fulfillment center in your territory for all of your brands? Think about the escalated reasons you’ll have to talk with you customers that might create deeper relationships between your firm and these clients.

How many of you are positioned as the best dealer training and education rep firm in your territory? Take the bull by the horns and use your manufacturer to “train the trainer” so you can domore customer education when you do, or better yet, on your scheduled calendar of education events. Your manufacturers are stretched and just can’t effectively take care of everyone at the ideal time.

Do any of you have a staff member whose job it is to solely visit jobsites in conjunction with the ESC who is working there? Of course this can be done so long as your field person knows what they are there for and do not slow down the work being done. Give this a thought.

Give this a thought. You have your firm’s field support representative scheduled to visit three jobsites on a given day before returning to the office for some follow-up and prep time for the next day’s activities.

Your manufacturers want to know three things: That you are working closely withthe customers; that you are knowledgeable of the customers; most important, that the manufacturer can count on you to be their eyes and ears in the field on a daily basis.There’s no better way to quantify this than to do it. It will pay off handsomely in due time.

Time well spent
Reps have to make a choice today between staying the course or running another pattern.I say that the latter is the only option.

Buzz Delano
Buzz Delano (buzz@delanoassociates.com) is an industry consultant focused on growth strategies and new market plans for manufacturers.
Our industry is a friendly one, built in many cases, around a relationship between a rep and a customer in a territory. The way to strengthen that bond and to exemplify it to others is to offer something of value on top of that relational foundation. Find something that is valuable to your customers that you can succeed at and begin to implement this in your business today.

Don’t “dial for dollars” ever again. I despise that saying, and I deplore the notion of it. The monthly sales cycle is an old bone of the selling process, and it’s not going away anytime soon. However, you should be working on more things that your firm can be doing better throughout the month so that when Regional Manager Smith is on the other end of your phone on the 28th of the month, your conversation is about what you have been doing and not that you’ll be working the phones a lot the next few days.

Being a rep is hard work, and it is far less glamorous than it sounds. Reps drive business, solve problems, communicate through layers of staff at customers and manufacturers, and teach customers how to better their business. Good reps ask the customers what they expect. The best reps know what their customers expect and because of this, can afford to take the time to work on their business and do something different to set the new standard of the best reps.

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