Manufacturers: 6 Tips On How to Hire Independent Reps

Many of the clients we represent go to market through independent reps, so I thought I’d have one of the leading ones give manufacturers some tips on how to hire one.

Bill Via, who is President of CSV Marketing, has been a long-time friend and represents some key lines in the Industrial/Construction markets. I’ve asked him to give his insight on how to hire a rep. Enjoy.

I’m amazed at how Manufacturers choose Manufacturers Reps. Over the years, I’ve sat through hundreds of interviews either in person or on the phone and very few of those spent more than a couple of minutes talking about specific account details, in fact, I’m reasonably sure that they themselves had never spoken with their own customer base located in the territory. It seems the decision is often largely based on an initial personal connection.

Some years ago, I sat through a workshop at the now dissolved National Independent Representative Association on this very subject; the conclusion of the presenter and the attendees was that the decision on who was to be anointed as the manufacturers newest agent was made within the first three minutes of meeting the rep!

Why is it that we’re treated differently than if that Manufacturer was hiring a direct salesperson, when often the existing commissions might be multiples of the cost of a direct sales person.

Here are 6 things you should do before hiring a new manufacturers rep:

  • Prior to the initial call, contact existing accounts and find out whom they work with, who helps them move product.
  • On the initial call, ask the rep what his or her main accounts are and would it be acceptable to contact them for an endorsement.
  • Ask for details on each Regional Manager to identify commonality or expertise within the group.
  • Now it’s time to make a face-to-face visit and not at the Bob Evans closest to the airport. You need to get a clear picture of your potential new partner and the facilities and means of support they offer.
  • The next question will have some of my Rep brethren squirming. How many lines do you have and where do we fit in the ranking? It’s fair to get an understanding at the time commitment available to your products.
  • Finally, your new prospect should give you every Principles contact information they have and you should consider contacting them for an endorsement.

Reps take one of two directions, growth through acquisition (adding lines) or you can pick Product line partners that fit your focus, philosophy and long-term expectations. Your entering into a relationship that could last an entire business lifetime and like a marriage, it’s best to take your time during the courtship.

Bill can be reached at bvia@csvmarketing.com or 440.967.9300.

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4 Comments. Leave a comment

  1. G. Cramer

    Good article. I own my own IR Agency and could not agree more. The Rep you hire should represent your company the way you want to be represented. I have found that some companies like to bury their heads with IR’s and simply just count the RFQ’s and orders. If that IR is not representing your core values then you do not need their help. Chose wisely like you would if you were hiring them full time.

    Good and timely article. In today’s environment IR’s are in demand and sadly many poor fits are made in the name of broadcast marketing.

    Cramer

    • tradesmeninsights

      Thanks for the comments and I’ll pass them on to Bill. I’ve worked with several rep firms over my life time and can count the really good ones on one hand. You’re right if manufacturers would put the same time and effort into hiring a rep as they do a full time person on their staff the outcomes would be better.
      John

  2. Phil Samuels

    I commend you on the steps taken in this article. In many of my former positions, I hired independent manufacturer’s representatives and my first step was to call into a territory and find out who the distributors endorsed. A great many of these individuals present very well in a first meeting but do not stand up to the scrutiny recommended in this article.

    Nice job of delivering a useful article and what a great way to lift up the profession!

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