Independent reps have been a part of the selling model for many years – they are an established practice that can add many benefits, however, there is a cost involved.
In this post, I’ll review some of the good and great aspects of using reps – and in the next post, I’ll look at some of the negative aspects.
Independent reps are local sales people who represent your product company to a local account or set of accounts. They work for multiple product or service companies selling into the same accounts. Rep firms can be smaller, boutique husband-wife teams, or they can be very large firms. Quality varies based on the people, not the size of the company.
Reps Save Time…
When starting a company up, or first trying to get business going with a retailer, reps are a huge time and effort saver. They stay connected to the whole retailer buying staff and have ongoing business relationships with many different categories’ buyers. They also manage several layers above the buyers – as well as sideways into other departments such as inventory re-buyers, returns departments, and others.
When a company is just starting out, a good rep can cut months off of the time to get a meeting with the right buyer. Then can prep you with insider-type information such as what categories or keywords are currently hot at that retailer, so you can work that info into your presentation. Reps provide valuable feedback with their access to the buyer, assistant buyers and the staff in general. They can often provide ‘quiet’ feedback to let the factory know what the thoughts are about a product or presentation, sometimes feedback that would never make it to the factory without the reps.
Retail buyers are very time constrained: Meetings, emails, phone calls, etc. can make it very hard to connect with them. Having a rep in the local market can make the information exchange with your buyer much easier. Most good reps are selling multiple companies products to the same buyers – so they have meetings with those buyers constantly – many days they will have multiple meetings in the same day with the same buyer.
Reps Manage Workload…
Even after your company is successful with one or more buyers and categories at a retailer, the rep continues to add value in other ways. Some rep firms have assistants that work hand in hand with the inventory buyers to help alleviate product outages and handle the intricate details of tracking inventory all the way through the system. They can also bring buyers, GM’s, and VP’s from other categories or divisions if necessary, into meetings or thought process’s.
These are just some of the benefits of contracting with independent reps. There are many more – Comment below with any others.