by Ken Benjamin

It is your responsibility as a professional manufacturers’ representative to take it upon yourself to help develop the defined marketing area, the potential customers, the territory and, in some cases, assist in an advertising program for the company you are representing.

An advertising function is not always expected but the more you have to offer any principal, i.e., the company you intend to sell for, the more value and worth that is added to your sales agency.

In addition, you will be expected to provide each customer with technical know-how in the specific field you have chosen, solicit business from companies that have the ability to pay their bills and respond to any field service or sales requests. Basically, you assume the dual function of being the buyer’s representative at your principal’s manufacturing plant, as well as the principal’s representative when at the customer’s office.

As a professional straight commission sales agent you will be expected to pay your own business expenses which will include, among other things, your automobile, office space, business cards, stationery, clothes, telephone, meals, office equipment, overnight lodging, various sales promotions such as a direct mail program, or trade shows, etc. In other words you must be in a position to support yourself financially one hundred percent for your new self-employed business as well as all of your ongoing personal living expenses.

Depending on whom you select to represent, you may or may not have any active customers when you start out. You may have a situation wherein the company you are representing, commonly called “the principal,” will hold out existing customers who they have conducted business with for many years as house accounts, in the territory in which you would like to represent them. Your contract will only allow you to participate, if you so desire, with customers beyond the scope of the principal’s house accounts and as agreed to by both parties with a formal sales agreement.

Initially, you most likely will work out of your home. Perhaps as you gain some success and if the financing is available you might elect to rent modest office space and a secretarial service. If still at home you may have in place either automatic answering equipment, an answering service, and perhaps a computer and fax machine. These are various expenses you can be expected to absorb.

Next month, read about counting the costs associated with starting and running your own successful manufacturers’ agency.

This article is excerpted from Make Your Future Happen, Ken Benjamin’s definitive guide to starting an agency.