MANA’s Top 48 Interview Questions For Reps To Ask Manufacturers


A prospective new principal has just called and the conversation has begun!

And, ideally, it should be more of a conversation and less of an interview. After all, you are assessing this prospective principal’s fit for your line card just as much as this prospective principal is assessing your fit with his or her needs in your territory.

Of course, that new prospective principal will lead with lots of questions about you and your representative firm, but eventually it will be your turn to ask your questions.

Should you try to get the answers to all 46 of the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association’s top 46 questions to ask a prospective principal right away? Of course not!

Some of these questions will fit well into your first telephone interview. Some of them will fit better into the face-to-face interview that will take place as the conversation becomes more serious. And some may not fit your particular situation at all, but we hope this list will help you get all the information you’ll need to decide if this new principal is a good fit for your representative firm.

Group Of Business People Having Meeting In Office

  1. What territory is open?
  2. Was this territory previously served by:
    • A different manufacturers’ rep?
    • A direct person?
    • Not served at all?
    • Other? Please explain.
  3. If this territory is currently being served by another rep:
    • Have you notified that rep of your intention to make a change?
    • Why did you decide to make a change?
  4. Are your other sales territories served by reps or direct people? If you have direct people in some territories:
    • What is the mix of rep and direct territories?
    • If you have some direct territories, what is your thought process in choosing between reps and direct salespeople for a particular territory?
    • If you have direct territories, were some of them previously rep territories, and, if so, how did they become direct territories?
    • What is the average tenure of your other reps?
  5. Are there house accounts in this territory?
    • What is the mix of rep accounts and house accounts?
    • Under what circumstances has a house account become a rep account?
    • Under what circumstances has a rep account become a house account?
  6. Will I be your only rep in this territory? If I will not have geographic exclusivity, will I have market exclusivity?
  7. Do your reps sell directly to the customer or do you sell through a network of distributors or wholesalers?
    • If you sell directly to customers and also through distributors or wholesalers, what is the mix and how do you distinguish between direct business and business that goes through channel partners.
    • Do your channel partners supply you with point of sale information so you can accurately compensate the salesperson into whose territory your products are sold?
    • Who are your best distributor or wholesale partners, and why?
  8. What is your sales volume in this territory for the last five years?
    • Are there any single customers who are responsible for 20% or more of your sales volume in this territory?
    • If so, how secure are these customers’ business
  9. May we see your standard manufacturers’ rep agreement?
  10. Do you have agreements with any of your other reps that have more favorable terms than the terms you would be offering to us? If so, please elaborate.
  11. Please tell us about your company’s history and annual sales volume.
  12. Please tell us about your company’s current top management.
    • How long have they been in place?
    • Where did they come from before joining your company?
  13. What is your source of competitive advantage? Quality, technology, price, delivery, etc?
  14. Who are your most effective competitors, and how will counteract their offerings?
  15. How often do you introduce new products?
    • What is the last new product you introduced, and when was it introduced?
    • Same question for the new product before that?
    • Can you tell us anything about new products you have in the pipeline?
  16. How many employees does your company have?
  17. What is the physical size of your facility, and how long have you been in it?
  18. Who are your company’s most important customers, if not by name, at least by industry.
  19. What are your company’s most important markets?
  20. Please tell me about your sales collateral:
    • Intranet private rep web site, if any.
    • Demonstration units.
    • Sampling policy
    • Sales literature
  21. Who would be our primary contacts for sales support and technical support?
    • How available are they for joint calls on our customers?
    • How can we make our joint sales calls successful?  What should we avoid to prevent them from being unsuccessful?
  22. Will you train us here in our territory or will we need to travel to your facility for training?
  23. Will you update us on new products by newsletter, by visiting us in our territory, or will we need to travel to your facility?
  24. How do we set mutually agreed- upon sales goals for our territory?
  25. What is the commission rate? Is it paid on invoice, on invoice +30 days, on payment, or other?
  26. Will you support long sales cycle activities with shared territory development fees and/or life-of-part, life-of-program commission programs?
  27. Under what circumstances are sales commissions split, and what is the formula?
  28. Who is your best rep, and why?*
  29. Do you have a Representative Council?
    • If I am your final choice, may I speak to 2-3 members of your rep council?
  30. Has a rep ever terminated his or her agreement with your company? Why?
  31. If a customer claims that a product is defective what is your procedure to address that concern?
  32. Do you participate in national trade shows? Which ones?
  33. Do you participate in local trade shows, or share the cost of booth space when your reps participate in a local show?
  34. Do you provide sales leads?
    • From what sources do these leads originate?
    • Do you prequalify them?
    • How do you manage leads?
  35. What are your expectations for reports from us?
    • Are they on a calendar schedule or do we simply report events as they occur?
    • Is there a mandatory format, or can we call or send a quick email when there is news in our territory?
  36. What are your growth plans for the company as a whole?
    • What are your growth plans for our territory?
  37. How well do you feel that your product fits with the other items on our line card?
  38. What is the procedure for getting a quote on a non-standard item, or submitting a request from a customer to purchase at a non-standard price?
  39. How quickly will you respond to an RFQ for a non-standard item or non-standard price?
  40. Do you build your own products, or have them built for you?
    • Where are they built?
  41. Do you build to order, or ship from your stock, or do you need a rep who will manage a local warehouse for you?
  42. Do any of your reps provide packaging or modifications of your products to serve special customer needs?
    • What are your expectations of us for those value-added services, and how are we compensated for those services.
  43. Will someone from your company be visiting our territory on a routine basis?
    • How many times per year?
    • How much advance notice will they provide before a visit is scheduled?
  44. What are your expectations of us?
  45. What should our expectations of you be?
  46. How do you define a successful rep/principal relationship?
  47. May we visit your facility?

*Thank you, Tom Blochowski, Tri-State Components LLC, Sylvania, OH, for contributing question 29, great question!