by Douglas Bower
You can ask most 20-something-year-old males, “What is your ideal car?” The answer that you would most likely hear is a Ferrari or a car of similar ilk. Ask a sales manager or a principal or manufacturer, “What is an ideal rep?” He or she will most likely answer “one that has sales growth year after year.” Both visions are ideal for the short term but lack depth and success in the future.
So the definition of an ideal rep from the principal’s point of view is not as simplistic as one might hope. It depends on the principal’s goals, objectives, product portfolio and corporate culture, to name a few considerations. All that aside, let me take a stab at my definition of an ideal rep.
My ideal rep would have the following characteristics:
- Demonstrates Sales Ability — The ideal rep will have a solid sales achievement record with your product or in the case of a potential rep, with similar products and will have invested in sales training. Sales results need to be significant to your company. Necessary growth rates vary by market, product and region. You know what your company requires.
- Business Acumen — The ideal rep will demonstrate that he is a businessman or businesswoman. I, as a principal, need to have substantive discussions with my rep. We need to discuss costs, finances, market conditions, channel, etc. These discussions help me and my management make decisions important for our mutual business. The ideal rep will insist on a contract.
- Company Culture Fit — Every company has a company culture. My ideal manufacturer rep firm will fit my company culture. A lack of cultural fit can result in communication problems and conflict over how to work with the customer base. The wise rep understands his principal’s company culture and acts accordingly.
- Accountability — The ideal rep is accountable for sales but also other metrics. These measurable goals should be agreed upon at the start of the year. These include things like lead follow-up, product introductions, target accounts, etc. As the sales manager, I will set up measurements and review them periodically during the year with my rep.
- Sustainability — The ideal rep will have a business plan, the finances to see them through the tough times and a succession plan. As a principal I am investing time and money in this independent entity. I have invested in training, marketing support and the strategic decision to use this rep as my outsourced sales force for this territory, however it is described. The ideal rep will recognize that “things happen” and be ready for the future and these foreseeable contingencies. As a principal I don’t want to have to quickly find a new rep to fill an uncovered territory.
- Functions — The ideal rep will have the business functions that I, as a principal, need in that market. Examples of some of these functions are customer service, warehousing, marketing, order entry or product modification. As a principal I must be prepared to compensate for these additional functions.
These are the characteristics that I, as a rep sales manager, would consider when describing the ideal rep. The shortest way to sum up the ideal rep is a professional.
Douglas Bower has experience in sales and marketing management with titles of national sales manager and product line marketing manager. Bower has also been a manufacturers’ rep in the elastomers industry. He holds an MBA and a BS degree and is a certified lubrication specialist.