Productive independent sales reps want quality products and services from quality companies. We hear from reps quite often about companies that have various levels of unpreparedness or even unprofessionalism when it comes to being ready to go to market via the rep channel.
If you are in the position of getting ready to work with reps, you need to be prepared and able to communicate to the rep on the details. Here is a list of items, or a checklist if you will, on items to have ready to communicate to the rep, as they may be relevant to your business.
- Current customer lists
- Company history
- Brand comparisons
- Sales book – pricing and sell sheets
- Liability Insurance
- Terms for customer payments
- Blank invoice for setting up accounts
- Price lists
- Volume incentives/Volume bonus programs
- Holiday and Seasonal items
- Product and New item information
- Case Cube / Case Weight / Case Dimensions
- Pallet Count / UPC / GTIN UPC / Item descriptions
- Club Packs / Special Packs / Pallet programs / Shippers
- Knock down (empty cartons/packaging)
- Placement programs / slotting available
- Private label, co-branding, branded
- Delivered and FOB your plant
- Remittance address
- Minority-owned opportunities: WBENC.COM
- Certifications or audits if necessary in your industry
We very often have feedback from reps about unprofessional start-ups. It is understandable that when your company is new, you may have a great idea for a product or service that the market wants. But you may not have all your “ducks in a row” as far as getting to market. The market will not usually “beat a path to your door”. You will have to make that pathway yourself.
Creating that pathway involves a professional approach. Reps will get turned off when they are required to do too much “hand-holding”. When your startup is missing the elements listed above that apply to your business, then the rep feels you have the “cart before the horse” and are not ready to do business. Being prepared in the appropriate areas allows the rep to avoid the hand holding, and makes communication to the rep and to your customers to have the greatest impact.
Another common deficiency if your company is a start-up is undercapitalization. Here is what one of the RepHunter reps has to say about this:
The biggest problem facing reps and principals today is undercapitalization. Continuously, I get principals that require show attendance, interstate travel, advertising etc, and these are the same principals that insist on “house accounting” their territorial book of business … then they wonder why no rep organization will touch their line. Think about it: it costs the rep $1400/mo. to support one line correctly. Car, Insurance, hotels, cell, Laptop, air travel etc. This is expected to be carried by the rep 100% … according to most principals.
Summary – the bottom line is that most reps will assess a line on a “return on investment basis”, just as if they were going to purchase a stock or a company. If the relationship is non-reciprocial financially, in other words if the principal refuses to financially support any of their fair share of the operation, then the whole arrangement will fail right from the start.
It amazes me how many principals just think of the rep relationship as a free ride financially!