WORKING WITH REP FIRMS
Leaning on Their Knowledge and Support
The Role of a Rep FirmIn general, a manufacturer’s rep is an independent contractor representing the product line or lines of a manufacturing company. “You could term what we do as an outsourced sales organization,” says Joel Schwartz, president of manufacturer’s rep firm LCA Sales, Hawthorne, N.Y. Most manufacturer’s rep firms represent a small number of non-competing product lines from different manufacturers.
“We are not distributors. We work under contract with a handful of manufacturers that provide products in the security surveillance business that we can sell along with other products…non-competing products, but all are compatible,” Schwartz explains. “Our job is to sell these products to dealers, integrators, and distributors.”
Many rep firms work with distributors, dealers and integrators â€” and even end users â€” to provide training and support for the products they represent. Matt Martinez, vice president of sales for Security Marketing Consultants Inc., a rep firm with two locations in Aurora, Ill., and Rochester Hills, Mich., explains that a reliable rep firm is well-versed in the manufacturer’s products and is factory trained.
The knowledge that rep firms have built over time, and the training they receive directly from the manufacturer can be a large advantage for a dealer or integrator. While a distributor might stock and sell a large volume of different products, a rep firm’s small number of product lines allows them to be experts in the products they represent.
“We come in and are the face of the manufacturer to train people on the products and show them how they work,” says Keith Pope, president of Security Marketing Consultants Inc.
Whatâ€™s the Advantage?Rep firms spend a lot of time working with end users and consultants to specify the products they sell and get them comfortable with their solutions.
“We actually spend about 50 percent of our time with end users or consultants. We show them that [our products] are worth having. We then feed projects back to our integrators,” Schwartz says. Therefore, a good working relationship with a manufacturer’s rep can help a dealer clinch a current or future project it might not otherwise have gotten.
The ideal relationship, he adds, is one where both the rep firm and dealer/integrator have a reciprocal relationship, getting one another involved in appropriate projects.
Mark McCormack, vice president of sales for rep firm Keith Parker & Associates, Northbrook, Ill., also emphasizes the advantage of having a knowledgeable rep firm on your side.
“We are frequently contacted by customers, dealers and integrators, and â€” now more than ever before â€” end users, who want us to meet and discuss a specific project design and ultimately provide a video security solution for their facility. They come to us for advice and to learn about our product feature sets and system capabilities. The end user will often ask us to refer them to a list of qualified dealers or integrators,” McCormack says.
When working with dealers and integrators, rep firms are able to provide them with value-added services at any stage of the sales process, including demonstrations and training to the customer before the sale; acting as an extended arm of the manufacturer and helping the dealer throughout the installation process; and also aiding in support after the sale when necessary.
A Sales AllyThe rep firms we talked to agree that relationships are a key advantage of working with their firms, as their reputation with the manufacturer, end users, and distributors in their area can provide a knowledgeable ally for a dealer or integrator aiming to make a sale.
Schwartz adds that, in addition to knowledge and training, another benefit for the dealer or integrator is having an advocate work for you in the case of a dispute or problem with a particular product or manufacturer. “Rep firms, in many ways, serve as an ombudsman for the [dealer/integrator]. We are not working directly for the manufacturer so we can go to bat for the customer more than a direct salesperson might.”