External sales representatives can greatly increase your market reach. They offer many advantages over a traditional “direct” sales force, and allow you to scale your sales expenses as business increases or decreases. (See my blog on Top Reasons to Use an External Sales Representative.)
But like any good partnership, it’s important to find a representative firm that gives you the support that you need. You also need to have someone that you trust, because you don’t want to micro-manage them, and they don’t want to be micro-managed by you.
Where to Find a Good Sales Representative
One good place to find sales representatives is MANA. https://www.manaonline.org/ They are a very professional organization that has searchable databases of both representative organizations, and OEMs that are looking to hire representative firms. They also offer sample sales representative contract agreements. They do charge an annual fee for accessing their services.
You can also do web searches for representative organizations. You can look at companies that sell similar or complementary products to yours, and see what representatives they might use. Many companies list them in their “contact us” page. You can also look at your competition and see if they use representatives.
What to Look for in a Sales Representative
I have worked with a lot of different sales representative organizations. Here are some of the preferences I have developed.
- Make sure that the sales representative calls on your target market. If you sell products that help manufacturers, make sure that the sales representative calls on the Manager/Director of Operations with his other product lines.
- Look at how many product lines the sales representative carries. If they have too many product lines, you might not get enough attention.
- Look at the territory that they handle. If it’s too big, they might have too much control over your company.
- How many people are in the company? The best performing sales representatives have multiple people in the office, and inside sales/administrative support.
How to Get the Most Out of the Relationship
Just like any good partnership, using external sales representatives takes work. They will need to be trained, have support from you, get demo equipment, and market development funds. For more information on managing representatives, see my article on Driving Sales Channel Results.
External sales representatives can help you drive revenue and profitability growth. Just like any resource, they need to be chosen with care, and properly managed to maximize your return on investment.