What Makes a Good Manufacturer's Rep?

If you’re celebrating your business’ growth into big box retail, you’re probably also facing an important decision: is it time to hire a manufacturer’s representative? More importantly, how do you choose someone who will add value to your operations?

A highly informed, dynamic agent can make all the difference in developing responsive marketing strategies and maintaining a close connection to your merchant, especially as you expand into faraway territories.

Here are five qualities to look for in a rep who will help your company win at retail, and our best insights into how Sales Factory’s sales management services go beyond the role of a traditional manufacturer’s rep to supply the consumer research and data that will give you a competitive edge in your communication with your merchant.

1. A good manufacturer’s rep knows your retailer.

What works at Lowe’s may not work at Menards. Great sales and marketing strategy varies from merchant to merchant, so it’s important to know how your specific retailer is incentivized.

The best manufacturer’s reps are intimately familiar with the challenges and objectives of your retailer, as well as any nuances related to the region. Ideally, they will be your boots on the ground, constantly assessing your merchant’s obstacles and recognizing opportunities to help them meet their goals. These insights can give you a crucial edge as you continue to grow.

2. A good manufacturer’s rep understands market trends.

Running reports is one thing, but understanding and interpreting them in the appropriate context requires significantly more experience and wherewithal.

You want your rep to be connected to the macro: knowledgeable about your products, category and the market broadly. As the rise of ecommerce is causing consumer behavior to evolve faster than ever, a good manufacturer’s rep will monitor sales data and look for opportunities to leverage current market trends to your advantage.

While fact-gathering is helpful, the best reps are part of your team when it’s time to craft actionable strategies. Reps who originate from agencies that have in-house consumer research and insights capabilities have a built-in advantage when it comes to turning raw data into measurable results.

3. A good manufacturer’s rep is focused on your retail relationship.

The obvious advantage of manufacturer’s representatives is that they allow your team to be in more places at once. However, it’s important that your rep shares your commitment to agility.

Not staying up on your retailer’s latest developments will leave your business vulnerable. If you miss out on a test planogram that turns out to be a success, you can find yourself left out of the rollout in hundreds of additional locations. When it comes to the kind of information that won’t show up on a global report, you must rely on your rep’s relationship with the retailer to keep you in the loop.

As your business grows and your team is increasingly pulled in different directions, you should be able to count on your rep to be an expert on their assigned retailer so that you can give that relationship the attention it deserves.

4. A good manufacturer’s rep is a specialist.

Manufacturer’s reps who are spread too thinly across multiple retailers and regions can easily become generalists. They know the fundamentals of sales and marketing, but their knowledge of your particular retailer is broad rather than deep.

Avoid copy-and-paste strategies by choosing a rep who can demonstrate expertise on your retailer and product category. Approaching the retail relationship with the mindset of a specialist will allow your rep to identify opportunities and threats in real-time, and approach you with solutions.

5. A good manufacturer’s rep gets to know your merchant.

The best manufacturer’s representatives act as your liaison when it comes to your relationship with your merchant. This extends well beyond the occasional business lunch – it’s tremendously helpful to know your merchant as a person. What are their goals at retail, and how can you help actualize them? What obstacles are they facing, and what are their future plans for promotions?

One of the best ways to build this relationship is by regularly walking the store with the merchant. Seek out a manufacturer’s representative who is committed to spending time in the retail environment, noticing where participants in your product category are struggling and succeeding. A great rep will take the time to ask questions and learn more about the merchant’s future plans, concerns and goals.

Choose the right manufacturer’s representative, and you’ll add a valuable new member to your sales and marketing team. It’s not enough, however, to just be a facilitator. Look for a rep who is a dialed-in specialist, and you’ll stay on the cutting edge of your retailer’s developments no matter how far your growth takes you.

Consider comprehensive sales management.

Sales Factory's sales management services can be a fantastic option for businesses in need of a manufacturer's rep. Our sales managers provide all of the traditional manufacturer's rep services such as key metric reporting, retailer expertise and ongoing communication with buyers. In addition, we offer a more comprehensive approach to retail sales management that incorporates our internal consumer research and marketing services. Sales Factory's ability to provide connectivity between retail account management and marketing strategy will make your company a more valuable partner to retailers.