Welcome to another post written to help you navigate the jungle that is retail. Today`s topic deals with the concentration and fixation that small product-based businesses have on sales reps.
We will be talking about some issues that can occur if your business is really focused on finding sales reps.

Are you saying sales reps are bad?!

Absolutely not! Assuming you`ve taken the time to develop a criteria of what makes a sales rep right for your business, then they are definitely a good asset to have.
A good sales rep will allow smaller manufacturers to “get their foot in the door” with larger, more competitive retailers or distributors. This side of your business is referred to as sell-in.
When your name or brand is not very well known in the industry or in general, having a sales rep who is known for presenting quality products can drastically help your pitch to potential buyers. In addition, having a seasoned sales rep will save you time in terms of selling and resources since they`re based on commission (but of course you already knew that).
What retailers care about more, rather than working with someone they are familiar with, is the ability for you (the manufacturer) to have a product that will be easy for them to sell.
Creating this sell-through requires an effective marketing and pricing strategy as well as being able to efficiently manage all communications with your buyers. If you have 5 buyer accounts and are having difficulty keeping track of sales, promotions, inventory, etc then your relationship with each account will start to slip.

Sales reps are a piece of the bigger picture

What side of business is most often associated with sales…? Marketing of course! Marketing in of itself is a sales tool that needs to be utilized, even by small manufacturers, to ensure quicker and more competitive growth.
When your sales reps are trying to sell your products to retailers or distributors, will they have the materials to do so effectively? Do you have brochures, SPIFs, and training for your reps or in-house salespeople?
Chances are that your product has competition, and when your competition is trying to get into the same stores and the same shelf space as you, you`re going to need an advantage. Some companies choose to cut down prices, but this is ultimately a strategy doomed for failure.
Marketing is a tool to help your business stand out – for retailers and consumers. Your product-based business can`t afford to focus too heavily on just the sales aspect.

Can sales reps be a burden?

As I said before, a good sales rep is a good asset to have; however, sometimes retailers do not like working with sales reps – even well-known ones!
Because it`s believed that sales reps cut into the margin that the retailer will receive by selling your products. If that`s the case, then having only sales reps can hurt your chances with these particular buyers.

So what should I do?

The best thing you can do is have a strategy for both sell-in and sell-through because you can`t have one without the other and expect to last very long.
If you`re really focused on driving more sales, remember that marketing is a tool of sales to make your business more competitive and efficient. Just make sure you`re able to manage your marketing and retail strategies – which can sometimes mean hiring a professional.