Reps Offer Feedback on Improving Relationships With Their Manufacturers
In an effort to improve the Dealer-Rep-Manufacturer triangle, Azione Unlimited embarked on a comprehensive study, which included an open discussion at the recent Azione Unlimited fall conference and surveys completed by Azione dealers and independent manufacturer’s representatives. This final installment queried reps on five subjects relating to the rep-manufacturer dynamics. Highlights from over 75 participant responses are detailed below. The complete copy of the 54-page PDF survey results may be viewed at azioneunlimited.com/results.
Richard Glikes, President of Azione Unlimited, commented, “The opinions from the various camps point out that everyone can improve their conduct and modus operandi. Imagine we all worked together? We would be more profitable, efficient and harmonious. Not such a bad thing.”
Reps were asked to rank a list of 11 tasks in order of importance to them/their firm what manufacturers could do to provide better service to reps and dealers.
- Provide timely sales reporting – 35%
- More training tools prepared in advance of product delivery – 24%
- Have consistent commissions structure – 16%
- Give access to data on incoming inventory shipments – 8%
- Allow more discretion to solve problems in the field – 7%
- Share trends on how well products are selling in other territories – 5%
- Require less market analysis – 1%
- Have longer contracts with R&D companies – 1%
- Have credit status of dealers supplied weekly – 1%
- Schedule more dealer visits – 1%
- Schedule less dealer visits – 1%
“List five responsibilities manufacturers have to reps”
- BE PROACTIVE – notify of supply issues, respond to market differences, ability and awareness to “lead the need” in product development, when coming to visit provide an agenda, inform reps on product changes and availability, confirm orders submitted and provide detailed shipping information (warehouse, eta, backorders), provide credit information, advance notice of upcoming changes.
- BE RESPONSIBLE – make goals/targets reasonable, pay commissions on time, immediate notification on product issues or shortages allowing reps to be proactive in the field, be truthful, take ownership of all issues (credit, returns, sales training, programming, etc), ask for reports keeping in mind more reports mean less sales time, be straight about issues and own the resolutions, communicate clearly changes in distribution and policies.
- PROVIDE MATERIALS – provide good, accurate and real time sales data, train and provide materials on new items prior to product launch, offer more training, offer demo gear at reasonable prices, easy to reach, top-notch tech support 24/7, maintain a good website, up-to-date information on why your product is better than the competition, provide or allow access to all data related to account/market.
- BE SUPPORTIVE – help promote products in the markets, create hot innovative and reliable products to sell, do not make deals with the dealer behind reps backs, provide returnable demo gear for testing and education, make it easier to set up accounts, keep commitments to dealers, share best practices and success stories, respect the relationships reps build with dealers, set reasonable “buy-ins” or accounts will give up before even trying.
- BE OPEN TO US – reps are the gateway to dealers and can make or break a relationship, trust their assessment of dealers, offer straight answers, allow reps to build markets together, use reps to help judge wisdom of product plan details before committing to it, consult reps prior to releasing products or programs for market perspective.
What suggestions do you have for manufacturers that would make your job more productive?
- Good, strong, pertinent training not just on products but also on the market and technical skills
- Real time, 24/7 access via extranet to inventory, order and credit status, selling information, price lists
- Dealers need to be viewed as a scarce commodity and valuable resource
- Have trained inside people who will still pick up the phone and take ownership of issues
- Always strive to be dealer friendly, not just a sales outlet
- Discuss reasonable goals and expected business
- Keep in mind asking for reports means less time selling, so only ask for truly necessary reports
- Reward excellence
- Notify immediately of product changes, issues and availability; what reps don’t know make them look bad
- Offer more in-depth and insight on why your products are better (value, performance, etc)
- If a product is backordered or inventory is running low, advise of ETA so reps can communicate to dealers
- Strive to have best order entry, RA and credit systems available as looking into mis-ships, order entries and credit hold tasks can take away from selling time
- Have a purpose for calls and visits; don’t just “check in”
- Provide roving samples for continuous demos/training
- Empower reps to solve problems
- Have a clear, compelling proposition
What is the biggest value you bring to your manufacturers?
- “Knowledge, experience, expertise, value. I will design, train, help install, and support. I am an extension of their team, with a direct link to the dealer. I know the market and work in it every day.”
- “A trusted, experienced partner who works as a conduit from the factory to the sales floor. We help eliminate the roadblocks and pitfalls of the manufacture to dealer partnership. We try to keep everyone happy and profitable including ourselves!”
- “Our knowledge of the market place, who is moving, growing, dying etc. This and consistency, we have had and seen “factory reps” come and go, so the dealer ends up with no consistency.”
- “Reps have the relationships and know where the bones are buried in the territory. A manufacturer cannot hire a factory rep to uncover these bones affordably. By adding a manufacturer’s line to a bag with others, the factory has the chance to make an immediate impact. The reps handle all of the little problems and don’t allow for the factory inside personnel be tied up with details.”
- “A true interface or conduit between the dealer and the manufacturer.”
- “We have strong, trusted dealer relationships. We work hard to understand how we can best be of value to their companies. We understand our vendors strengths and weaknesses, presenting their value only as we believe it adds profitability to our dealers, with complete integrity.”
- “Ear to the ground , up front interface with the customer in the territory. we expedite, sell, and push the manufacturer’s agenda through our first-hand knowledge and relationships with the dealers”
- “I know my dealers and I know my markets. I follow up and do what I say I am going to do and my dealers know it and trust me. Most of them will go out of their way to give my line a shot.”
- “We add appropriate distribution efficiently and effectively, support existing dealers so as to grow their business and provide critical info/feedback from the marketplace.”
- “Provide a direct interface with dealers and staff for training. Field representative with dealers and end user to solve problems with products in field.”
- “Market intelligence on dealer activity, competitive analysis, and product feedback.”
- “Eyes and ears in the territory. Product knowledge that spans your category and many others as well. Intimate knowledge of what is really going on at an account. Respect of the dealer community where we can open doors that you may not have been able to get into.”
Richard Glikes may be contacted at: