Look we all know that this is one of our industry’s greatest challenges. For a number of reasons not the least being that many board shops have screwed many reps over the years, it is getting more and more difficult to get good reps to represent us.
I know that of all the services I provide finding good reps is the most challenging. The problem is that many of them just don’t trust us anymore. Some of them have completely given up on the printed circuit board fabricator as a viable principal. They tell me that it is difficult to get and keep customers for a PCB shop when the performance is less than 85% on time; or if they are successful, they can become “too” successful to the point where the board shop cuts them off because their commissions get too large.
Now to be fair, this week I am going to talk about things from the reps’ point of view and next week I will approach the subject from the board shops’ perspective.
With this in mind here are seven secrets to finding and keeping some great reps:
- As always make sure that you are performing, this applies no matter how your sales force is made up. If you don’t perform you are not going to grow your business whether you have direct or independent sales reps. In this highly competitive environment performance is king and value is prince if you don’t provide these to your customers your are doomed.
- Make the rep an offer he can’t refuse. By this I mean tear up your traditional contract. Who said that we have to keep using the same old boiler plate contract over and over again? Man that thing is over fifty years old; the world has changed so should we. Who said that commissions had to be from three to five to seven to ten percent? Who said that commissions had to be paid only when you get paid? Who said that thirty day cancellation is cast in stone? Who said that? Think out of the box. If you are going after a rep who you feel is so good that she can really boost your company’s sales then figure out what will be a great deal for the both of you. Offer her a percentage of the profit on the part number, offer him a longer term arrangement do whatever it takes and of course what makes sense financially to get that rep signed up.
- Make that rep your partner, no I mean your real partner. Bring him into your business family; treat him just like one of your direct people in terms of regular communications. Listen carefully to what they he says. You are paying this person to be your hired expert with his customer base. You are hiring this person to bring you the customers that he knows. Be good enough for him to do that. Follow his instructions when it comes to how to win those customers’ business.
- Pay her on time. Nothing more just pay the rep when you are supposed to pay them rep and make sure that you include a comprehensive commission statement. If you don’t pay your reps they will not perform, get it? Don’t even think about not paying your reps if you want them to work for you. Not paying them on time breaks the contract and disqualifies you as a valid principal.
- Include the reps in your marketing, you have a comprehensive marketing plan right? You are marketing your company with advertising, social media, newsletters, trade shows etc. right? Well make sure that you include your rep in all of that marketing. Think of your rep as a franchisee of your company; the reason people invest in a Subway restaurant or a Midas Muffler shop is so they can take advantage of their huge marketing budgets; make sure you provide your reps with the same marketing and branding advantages. And oh yes don’t be afraid to provide them with the qualified leads that come out of your great marketing efforts.
- Welcome them to your facility. Bring them into your company, insist that they visit before you sign them and then make sure that you provide them with the opportunity to come out to your plant whenever possible. Have a sales meeting once a year and make sure that the reps are there to take part in your strategy meetings, that they have a say in the direction of the company including service, technology and Quality.
- And finally trust them. If you don’t trust a rep enough to share company information with him then you are wasting your time. The partnership will go nowhere. If you don’t feel that the rep is trustworthy they he is not the right rep. You have to be open and honest with your reps, you have to share as much information as possible to that they will be successful selling your company and hence your products.
And finally, yes there is one more, I always deliver more than I promised, Have regularly scheduled meetings with them where you discuss in detail their territory plans. This is critical. Please don’t tell me that you talk to them all the time, it’s not true; you are fooling yourself. Instead have a regular twice a month meeting with each of your reps to track the progress of their sales effort. Communication is the backbone of the rep/principal partnership and if you want to have a great relationship with your reps you have to talk to them…its only common sense