The Rep-Principal Partnership Part 4: The Solution

Okay so here is what we do.

Atticus: “Do you know what a compromise is?”

Scout: “Bending the law?”

Atticus: “Uh, no it’s an agreement reached by mutual consent. Now here’s the way it works. You concede the necessity of going to school, and we’ll keep right on reading the same every night, just as we always have. Is that a bargain.”

That was from the great movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Now as far as the reps and the principals and what we need to do is exactly that, have a compromise. And no, it’s not bending the law. It’s finding common ground where both parties can live and thrive comfortably in a productive and satisfying partnership.

Now here are the things we can do to make that happen:

  1. Make sure both parties want to have the relationship in the first place. I find that in recent years, principals are so anxious to sign reps that they will take anyone who agrees to rep them. Reps on the other hand are so reticent to take on new lines that they agree only after a great deal of coercion by the principal. 

This is wrong. Both sides have to make sure they really do want to work with each other. This means meeting, this means making sure they have the right chemistry and making sure that they  have common goals so that they can actually work together. It is amazing to me how often this first step is omitted. Look, both reps and principals need to make sure they are the right choice for each other or the relationship is doomed from the get go.

  1. Create a pact of understanding. Both parties have to outline clearly what they want out of the partnership. The rep has to understand that the principal he is signing up with has the products, the services and the attitude that will fit her customer base. On the same token the principal has to make sure that the rep has the knowledge and the experience and the network and attitude to successfully sell  his products and services. And then the two of them have to sit down and outline ( or negotiate) exactly what they want from the relationship.
  2. Make a plan together: Both parties need to work together to lay out a common plan of action. They need to decide on the market they are going after; the technology they are going to sell. How they are going to prospect, generate leads, target accounts, and win those accounts. And  together they need to make a forecast of how long it will take. In short, they need to set common goals along with milestones on who is going to do what and when and how they can expect to see results.
  3. As part of this plan they need to set up a meeting structure. A schedule of when they will have regular meetings, agendas for those meetings and what they hope to accomplish during those meetings. This is critical. And as part of this meeting schedule they should include ride-alongs,  where the principal will come to the rep’s territory and they will meet with key accounts together. These meetings should all be scheduled in advance so there is absolutely no excuse for missing them.
  4. Reps compensation. Okay now we get to some compromise. Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Principal, it is just plain taking too long for reps to see any dough. That is a fact and that is the entire crux of the problem with your relationship. This has to be addressed. Here is what I recommend (or I should say we recommend because much of this concept comes from working with my associate rep relationship expert Keith Robbins) The plan is to pay as you go. Pay for accomplishment. Here is the plan:
    1. Pay a small success fee ($100-$200) for the first quote from a new customer. Principals want new customers, right? And you want the reps to bring in new customers, right? So reward them for doing that. And by the way, pay this immediately!
    2. Pay a small success fee when the first order is booked. Once again something like $250 to $500 is appropriate. And pay immediately as well. The experts say that it costs a company on average of $5,000 to $10,000 to win a new customer, so paying the rep a small success fee is a bargain.
    3. Create an incentive for special markets. For example: You get AS9100 or your 31032. Pay an incentive bonus for every customer the rep brings in from that particular market.

The important thing to remember is that the rep is being paid along the way. She does not have to wait so long to see some money. And best of all you are paying for exactly what you want. If this works the way I say it will, you’ll be smiling when you write these checks.

And finally,  principals put your compromise cape on. Pay the reps when you ship the product. This in and of itself will change the game enormously. Look, you are going to pay them sooner or later anyway so pay them early so you get all of the good will benefits that your money will buy!

Okay and before you say it, I’ll say it for you. This will create more work for your accounting department. But the extra effort will be worth it in the end. I guarantee it! Because It’s only common sense.

Bonus: To get my PPT plan on how to successfully partner with your reps just email and I’ll send you a copy [email protected]