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Free Book: How to Sell By Independent Sales Agents

 

How to Sell By Independent Sales Agents

A Step by Step Guide to Working With an Independent Sales Representative

How to Sell By Independent Sales AgentsThis guide will walk you step by step through all the essential phases of using independent sales agents and sales reps to sell your products or services.

The independent sales agent (also called 'sales representative') may be the answer for business owners who have problems with selling. In some cases, the problem may be that there are not enough prospects to justify putting a full-time sales force on the factory's payroll. In other cases, because of heavy schedules, the sales staff may be missing opportunities to cultivate new accounts.
This guide provides guidelines that should help the owner-manager of a small company to determine whether or not a sales agent is needed. Pointers are also given on how to choose an agent and how to work profitably with him or her.

Table of Contents

1. Cost and Control
2. The Selling Job
3. Compare the Two
4. How to Select an Agent
5. Sources of Agents
6. Working With an Agent

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Sample Content

The independent sales agent (also called 'sales representative')may be the answer for owner-managers who have problems with selling. In some cases, the problem may be that there are not enough prospects to justify putting a full-time sales force on the factory's payroll. In other cases, because of heavy schedules, the sales staff may be missing opportunities to cultivate new accounts.
This guide provides guidelines that should help the owner-manager of a small company to determine whether or not a sales agent is needed. Pointers are also given on how to choose an agent and how to work profitably with him or her.

If selling your product requires a salesman's or saleswoman's call, using an agent may be more efficient than having sales personnel on your payroll. Which is better depends on your situation.
Selling for others is the business of independent sales agents. They make their money by representing several clients on a commission basis. They solicit orders for clients in territories upon which they have agreed. Some agents have employees who help them cover a wide area.
The manufacturers, as a rule, ship and bill the customer directly. They set prices, terms, and other conditions of sale.
Sales agents go by various names. A few examples are manufacturer's agent, manufacturer's representative and “reps." The labels vary according to industry. Also, the marketing functions which agents perform vary from one industry to another.
Whether it is better to use your own sales force (direct selling) or a sales agent depends mainly on cost and control. Which method is more economical for you? Which method gives you the control of your, marketing that you need?
When you add sales personnel, what do they cost? In considering this cost, you should include items such as the paperwork necessary to keep them on the road; fringe benefits, such as vacations, hospital and other insurance, which you provide.

On control, the question is: What degree of control do you need to achieve your sales objectives? When an agent represents you, the agent controls the approach to customers. In effect, they are your agent's customers rather than yours.
In many cases, such a relationship may be as good as, or better than, using your own sales force. For example, if your products are attractive to distributors and retailers, it may make little or no difference whether they buy from a factory salesperson or an independent sales agent. When it makes no difference, the owner/manager who insists on maintaining a sales force for the sake of ego may be kidding himself or herself. You may be paying too great a price for the satisfaction of saying, "I have my own sales force. They are my employees."

On the other hand, when products require a special personal touch or service, the owner-manager may need to control the entire selling job. You may need to build an image by training and coaching your own technical sales staff rather than by offering your products through a manufacturer's agent who cannot usually be expected to do this type of work.

2. The Selling Job
In considering whether a direct sales staff or an independent agent is better, examine your company's selling job. the questions that follow are designed to help you think about the various aspects of that job.
Territories
In a given geographic area, does your company dominate, or does it lag way behind, competition? How near are you to your estimated potential sales volume?
What is your goal for that specific territory? If you had the best sales force money could buy, could your goal be achieved? If you could get only mediocre employees, what maximum dollar volume would you set for their quota?
What is your present dollar volume in the territory? What does it cost to bring in that volume? Based on these cost figures, what would your cost of sales be for achieving your ultimate sales quota?
How many dollars do you have to invest to build up a, specific territory? Does this investment (for salaries, traveling expenses, and supervisory expenses) run over a long enough time period to enable even a mediocre sales staff to reach your objectives?

Selling
Is your selling mostly service selling? (Service selling often requires technicians who can explain equipment and processes to middle management.) Is your selling nontechnical? (This type of selling does not require detailed knowledge of equipment and processes.)
What are the selling practices in your industry? Is there a good reason why the industry leans a particular way? Or is it just a custom which no one has thought of changing?
Market Penetration
How well do you know the market you are trying to penetrate? Do you know it well enough to guide your sales personnel? Or will you be relying on them because of your lack of knowledge of certain territories?
How often must the trade be seen? Can one employee handle all the calls? Or will several employees be needed because the area or number of accounts are too big for one person to cover regularly?
How quickly do you want to penetrate the market? (Someone with a knowledge of the field and personal contact with buyers will, of course, obtain this penetration more quickly than new employees.)
Cost
What is your cost for executive and clerical personnel to manage a direct sales staff in all your territories? (Break this cost down by territories.) What will it cost for executives and clerical people to manage an agent?
If you maintain a training program for your sales force, what does it cost? Does it pay off in increased sales?

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