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Who are Manufacturer Reps & What Do They Really Do?


Spring is upon us and TOTAL Marketing, LLC is launching our new blog with a more vigorous effort to quickly and succinctly highlight solutions provided by our manufacturers. For our first blog, Kristin Rountree of TOTAL Marketing, LLC asked me to clarify what it is that we as reps try to do. So here it goes, quick warning, this may be a little long winded, but there is a lot to dive into here.


I founded TOTAL Marketing in 1984 and this is the life I have chosen. I first penned my thoughts on this topic for a rAVe pub guest editorial in 2014 and though much has changed in the industry, much has stayed the same. A phrase often quoted from the Bard is "a rose by any other name is still a rose." While it does not roll off the tongue quite as well, it can be said "a rep by any other name is still a rep." For more than three decades, I have heard the frequent uttering of the word, "Rep," either preceded by an unflattering adjective or followed by some form of expletive. But...


It is the life I have chosen.


In our industry, reps are sometimes best known as the source of all things;

* Sales are down...Blame the rep!

* Back orders...Blame the rep!

* Excessive Inventory...Blame the rep!

* The economy is sluggish...Blame the rep!

* Tariffs...Blame the rep!

* There is smog...Blame the rep!

* Trouble in the Mid-East...Blame the rep!

* Gout...Blame the rep!


However, this is the life I have chosen.


By definition, an independent manufacturer's representative (rep) is a commissioned agent under contract with a manufacturer to develop, strengthen, and maintain a dealer network within a geographical territory. One of my daughters, who was asked years ago in her first grade class about what I did, simply replied..."He travels a lot." I tried in vain to explain to my mother that my database is like the Yellow Pages, she then told others that she thought I sold the Yellow Pages. If friends and family cannot understand, how can the industry of which reps are a vital part, ever understand what reps do?


In my attempts to help the industry fully understand what a rep is and what he or she does, I believe that there are many different words that can describe their activities which may not be quite as evident. Here are a few:

* Peddler: Show to sell, show and sell, show and then sell.

* Prospector: Mine for every opportunity for you manufacturers and you dealers.

* Trapper: Secure the sale and turn over to the dealer.

* Juggler: Work several lines, but keep everything moving.

* Anchor Man: Be prepared to expound on all news within the industry.

* Intelligence Agent: Know everything the competition is showing, introducing, or considering.

* Soothsayer: Know all things that are about to happen.

* Tightrope Walker: Balance all activities to give % growth to every represented manufacturer.

* Caterer: Feed all in attendance in sales meetings, lunch and learns and road shows.

* Travel Agent: Book hotels and travel for visiting manufacturers.

* Chauffeur: Drive manufacturers throughout your territory.

* Sherpa: Haul in and haul out loads of demo equipment.

* Arbiter:  Resolve dealer/manufacturer conflicts.

* Technician: Troubleshoot to discover problems at job site.

* Magician: Wave magic wand to correct shipping errors, faulty installations and DOA hardware.

* Counselor: Listen, console and counsel dealers, end users, manufacturers during tough times.

* Head Hunter: Know of all job openings and preferences, but never be the source of any employee movement.

* Bill Collector: Gently twist the arms of slow paying dealers.

* Barker: Be prepared to work at endless booths at trade shows and dealer events.


In addition to those listed above, reps are often also asked to be Miracle Workers, Priests, or Operators of a Non-Profit Business.


It is the life I have chosen.


A rep has to continually be a part of conference calls, webinars and business reviews and must always be responsive to phone calls, texts and emails in a timely manner.


All of the above are seemingly daily roles assumed by the reps. Many rep firms are small and therefore the principal has to wear even more hats as she or he returns to the home office to assume the roles of financing, HR, IT management, data entry, marketing, etc. No problem… sleep is really over rated.


Despite all the monikers and hats that a rep wears, he/she is still a rep. My oldest daughter, Darcy, when at seven years old, had just seen Coal Miner’s Daughter and heard the song “I’m proud to be a Coal Miner’s…” She then piped up singing” I’m proud to be an Independent Audio Video Manufacturer’s Representative’s daughter.” Again, her lyric did not trip off the tongue but it had great meaning to me.


When a rep, through several years, has succeeded in substantially growing a manufacturer’s business, they are often rewarded with a 30 day notice, because the territory revenue can now support direct factory sales staff.


It is the life I have chosen.


So who are reps and what do they really do?


They are regularly engaged in every facet of our industry. They are routinely observed in dealer and consultant offices. They are actively engaged with their manufacturers. Their handprint is seen in every project from home theater to house of worship to digital signage to video conferencing. They rep (represent) our industry.


It is the life I have chosen.










Ron DeVoe


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