It may be an odd question but one that is asked more often these days. This question is probably often asked because a manufacturer who has already had some experience with reps will attempt to align themselves with the right type of independent rep sales team that suits their go to market strategy. A large part of the security industry’s manufacturers contract with independent sales representatives to help accomplish the work of selling, marketing, product training and field support for pre- and post-installation issues. During the past 20 years, different types of rep firms have emerged to suit the needs of manufacturers who use different methods to bring their product to market. These methods may be best defined as dealer direct sales and distribution only sales and/or a mix of the two. Because of this there seem to be at least two different types of manufacturers representatives; 1) project-oriented rep firms that typically sell in a more dealer controlled and/or direct capacity, and 2) distribution oriented representatives who use a distributor to locate business and work indirectly to fulfill the product sale. As a manufacturer, understanding why these two types of firms exist and how they fit your product line is very important in choosing the right firm for your company to work with.
As a manufacturer you may consider answering the following questions as yes, to help pair you with a project-oriented sales team:
- Do you sell directly to the dealer or integrator providing accounting terms and warehouse logistics?
- Do you limit access to your product line be requiring contractors to be certified and trained prior to purchase?
- Do you limit access to your product line by market area or vertical niche?
- Do you allow distributors to resell your product to licensed and certified contractors or dealers?
- Is your product technical in nature requiring demonstration and help with the transfer of knowledge to dealers and integrators in order to make a sale?
- Should your product be made known to consultants and engineering firms to drive demand for solution architecture and specification in end-user opportunities?
The following questions, if answered yes, could qualify you to work best with a distribution oriented product sales team:
- Do you depend on distributors to stock and market your product in their catalog and with their sales team?
- Do you depend on distributors to get your product to market by reselling to their clients whether dealer, end user or other buyers?
- Do you compete in a commodity market where merchandising via a distributor’s shelf is the best way to get your product sold?
- Is your product available to any and all markets with no geographic consideration or pre-purchase requirement before it is sold?
- Is an online distributor presence preferred to sell your products?
Typically distributors have many competitive product brands to sell and distributors are not mutually exclusive to any product they resell. It is difficult for a distributor to be an expert on a product when they sell 10 competitive brands. It is for this reason that manufacturers have field sales teams beyond the distribution arrangement to create and drive demand for their brand and product. Manufacturers who allow their product to be sold without controls, certification requirements or biases for B2B relationships will be better suited for distributor oriented rep firms more than project-based rep firms who are mutually exclusive in the B2B relationship rather than those distribution oriented which are more lax and lenient.
Manufacturers with complex product offerings typically prefer more project based rep firms. Their clients are buying products based on specific criteria such as technology advancements, feature benefits, profitability, market protection, exclusiveness and important manufacturer product developments. In addition, the synergy provided by the other manufacturer products being sold by this type of rep firm can be helpful generating new opportunities when the products are properly aligned.
Our firm treats our security contractors with as much market protection and exclusivity as there needs to be to allow for differentiation. Many times these products have limited purchasing access through a distributor and/or the product is purchased directly from the manufacturer with no distributor in the middle. The right mix is achieved through thoughtful discussion and consideration for their business as well as accountability by both parties.
Once there is interest it is our intent to build a trusting relationship to lay the foundation for a long-term business. As a result, we work with our clients to help them build a profitable business around our product lines. It is our intent to regularly transfer knowledge to our clients in terms of how to use the product and systems we offer. We encourage a standard solution with best practices for their installation and service teams to build efficiencies. We maintain this business through ongoing sales support, post-sales field support, and marketing between the client and manufacturer.
Many of the project based representatives have manufacturers that conduct their business directly with the integrators and security contractors which bypass any need for a distributor in the buying and inventory process. However, there are other product lines that are sold partially and or completely through a distribution model. These products are usually commodity type products or are products made in a foreign country that cannot be easily delivered on time from that locale. Our firm works with both to help build a growth-oriented sustainable business through our relationships and efforts in the B2B model.