I’ve spent a lot time trying to answer the question “What does a Manufacturer’s Representative do?”
It’s been my job for the last 19 years, so it’s something I should be able to do, answer people when they ask “what do you do?” My answer is more than just a quick response or a terse job description, because real question is “What does a GOOD Manufacturer’s Representative do?”
For anyone who has not thought about it, Manufacturer’s Representatives (Reps, for short) are independent agents that companies contract to promote and sell their products, usually in a specific territory, sometimes to specific types of companies. Reps either supplement or replace direct sales channels for a company. This way of going to market is usually used in specialty products that would not be of interest to the general consumer. This is not the “Yellow Pages” option, or a “Catalog Sales” style of peddling merchandise. Reps have experience and training on specialized equipment.
A good Manufacturer’s Representative helps customers find equipment that will solve their problems, helping them to increase production or operate with less maintenance or supervision.
Summit Equipment Company was formed to do just this. Our goal is to make sure that we promote the needs of the customer and supply them with all the information and support to install, operate, and maintain our equipment.
As with most things in life, we have learned from negative examples. Customers have not been shy to tell us about experiences they had that were not good. A bad representative can give Reps in general a poor reputation. The top complaint we hear is that customers are not able to reach their representative, or get a slow response time when hearing back from them. Another chief complaint is that the Rep does not seem to know his product, or cannot supply requested technical information quickly. Right on the heels of these complaints is the problem of not getting any assistance when things don’t go right. The list goes on, from bad manners to ridiculous behavior, but those are probably the top three complaints.
Having some kind of problem with the purchase of a major mechanical piece of equipment is not uncommon. Hopefully, the problems are simple to overcome. From knowing when it will arrive, to having all the installation and operation instructions, to determining if all the components are there and installed properly, there is a good chance there will be some kind of speed bump in the acquisition of new technology. For anyone who has had to work your way through terrible customer “support” phone menus, tried to decipher incomplete or incomprehensible instructions, or had your doubts that something was put together right, this level of frustration does not make life any easier. Our job is to be an antidote to that kind of frustration. As a salesman, why should I expect anyone to buy my equipment if the result is some time spent hating life? I’ve experienced those feelings myself with products I have bought, and every time something like that happens, I vow to never let one of my customers feel that way about something they purchased from me.
A good Rep knows his products and strives to know the customer’s process and workplace. Most customers in manufacturing are too busy keeping their factory running and going to meetings to have extra time to research equipment. The fun of being an equipment Rep is finding a customer with a problem that you have a good solution to. The key word there is a “good” solution. Nobody benefits from the old adage “to a hammer salesman, every problem looks like a nail”. If none of the equipment in my bag of tricks will solve the problem, that’s not wrong, it’s just reality. Time for everyone to move on to the next challenge. Knowing when to say no, when to admit that the equipment you’re peddling is not a good fit is the ethical thing to do, but it also builds credibility. Customers should know that a good salesman will not push bad solutions on them, that their word can be trusted.
I’ve always considered Manufacturer’s Reps as someone stationed at a bridge that leads customers to equipment manufacturers. Our job is to get people over the bridge safely, and to bring them to where they need to be. Manufacturer’s put us there to act as a guide. We serve as the ambassador to the company and our job is to shepherd customers over the bridge to the right equipment. I’ve often thought that a bad Rep is like a troll under the bridge. He does nothing to help you get across, he just makes the experience unpleasant and costly, and at the end of the day, you think it would have been better to have avoided him. Our goal at Summit Equipment Company is to make the customer feel that they were glad to have us there.