A good rep puts the needs of the wholesaler first, the needs of the manufacturer second and his own needs third.

Bryan Shirley (L), executive director of AIM/R, with 2007-2008 AIM/R President Frank Parks of rep firm Parks-Peyton at a trade show last fall.

On average, a manufacturer’s direct salesperson will work in a given territory for 26 months, while a manufacturers rep will work in that territory for life, according to Bryan C. Shirley, CPMR (Certified Professional Manufacturers Rep) and executive director of AIM/R. Shirley spoke about the rep business at an industry meeting last year.

That commitment and experience enables reps to provide their clients with insightful information regarding the territory and accounts, the market and conditions, relationships and customer knowledge, he said.

Some manufacturers view the other manufacturers listed on a rep’s line card as competitors for his time.

“It’s about sales and growth, not how much time the rep spends on your line,” Shirley said. “Activity does not equal productivity. Reps are performance driven - they only get paid for success.”

He suggested that the rep be treated like the vendor’s direct sales force. One manufacturer refers to its reps as its “extended sales force.” If a manufacturer had to deal direct with customers vs. using a rep, he might have to raise prices 10% to cover the extra services, Shirley noted.

Today health care and automotive expense are major factors in a rep company’s budget.

While reps’ costs are rising, they are being asked to do more by the manufacturers they represent and commissions are shrinking. “Efforts up, earnings down,” Shirley said.

“Reps don’t necessarily sell product, they move information,” he said. And the best reps do it fast and reliably.

Shirley suggested that manufacturers create a rep council. “Bring in five or six reps for a day to a day and a half; take them into your factory and ask what you can do better; have top management present,” he said.

The Association of Independent Manufacturers’/Representatives (AIM/R) is the national trade association that benefits independent sales representatives in the plumbing, HVAC/R, kitchen/bath, waterworks, irrigation and related industries by promoting the proper utilization of the rep function. For more information, visit www.aimr.net.

For information on the CPMR program conducted by MRERF, visit their Web site at www.mfref.org.