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Getting better results from your reps.

Good sales rep agencies have been the salvation of many foundries that lack the financial resources to establish a strong direct sales force, or who want to develop accounts in remote areas where the cost of maintaining a sales office is not feasible.

In most cases, it is difficult for smaller foundry operations, serving a wide variety of customers, to maintain direct salespeople in locations far from the plant. Three problems are apparent: costs of having a person in the field tend to be very high; it is hard to exercise adequate control; and liaison with the foundry becomes difficult unless frequent plant visits are made, which then takes the person from his productive sales efforts.

Also, there are instances where the agent's specialized knowledge and good contacts are essential to getting a chance to do business with a particular prospect. Here, the manufacturer's rep can provide an important entree--a sales opportunity that may not otherwise be available.

It is unfortunate that many foundries get poor or mixed results with agents. Frequently, they handicap their marketing efforts by hasty selection of reps, failing to provide adequate foundry orientation, and not supervising and assisting the agent. The main problem is that most foundrymen lack a clear understanding of how the rep functions, not realizing that he will have little chance of being successful without strong support from the foundry.

Responsibilities

Principal functions of most agents should be searching out prospects, making the initial contact, qualifying prospects in some cases, creating a favorable impression of your company and obtaining an opportunity to quote.

The foundry's domain includes following up on quotations, pricing, prompt delivery, manufacturing and design engineering assistance, and handling service problems.

Thus, considerable direct contact with the customer will be essential--particularly high-volume ones. In effect, once the first job is started, responsibility for future development of a particular account lies primarily with your marketing, engineering and production people.

Therefore, the primary contribution of the manufacturer's representative will be bird-dogging to develop the first order, and to some extent, building the account to substantial volume by acquiring additional jobs.

Measures to strengthen your sales representative network should take several directions. First, performance of the representative in each geographic area should be carefully analyzed to see if he is truly productive. If not, then replace him as soon as practical with an agent who will perform an acceptable job.

Then, a lot of time must be spent working individually with your agents to stimulate their interest and enthusiasm. Building a strong, effective rep organization will take considerable effort. But getting good results with your agents can dramatically affect the overall success of your marketing program.

Representatives should be expected to make a certain number of new prospect calls each month, and the results of these calls reported to the sales manager. Agents' call reports are usually anathema because of the time they take to write. However, almost all reps have tape recorders and there is no reason why they cannot informally submit a call report on tape.

Providing Leads

Your marketing staff should provide prospecting leads to the rep, indicating where important calls are to be made after prequalifying major prospects in the agent's territory. If the agent fails to get results where expected, then the direct sales staff must reserve the right to further develop the prospect.

This option should be made clear in the agent's contractual agreement. In these cases, the rep could receive a token 1% commission until he becomes heavily involved with the account.

Periodically, the sales manager should spend a few days with each representative to become more familiar with his capabilities and the key people in each customer plant. Reps appreciate this help. And closer contact spotlight problem areas as well as opportunities for the foundry to lend additional support to the agent. Good liaison with the rep organization contributes to building a team of high-caliber agents and minimizes the lost-opportunity costs of inadequate, poorly supervised reps.

On a regular schedule, each representative should also be brought into the foundry to discuss problems as well as customer and prospect potentials. These periodic visits will heighten his familiarity with the foundry's capabilities and also make him aware of other castings being produced.

While it is true that some agents "use" foundries with a variety of unethical practices, most are highly conscientious and, if given strong support, can be a valuable asset to your marketing program.

It's in your best interest to give your agents all the assistance and direction they need to do a more effective selling job.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:sales representatives
Author:Warden, T.Jerry
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:761
Previous Article:Small foundries can compete.
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