Most sales professionals today still tend to be manufacturing representatives. These MR’s typically go in to see accounts, tout the company or companies they rep for, and essentially sell the benefits of those companies to the prospect. For example Joe, a sales rep for ABC Company’s security tape, sets up a meeting with a prospect. He listens to their requirements, and presents a couple of options that seem to fit the bill. But is this really the best option for the customer? Another example is Steve, a sales rep for a label manufacturer that received an opportunity to quote on some labels. Will the prospect receive the proper quoted solution?
Independent Customer Representative
For the past decade I have approached the customer relationship from a different perspective. I refer to myself as an “independent customer rep,” rather than a sales rep. There are major differences between the two. I am not locked into any single supplier or source to solve problems for people. Each manufacturer may have their niche or specialty, and after years of building the network, I know who to call for certain opportunities. Suppose a prospect has a situation where she needs to have a ton of information on a product, but there is a space limitation. A rep from an offset label printer may recommend a separate set of instructions. A rep from a standard label house may recommend tiny text. And a rep from a label manufacturer who specializes in booklet labels, may recommend, of course, a fold out label. The point here is that each rep can only offer what their company's capabilities are. In my case, I work with a half-dozen label houses, each of which specializes in their own area. Therefore, I bring much more to the table in terms of resources and the ability to present viable labeling solutions.
Better Service and Price Options
Some may say, ahh, yes but the customer ends up paying more by buying through a middle man. This is not necessarily true. Part of the job also requires finding the best price for the customer. Having multiple sources to quote and bid, and knowing in advance who may be the best fit for the job vs. being the rep from only a single manufacturer, often results in better pricing. And in cases where the pricing is higher through a middle man, the benefits that the rep brings to the table often easily offset higher pricing.
Assuring Quality Assurance
Some may say, ahh, yes, but a middle man won’t be able to have control over quality. Some, but not all jobs may require ISO 9000 quality assurance. By building long-term relationships with core manufacturers, and knowing which outfit is the best fit for a particular job, helps ensure quality. Furthermore, with my background in ISO 9000 systems and implementation, I am able to work with some suppliers to actually develop and enhance their QC processes.
Leverage to Better Accommodate Rush Requests
Finally, some say a reseller or middle man will not have as much ability to accommodate rush requests. Really? By partnering with the core vendors, providing them with a steady stream of business over the years, and paying bills on time results in leverage that helps accommodate customer requirements.
The above are some examples of why dealing with an independent customer representative, or in my case a label specialist, is the best fit for a lot of companies.