You may already know that partnering with a manufacturers’ representative agency gives you immediate access to new markets, shortens your response times to customer problems, involves no overhead, and gives you access to experienced sales teams that are highly invested in your industry.

But how do you pick the right manufacturers’ representative agency, exactly? What qualities and credentials should you look for when searching for agencies, screening candidates, and making your decision?

6 Things Manufacturers Should Look for in Independent Sales Reps

At Durrie Sales, we’ve been building relationships with U.S. industrial manufacturers, distributors, and end users for more than 80 years. During that time, we’ve learned the top qualities that manufacturers look for when selecting an agency to grow their sales pipeline and increase revenue.

Here’s what you should look for when considering a manufacturer’s representative agency:

  1. Long-term relationships
  2. Proven sales process
  3. Geographic proximity to your customers
  4. Synergistic product lines
  5. Additional services
  6. Solid reputation in the industry
  7. An advocate for your brand

Let’s examine each of these in detail.

1. Long-Term Relationships

What is a good relationship worth?

Once you start interviewing candidates, you will discover that manufacturers’ representative agencies are only as good as their network of existing customers, suppliers, and industry stakeholders. This means one of the first things you must look for is an agency that already has great relationships with the businesses you want to reach.

Rep agencies that have developed long-term partnerships with key accounts in your market save you time and effort on building those relationships yourself. Plus, they’re able to leverage their knowledge of the market and its key players, giving you priceless expertise and advice.

2. Proven Sales Process

How efficiently can your sales agency close deals?

Show us the top businesses in any industry, and we’ll show you businesses that follow proven processes. Successful businesses discover what works—and then stick with it. When you outsource your sales function to a manufacturer’s representative agency, you should look for candidates that follow a proven sales process.

For example, how efficiently does the sales rep agency close new deals? Is their approach systematic and documented, or is it ad hoc? Ideally, they should follow a structured, well-documented process that centers on long-term, strategic business planning and not just chasing orders. When you sit down to interview and screen your top picks, ask each agency to describe their sales process. Invite them to be transparent about the steps they take at each stage of the deal.

3. Geographic Proximity to Your Customers

Does location matter?

Location is another factor to assess when selecting an independent sales rep agency. If you want your products shipped to certain markets, and a sales rep agency already has a warehouse there, you instantly gain an advantage over manufacturers who might need several days to get their products to the customers.

Naturally, any agency you choose will have to have feet on the ground in the territory you want to penetrate immediately. But before you ink a contract, discover the plans that each manufacturer’s representative agency has for growing your product line in their territory. The ideal partner is one that has plans that match your own, and you should be cautious of hiring an agency that is not prepared to grow as you grow.

4. Synergistic Product Lines

How can synergistic product lines give your rep leverage in the market?

Yes, you are partnering with a manufacturer’s representative agency because you want them to carry your line of products. But just as important are the other products that they sell. Ideally, your sales rep agency should bring synergistic product lines to the table. In other words, they should already be selling a line of products that appeals to the type of customer who you are trying to reach with your products.

Why is this important?

Great salespeople are always listening carefully for opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. And when those salespeople carry complementary product lines, these opportunities arise much more frequently. For example, if you sell tool holders, and your rep is talking to Company A about their need for a large volume of new cutting tools from Manufacturer XYZ, there’s an immediate opportunity for you to gain Company A as a customer, too.

When considering a manufacturer’s representative, seek out an agency that will cross-sell and upsell products that meet your end-user customer’s needs, creating additional selling avenues for your business. Look for proven ability to sell multiple products to the same customer on the same call.

5. Additional Services

Can a rep take your sales strategy to the next level?

While we are on the topic of synergistic product lines, let’s talk about synergistic services. An independent sales rep agency should bring more to the table than an address book of prospects and a list of complimentary SKUs. Your independent rep should offer additional services that help you make sense of your business at large.

Your manufacturer’s representative should offer consulting and expertise that complements their sales effort and helps you see the bigger picture. The best manufacturer’s representatives will also help you with account management, product marketing, reporting, and training. They help you take your sales strategy to the next level.

Look for agencies that suggest ways to improve your processes, share competitive intelligence, share successes and failures, and educate themselves about your ideal customers and your product lines.

6. Solid Reputation in the Industry

What about those references?

Sometimes, the most important thing about a manufacturer’s representative agency isn’t what they say, but what others say about them. A good reputation goes a long way in this industry.

A good reputation takes many forms, of course. Measure the value of your independent sales rep partner by their performance record, experience, network, testimonials, and word-of-mouth reputation. If they are well-known in your sector, what are they known for? If they are held in high regard for their values, do their values mesh with those of your company?

One sure way to measure reputation is to ask for references. Your ideal candidates are the ones who have stellar references from current customers, and who have success stories to tell from recent engagements.

7. An Advocate for Your Brand

Are you confident that they will have your back?

Your manufacturer’s representative agency will eventually become an extension of your brand in the marketplace. Which means you must pick an agency that knows, understands and will be loyal to your brand.

Look for an agency that takes an active interest in your brand values, your product line, and your people. And also look for an agency that is an advocate for your customers. You need a partner who cares about the success of your customers as much as your success.

The best advocate will also understand your competitors, knows what sets you apart, and how to best position your products against competing offerings.

Partnering with the right manufacturer’s representative agency is all about relationships. Your relationship with them, their relationship with your customers, and their relationships within the marketplace.

From the start, look for an experienced, service-focused sales team that you can trust to open doors, expand your market, and positively represent your brand.

If you are U.S. manufacturer looking for a partner to help you grow your sales pipeline and increase revenues, you may find our downloadable checklist handy: 6 Things Manufacturers Should Look for in Independent Sales Reps.

6 Things Manufacturers Should Look for in Independent Sales Reps