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Making The Most of Manufacturer Sales Representatives

Manufacturer reps are vital for building material businesses. Understanding their pivotal role in connecting with customers and elevating industry success can be the key to thriving in the competitive market.

by Beth PopNikolov

In the realm of manufacturing, the role of sales representatives often remains misunderstood and underestimated. These industry professionals play a vital role in connecting buyers and sellers, negotiating deals and adding substantial value to manufacturing businesses.

In this blog, we’ll shed light on the key responsibilities, advantages and scenarios that warrant hiring manufacturing sales representatives. We'll also explore the differences between outside and in-house sales representatives, and how they can impact your business.

What Do Manufacturing Sales Representatives Do?

Role Overview

Manufacturing sales representatives are the main bridges that connect buyers and sellers in the industry.

Their primary responsibilities include identifying potential customers, nurturing leads and negotiating deals to ensure a seamless exchange of products. They serve as the face of your company, fostering relationships and building trust with clients.

Value Addition

1. Industry Expertise

One of the main value-adds manufacturing sales representatives bring to your business is their industry expertise. They are well-versed in the nuances of the industry, understanding market trends, customer needs and competitor landscapes.

This knowledge enables them to provide valuable insights and guidance to your customers, ultimately enhancing your business’s reputation and credibility.

2. Client Connections

Manufacturing sales representatives often have an extensive network of industry contacts and clients. Leveraging these connections, they can introduce your products to a broader customer base, saving you the time and effort it would take to establish these connections on your own.

3. Operational Efficiency

The comprehensive industry knowledge and connections of a manufacturing sales representative allow your business to focus on product development and production, while they handle the sales process. This time-saving aspect can be a game-changer, especially in a competitive market.

Day in the Life

A typical day in the life of a manufacturing sales representative is dynamic and demanding. It often includes tasks such as prospecting, client meetings, negotiations and follow-ups. Their day revolves around building and maintaining relationships, staying updated on industry trends, and working towards sales targets.

A manufacturing sales representative plays a pivotal role in the world of sales and business development, specifically within the manufacturing industry. Their primary responsibility is to connect manufacturers with potential customers and facilitate the sale of products or services.

Here's a closer look at what a manufacturing sales representative does in their job:

  • Prospecting and Lead Generation: Sales reps are tasked with identifying and targeting potential clients who may have an interest in or need for the products or services offered by the manufacturer. This involves researching markets, industries and demographics to build a pipeline of potential customers.

  • Product Knowledge: Sales reps need to have a deep understanding of the products or services they are selling. They must be able to expertly explain the features and benefits of their products to potential clients, answer questions and address any concerns.

  • Relationship Building: Building and nurturing relationships with clients is a core aspect of the job. Sales representatives establish trust and rapport, which is crucial for closing deals and fostering long-term partnerships.

  • Negotiation and Closing: Sales reps are responsible for negotiating deals and closing sales. They must be skilled in handling objections, addressing customer needs and structuring agreements that benefit both parties.

  • Market Analysis: Understanding market trends, competition and industry developments is essential. Sales reps keep a finger on the pulse of the industry to adapt their strategies accordingly.

  • Reporting and Documentation: Keeping records of sales activities, client interactions and sales progress is vital for tracking performance and strategizing for future sales efforts.

  • Customer Support: Sales representatives often serve as a point of contact for clients, providing post-sale support, addressing issues and ensuring client satisfaction. Sometimes, this support is as simple as passing the client onto an account manager.

  • Feedback Loop: They act as a valuable feedback loop between customers and the manufacturer, relaying customer preferences, concerns and market demands. This information helps manufacturers continually refine their products and services.

  • Collaboration: Effective collaboration with marketing, product development and other teams is essential. Manufacturing sales representatives often provide insights to improve marketing strategies and align product development with customer needs.

  • Goal Achievement: Meeting sales targets and revenue goals is a constant objective. Sales representatives are evaluated on their ability to generate revenue for the manufacturer.

In essence, a manufacturing sales representative is not just a salesperson but also a relationship builder, industry expert and crucial link between manufacturers and their clients.

Their work is multifaceted and requires a combination of skills, including communication, negotiation and product knowledge, making them incredibly valuable assets in driving business success in the manufacturing sector.

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Outside vs In-House Sales Representatives

Definition and Key Differences

Outside manufacturing sales representatives work remotely and are responsible for customer visits, while in-house manufacturing sales representatives operate from within your company's premises. The choice between these two models can significantly impact how your business operates.

Pros and Cons to Hiring an In-House or Outside Manufacturing Sales Representative

1. Cost Factors

Hiring in-house manufacturing sales representatives can entail more overhead costs, including office space, equipment and benefits. On the other hand, outside manufacturing sales representatives often work on a commission basis, reducing fixed expenses.

2. Control Over Operations

In-house manufacturing sales representatives offer more control and immediate oversight, as they work on-site. Conversely, outside manufacturing sales representatives enjoy flexibility but require effective communication and management to ensure alignment with your building material business’s goals.

3. Geographical Reach

Outside manufacturing sales representatives typically have a broader geographical reach, covering larger territories and potentially expanding your market. In-house manufacturing sales reps may be limited to local or regional markets.

Hiring an in-house or outside manufacturing sales representative depends on your business’s goals. Both in-house and outside manufacturing sales representatives come with their own benefits and challenges that must be carefully examined to determine the best fit.

Remember that your business will rarely employ just one manufacturing sales representative. In choosing whether an in-house or outside rep is best for your business, consider the long-term structural consequences involved.

Will your business build both an in-house and outside sales team? Will their pay structures differ? How will you determine territories and the kinds of sales each team works on? Which model will be most scalable for your business?

Answering these questions can help you determine if an in-house or outside manufacturing sales representative or team will best serve your business.

Case Study

To illustrate the effectiveness of these models, let's consider a case study. A manufacturer operating primarily in the domestic market decided to hire an in-house manufacturing sales representative.

This choice allowed the business to maintain close control over sales operations and foster strong relationships with local clients. However, as the company aimed for international expansion, the company recognized the need for outside manufacturing sales representatives to tap into broader markets effectively.

Sales Rep vs Distributor vs Other Roles

Role Comparisons

In addition to manufacturing sales representatives, other roles, such as distributors and account managers, are also vital in the industry. It's crucial to understand the differences between these roles.

1. Sales Reps vs Distributors

Manufacturing sales representatives work directly for the manufacturer and are responsible for building and managing relationships with clients. Distributors, on the other hand, purchase products from the manufacturer and then sell them to customer.

2. Sales Rep vs Account Manager

While manufacturing sales representatives are focused on the initial sale, account managers work to maintain long-term relationships with clients. They act as a continued point of contact for clients, addressing their ongoing needs and concerns.

When to Use Which Role

The choice between these roles should align with your business needs.

Manufacturing sales representatives are ideal for acquiring new customers and securing deals. They are the first point of contact, establishing a strong foundation for ongoing business relationships.

Distributors can be a valuable asset for expanding your manufacturing business’s reach, especially in international markets. They have established networks and distribution channels.

Account managers play a crucial role in retaining and nurturing existing clients. They focus on customer satisfaction and retention.

Ideally, your business will employ all three types of roles.

When Do You Need a Manufacturing Sales Rep

When Do You Need a Manufacturing Sales Rep?

Identifying the Need

Several scenarios signal the need for hiring a manufacturing sales representative.

1. Rapid Expansion

If your manufacturing business is experiencing rapid growth and struggling to keep up with customer demands, a sales representative can help manage the influx of new clients efficiently.

2. Entering New Markets

Expanding into new markets, whether local or international, often requires a deep understanding of the industry, landscape and local market trends. Manufacturing sales representatives can help make this transition smoother with their expertise and local knowledge.

3. New Product or Service Offering

Hiring a manufacturing sales representative may be advantageous if your business is launching a new product or service. Hiring a manufacturing sales representative who has previous experience with similar products and services can help build momentum with the new offering and increase sales quickly.

Hiring Criteria

When considering hiring a manufacturing sales representative, look for these essential qualities and skills:

  • Strong communication and negotiation skills

  • In-depth manufacturing industry knowledge

  • A track record of successful sales

  • Adaptability and problem-solving abilities

  • Relationship-building skills

Action Steps

To hire a manufacturing sales representative efficiently, follow these steps:

  • Define your goals and expectations for the role.

  • Create a detailed job description outlining responsibilities and qualifications.

  • Use online job boards and professional networks to post your job opening.

  • Conduct thorough interviews to assess candidates' industry knowledge, sales skills and cultural fit.

  • Provide comprehensive training to ensure they align with your company's values and objectives.

When You Don’t Need to Hire a Manufacturing Sales Rep

Identifying the Non-Need

In some cases, a manufacturing sales representative might not be necessary.

1. Small-Scale Operations

For small-scale manufacturers with limited products or local reach, the expenses associated with hiring a sales representative may outweigh the benefits.

For example, if your business is located in a small community and has limited or no competition, a manufacturing sales representative may be superfluous since your business is already well-established in the neighborhood.

2. Direct-to-Customer Model

If your business primarily operates on a direct-to-customer model and does not require extensive sales efforts, the need for a sales representative may be arbitrary.

In this case, a manufacturing sales representative may be a negative addition to your manufacturing business. Smaller-scale purchases may not generate enough revenue or commission to support a sales rep and your business is better off investing in other marketing avenues.

Alternative Options

If you determine that your business won’t benefit from hiring a manufacturing sales representative, consider these alternatives:

  • Ecommerce platforms: Invest in an online platform to facilitate direct sales.

  • Marketing strategies: Focus on marketing and advertising to attract customers without a dedicated sales force.

  • Distributors: Collaborate with distributors to expand your reach without in-house representatives.

Action Steps

If you determine that a manufacturing sales representative is not needed, take the following actions:

  • Optimize your manufacturing business’s online presence and ecommerce capabilities.

  • Invest in marketing and advertising to attract and retain customers.

  • Explore collaboration with distributors to expand your market reach.

Routinely check in on the state of your business’s sales and growth to determine if and when a manufacturing sales representative would be an advantageous addition to your company.

While your business may not have a need now, as your company grows, you may find that a manufacturing sales representative can take your business even further.

Final Thoughts

In the highly competitive manufacturing industry, understanding the role and utility of manufacturing sales representatives is essential for optimizing your business’s operations.

These professionals serve as the driving force behind your business’s sales efforts, connecting you with clients and adding value through their industry expertise and connections. Whether you decide to hire an in-house or outside sales representative, or opt for alternative strategies, making an informed choice will significantly impact the success of your business.

Remember, the right sales strategy can be the key to unlocking your business's full potential in the manufacturing industry.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to increase sales for your business, contact Venveo today. We proudly stand in the gap between your business’s digital success and your best customers. We create digital connections through our expert marketing techniques that can unlock the next stage of growth for your business.

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