Episode 34

Winning Outside Sales Rep Strategies for Building Materials Manufacturers

by Smarter Building Materials Marketing

Learn how to win over sales reps, how to avoid common mistakes and how to start building better relationships and growing sales through your external sales rep team.

Jude Nosek from Keson Industries joins the show to share how the company leverages sales rep relationships to grow their market share.

More About This Show

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insight on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

In this episode, Zach and Beth talk to Jude Nosek, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at Keson Industries.

Judes shares how building materials manufacturers can improve their relationships with rep agencies and maximize their return on this investment.

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About Keson Industries

34 Sales Reps Keson Products

Keson is a manufacturer and distributor of high quality measuring and marking tools. They currently sell in the North American marketplace, with a primary focus on professionals.

Throughout the U.S. and Canada, the company has five or six national sales managers who are internal employees that handle a specific geographic region.

Outside of that, Keson also partners with a series of agencies around the country, for a total of more than 60 independent sales reps.

In addition to serving as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development, Jude also handles the western and Canadian agencies to make sure they have the tools they need to sell on behalf of the company.

Jude admits that it’s difficult for a rep agency to sell as well as a company's internal sales team. The major challenge in working with an agency is that they have anywhere from 7 to 12 brands vying for their time and attention (and sometimes more).

As a building materials manufacturer, it’s important to appreciate the juggling act of an outside sales rep, who not only has to learn the personalities and sales numbers of each represented brand but is also running a business of their own.

Staying Top of Mind With Your Sales Rep

You can’t expect to have a sales rep’s top of mind awareness 100% of the time. Ideally, you want to partner with an agency representing other brands that complement your own, so they can work together and reinforce each other.

It’s important to recognize that your company is not the only thing your reps think about. A bit of humility goes a long way, so try to understand where you fit in your agency’s hierarchy and be respectful of that.

One of Keson’s rep agencies builds a grid that compares a company’s ease of doing business with the amount of money they bring in. This visual helps clients like Keson realize how easy (or difficult) they are to work with.

It’s human nature for reps to dislike doing business with brands that are difficult to partner with, so think about how you’re being viewed from the rep’s perspective as you work to maximize the relationship.

Motivation shouldn’t be your primary goal when working with sales reps. They’re already competitive by nature, so you don’t need to figure out what’s going to motivate them.

Instead, make it easy for reps to understand your product so that it’s easy to sell. By doing this, you’ll reduce their risk of failure, which is far more important than motivation.

Avoid being your own worst enemy as a manufacturer and create consistent channels of communications so your sales reps know what to expect.

When looking at manufacturers and their products, sales reps look at four key elements:

  • Quality of product
  • Availability of product
  • How easy the manufacturer is to work with
  • Price

The Benefits of Working With a Sales Agency

While you may be hesitant to hire a sales agency to rep your product, there are many advantages, especially when you pick the right partners to work with.

The first benefit is that an agent can bring your brand into an existing suite of products. Rather than selling in isolation, your product can be sold alongside complementary products. Since Keson makes measuring and marking tools, they can be sold with safety or cleaning products inside a customer’s main business, such as roofing or tiling.

Another major advantage of working with a sales rep is that you automatically gain trust with the consumer because they already have a relationship with the rep. A rep’s existing customer relationships are likely to be 10 years old, if not longer.

When a sales rep chooses your brand, you automatically gain credibility because of that new partnership. And if the rep represents other quality brands, they’re also equating your product to the same level as those other brands.

It’s important to value these distinctions. If you have a high rep turnover, you’ll lose both time and money when constantly training new agencies. Plus, it takes time to build trust and have reps gain the experience to truly believe in your product, so make sure you give the relationship time to grow.

How to Start a New Agency Relationship

Don’t create a one-sided relationship when starting with a new rep agency. Rather than focusing only on what a rep can do for your company, make sure you also lay out what they can expect when working with you.

This goes back to the idea of making your company easy to work with. Keson has built an onboarding process for new agencies which includes a presentation. In the presentation, Jude lists out what reps can expect from Keson and what Keson expects from them. The catch?

Both lists are exactly the same.

Right from the beginning, Keson assures reps that everyone is going to make mistakes, but they’re all going to back each other up. It’s truly a partnership and this honest feedback from the beginning sets a good tone for a positive relationship.

Building an Effective Communications Structure With Sales Reps

Frequency and structure are both important when building communications systems with your sales reps. Create a consistent calendar of touchpoints using tools like calls, newsletters, emails or even an annual meeting. These efforts help your reps learn what to expect from you as a manufacturer.

Keson schedules quarterly calls with reps to update them on how they’re performing against their goals. Jude tries to make the calls both valuable and short, keeping each one under 45 minutes.

Scheduling became an issue, however, when trying to get on the calendars of 60 people in multiple time zones. After one rep asking if the meeting could be on a Friday instead of a Monday, the Keson team decided to try both. Now, they offer that same quarterly call on three different days during the week.

Each meeting is identical and offering those additional opportunities takes away excuses for the agents who can’t make the original meeting. While it takes more time and effort on Keson’s part, they now have much higher participation rates.

Fine Tuning Relationships and Results With Sales Reps

Try to ensure you have an attitude of gratitude. Instead of viewing sales agencies as a cost, look at it as an investment and determine what you can get out of the relationship.

It’s also important to request candid feedback from your sales reps, who offer an outsider’s perspective on your company. Ask who’s doing it better than you are — they’re sure to tell you. You can then take that information and change the things that make sense for your company.

If you can’t make the change, you can at least explain to the sales rep why you can’t do things the same way as another manufacturer. This opens the channel of communication and results in a more authentic relationship.

Jude and his company sell measuring devices as well as some of the best construction levels on the market. Feel free to connect with him at [email protected].

Have more questions about working with sales reps or how to create a marketing strategy for your company? We’d love to help ... Email us at [email protected].

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