Getting the best possible results from your field representatives
Manufacturers and distributors in the musical instrument and professional audio verticals typically choose between maintaining a directly employed, “captive” sales force or farming out field sales work to independent rep firms. In many cases, larger companies chose the former, expecting more focus and dedication from an employee. Small and medium-sized companies may not have the financial wherewithal to support a direct staff, so they often choose the independent rep firm option. There are notable exceptions to this general rule, as in certain cases there are sizeable vendors and some industry giants that successfully utilize indy reps.
Regardless of whether you as a music industry vendor choose captive or indy reps, there are several things that can ensure success. First, make certain that expectations are set and that all salespeople know exactly what is required of them. Clear and unambiguous goals, consistent company policies and the delivery of quality information in a timely fashion are all prerequisites. Sales managers need to be communicative, providing guidance and regularly interacting with field salespeople. One key to success is not waiting until the very end of a month or quarter to have a discussion concerning sales goals. Identifying opportunities or problems early in the reporting period, then strategizing with salespeople, will head off major issues and boost sales.
Going just a bit deeper, field sales representatives should understand how the company is marketing nationally so they can add value by informing the retailers, becoming the conduit for channel marketing. When reps are kept informed, it’s much easier for them to do the same with your retail partners. Providing your team with regular updates on price changes, promotions, quantity discounts, rebates and more keeps information flowing to the front lines. In an ideal situation, you as a music products manufacturer are conducting regularly scheduled conference calls with field reps and including product marketers on the line when appropriate.
Much of this is basic, fundamentally sound advice on how to get the most out of your musical instrument and pro audio sales force. Whether you utilize your own employees or work with independent operators, all good things start with being clear, concise and comprehensive. Provide your salespeople with a defined path to success, walk down that road side-by-side with them and watch great things happen.
This is an important topic for manufacturers and distributors that is near and dear to me, having been a field salesperson and a manager of both employees and independent rep firms. If this is an area where you have challenges and seek some assistance, be sure to drop me a line!