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What does a Manufacturer's Representative do?

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  • Written By: Bill C.
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A manufacturer's representative is an independent contractor who earns income solely by commission and sells products of manufacturing companies, typically in a specific geographic area. Sometimes called manufacturer's reps, brokers, or agents, these entrepreneurs can be self-employed individuals or agencies consisting of several salespeople and support personnel. As a group, they are capable of selling virtually any kind of product made. Most individual reps and agencies will often represent several companies, but sell product lines that do not compete with one another.

Manufacturer's reps usually focus on the same kinds of selling activities as a staff sales force. They pursue sales leads, make sales calls, deliver sales presentations, attend trade shows and conventions, and engage in any additional activities necessary to achieve sales objectives. An agency providing full service can employ six or more people, including administrative support personnel, and represented about 10 manufacturers, or principals.

Larger agencies sometimes offer their clients services beyond sales representation. Extras that these organizations can provide include warehouse storage, product installations, and product maintenance. Some more sophisticated agencies serve clients as consultants, identifying customer needs or problems and offering solutions.

Firms employing a manufacturer's representative for representation tend to be small- to medium-size organizations. Some large corporations, however, rely on reps to expand territories for products. A few even use reps exclusively for company sales efforts.

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Companies that use a manufacturer's representative approach to sales often cite that strategy as offering distinct advantages. The firms don't have to pay a salary, just a percentage of what a product sells for. Sales efforts can be targeted on specific locations where the reps live. In addition, these reps can often improve sales success based on familiarity and knowledge of a local market and existing relationships with potential customers.

Manufacturers seldom require specific qualifications before hiring reps, and simply long for a strong track record in sales. Most reps do have at least a bachelor's degree. Many have to work long hours to earn big commissions, and some have to travel. In return, these reps often gain the potential for high earnings. While some do attain that full potential, the average manufacturer's representative typically earns slightly less than a salesperson on staff at a company.

Downturns in the economy often motivate some companies, especially those struggling financially, to use manufacturer's reps for sales. Trends toward outsourcing may also work in favor of the profession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects steady growth in the number of manufacturer's representatives working in the foreseeable future.

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