Do I need To Hire Sales Reps To Grow My Distribution

November 6, 2013

Sales Rep's, Account Managers or me.  Who should do the sales for your product line? And what the heck is the difference between these three groups? We answer these questions and more below! 

  • Sales account managers are typically employed by large manufacturers that have an existing relationship with a major retailer.  These are companies like Johnson & Johnson, Mattel, or even lesser known names.  They have years (decades, even) of experience selling to large retailers and have teams dedicated to each retail account.  They have satellite offices near the HQ offices of major retailers so they can meet with the buyers at the drop of a hat.  They have data and resources dedicated to supporting that retailer’s business.
  • Sales representatives (similar in roles as brokers or distributors) resemble sales account managers in almost every way except they are not employed by the manufacturer.  Instead they are hired by the manufacturer and typically represent several manufacturers.  They key thing to note about both account managers and sales reps is that they have the relationship with buyers and can get new products in front of them.
  • Proprietors of smaller product companies are probably folks like you.  They are just breaking into retailers or figuring out how to.  They have a very lean sales support or do DIY-sales.

So now that we know who is who…Should you work with a sales rep? It all depends on who you are selling to and what their preferences are. Some retailers prefer to work directly with proprietors. Others will refer you to a sales rep, broker or distributor that they prefer.  The key is to first figure out your retailer roadmap (which retailers to approach and when). Next, do research and figure out their preferences. Finally, now you know which retailers you need to hire sales reps for and when.

Also, some retail channels are so fragmented (e.g., beauty salons, natural/organic stores, etc.) that you need to hire sales reps or distributor to cast a wide net using their network. 

Finding a sales rep is all about who you know and word-of-mouth recommendations.  There are a lot of dishonest sales reps out there, so be sure to get a referral.  Before contacting them, you should have your ducks in a row and be prepared to present to them as if they are the retailer.