I know there are a lot of manufacturers representatives for product-based firms. Our company makes a few products. But we mostly service our clients. How often are Independent Sales Reps used by service providers like our electrical firm? Where can we find them?
Often times when a question pops up like this it'll be a solicitor trying to get a pitch in the side door but since this topic interests me I'm gonna respond. Reason being our company has also been in the process of looking for new representation for several territories and I'm always open for any suggestions on how to find independent reps that are a good fit. Myself... I've been using a service that's sort of like a matchmaker for businesses and representatives. We have been a member or have utilized their service for a couple years now. The first go at it I placed four reps in four territories. One was a multi-rep group. Of those four areas one fellow turned out to be a winner. A real go-getter. So after about a year got rid of the others and went at it again. No winners in the next batch. I'm back at it again and it's tough...
I can't answer your question regarding how often service providers might utilize an independent rep but I'd guess not nearly as often as a manufacturer of goods of some sort. I would suspect that most service shops would go for things like the yellow pages and possibly local newspapers and maybe even TV if they're a fairly large organization. Would seem to me that the type of business you're in would cater to more local work than country wide? Maybe an add in a trade magazine that deals heavily in electronic components? Also notice that a lot of contractors work will come from word of mouth. Doing a customer right is one of the best ways to boost business.
What I've found is many of the reps seeking new lines are looking for established accounts and don't have much interest in any prospecting. Some start out like a house a fire and then fizzle and some just flat out decline the opportunity because of the lack of established accounts / commissions... in the territory they're in. I can't say I blame them but it still leaves me feeling that they're looking for a free lunch. Maintaining them is the easy part... finding them and getting them hooked is the rough part.
Even in areas where we have a good bit of business I've been having a rough time finding somebody that's a "fit." Or somebody that's already familiar with the types of businesses we deal with or that might tend to have opportunities for sales of our products.... Or that might be already selling components that might coincide or be complimentary to what we offer.
I've been giving thought to suggesting to the rest of the board that we consider paying a salaried rep or two for some of the areas that tend to be more heavily populated with the types of manufacturing businesses we deal with. Might be the best bang for the buck in the long run? With a couple reps in our heaviest areas of business reaching retirement age it might be less expensive to hire over commission in the long run. Plus you have more control of what they're up to if you're cutting them a check as an employee.
In your particular situation... would any of your technicians have the capability to represent your business in a professional sales sort of way? I'm sure they know what they're doing on the job but when they are out on a call could you possibly ask them to pay a quick visit to the maintenance supervisor at a nearby business on their way back to the shop? Sort of killing two birds with one stone... When they go on a call the fuels been spent. Maybe try to line up sales calls for any techs that are up to the task and that have good people skills while they're near another business that might be a potential customer. What better representation of a service than the guys doing the work? Of course the tech would need to have appropriate social skills...
Just tossing things out there...