Manufacturers are often so consumed with making their products safe, reliable and user-friendly that they can overlook one of the most critical questions they should be asking…How do I find independent sales reps who are passionate about my products, engaged with my best markets, ready to go the extra mile to represent my products in new and expanding territories and those who are willing to help educate me and my internal team on how to best get our products on shelves?
In addition, finding the kind of sales reps that are ideal for products or services can be difficult as these kinds of professionals are often extremely focused on procuring their own companies to represent, thus making it that much harder for manufacturers to grab their attention and get on their radar.
To further complicate the issue, independent sales reps often give themselves varying titles. Some prefer “independent sales rep,” while others favor terms like freelance, commission only, or 1099 sales rep. So, what’s a manufacturer to do when they are faced with these obstacles?
In reality, many “hit the proverbial wall” as the saying goes when it comes to finding the perfect fit in a sea of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts as 1,720,700 independent sales reps in the United States as of April 20211.
How One Manufacturer Looks for Sales Reps: His Steadfast Approach
According to Courtney Little who owns and runs three companies, including Ace Glass Construction, Centerline Systems—a manufacturer—and Ace Glass Recycling in Arkansas, “It can really be challenging to find the right fit for every aspect of your process. With three separate companies, I’ve learned that one of the biggest challenges is finding sales reps who I can communicate with to create a plan of action that we are both comfortable working within.”
He continues, “My businesses are doing work in many markets, including California, Missouri, Oklahoma and New York, and we’re still growing in other states like Georgia, so it’s almost impossible to have one independent sales rep for all my operations.”Courtney has often followed the same routes as other manufacturers who are looking for sales reps to get them into new or vertical markets. For example, he’s a member of several peer groups. “As I’ve grown our manufacturing company, we primarily target regional areas and do our own sales. But as we talk to people in other regions, we hear things like ‘that product would really help us’ or ‘we’d be interested’,” he says.
“It’s really hard sometimes to find a sales representative…and a good one. It can also be a bigger hindrance to expansion because manufacturing takes time, and we can’t have a warehouse full of products with nowhere to send them. Even with coverage in 15 to 20 of the 50 U.S. states, it’s just not enough if we want to keep producing our core lines while also looking at new product lines and towards future sales.”
Meet Courtney Little
As a business owner of three companies that cover several aspects of Glass Manufacturing and Recycling, Courtney has a large footprint with company and vendor relationships in Arkansas, California, Missouri, Oklahoma, New York, and Texas. His history includes stints in investment banking, insurance, and as a licensed attorney in several states. He now runs his family-owned business, where he has created a growth strategy that covers manufacturing, fabrication, assembly, and installation in both large commercial and some residential projects. As with any seasoned business owner, Courtney attributes his success with “building ongoing relationships that grow and prosper over time.”