How To Work Effectively With Self Employed Sales Agents
Are you considering working with self-employed sales agents? Last week, as part of our mission to improve the independent sales industry, we brought you the unbelievable story of The Sales Rep Who Was Fired By His Principal For Being Too Successful. The aim of that article was to highlight some of the problems that self-employed sales reps face, as well as educate companies that are considering outsourcing their sales function.
However, you’ll be pleased to know that there are also a great number of companies out there that do know how to properly structure an appealing self-employed sales job opportunity and work successfully with a team of independent sales reps.
We were looking for a company that has been working with their reps the right way and were initially approached by John Davis, a self-employed sales rep who has been working with a company called AMCI successfully for quite some time. AMCI ,are a leading U.S. based manufacturer who’s Industrial Controls help factories run more efficiently, make product manufacturing smarter and automation environments more productive. They do not employ a sales team, and instead choose to solely work in partnership with independent sales reps.
We asked John what makes AMCI such a great company to work with?
AMCI stands out due to their open communication and willingness to try new things. They realize that territory sales growth is a collaborative effort, and they are willing to engage and test different methodologies – even ones outside of their traditional comfort zone – to objectively test and see what works.
Working with AMCI is great – they are transparent, honest, and straightforward. They don’t see reps as interchangeable parts, and they have a fantastic product (which always helps). In my experience, there are three traits a company must have in order to be successful with independent reps:
- Great product
- A proper understanding of self-employed reps
- Industry-leading response time on quotes and engineering requests
AMCI has all three.
Introducing Bob Alesio, Director of Sales and Marketing at AMCI
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today Bob. We would like to better understand your reasons for choosing to outsource your sales function and what makes AMCI not only so appealing for self employed sales agents, but to share your understanding of this type of sales professional with our readers.
Can you tell us a bit about your company and your role within the organization
Advanced Micro Controls Inc. (AMCI) is a designer/manufacturer of industrial automation controls that are sold into a wide variety of markets. Our product families consist of Specialty I/O, Position Sensing, and Motion Control for PLC-based control systems. As the Director of Sales & Marketing I am responsible for all aspects of the company’s sales and marketing efforts, including strategy and sales team development.
Do you only work with independent sales reps or do you also have an employed sales team?
AMCI goes to market using independent sales reps and do not utilize an employed sales team.
What made you decide to work with independent sales reps over salaried employees?
Our decision to outsource our sales and use independent reps was based on our goal of establishing a sales force in an effective, but efficient fashion. Contracting manufacturers reps allows us to manage our sales force costs in relationship to growth VS significant upfront costs associated with employed sales representatives. Additionally, our manufacturers reps sell products from other principals that complement AMCI’s offering, giving our company expanded sales access to customers and accounts that wouldn’t be available to an employed sales team.
What sets a self-employed sales rep apart from an employee?
What sets a self-employed sales rep apart from an employee are cost and exposure. As discussed above, the cost of manufacturers reps scales with our business making it more efficient, and their other complimentary product lines expand their visibility for AMCI sales opportunities.
What qualities do you look for in an independent sales rep before agreeing to work with them?
First and foremost, I look for a sales agency that values professionalism and integrity since they’ll be an extension of our company. AMCI has built a strong, valuable reputation over the last 29 years and it’s very important that representatives reflect our value system. I also seek sales reps with excellent communication skills, be it speaking engagements, phone calls, or emails. I also evaluate a reps technical background and familiarity with B2B sales channels (distribution, factory direct, etc.) as these factors strongly influence the sales approach on a case-by-case basis. Last, but not least, I look for reps that are already selling product lines complementary to AMCI.
Should independent sales reps be treated more like partners in your business? If so why?
Absolutely! It’s unreasonable to expect an independent sales representative to become a valuable, high performance extension of your organization when they’re not treated this way. Successful partnerships are built on trust, respect, and hard work, and a principal’s relationship with their independent sales reps is no different. It’s a two way street that both parties (principal and rep) must travel together.
What is it that makes your company and opportunity attractive to potential reps?
AMCI is attractive to independent sales reps for several reasons. In no particular order, I believe reps are drawn to our company for these reasons:
Product Quality: AMCI designs and manufactures all of our products with an emphasis on quality. If our products experience an issue we’re staffed to troubleshoot that issue quickly and engineer a solution if needed. A quality sales rep is interested in selling quality products that solves problems and adds value.
Sales Support: AMCI has invested considerable time, effort, and money in our factory-based team. Our sales staff, support technicians, and engineering group hold formal degrees in their areas of expertise and have years of experience supporting the types of products and customers that make up AMCI’s business. As a result, we’re uniquely qualified and committed to supporting our sales reps efforts at every turn vs. expecting them to drive orders in a vacuum.
Marketing/Lead Generation: AMCI has made substantial investments in marketing communication be it our website, printed/PDF literature, product videos, and demo equipment. In turn, our lead generation program drives a fair number of highly qualified prospects for our sales reps to pursue. It’s important for sales reps to have the right tools when it comes to selling products, especially technical devices for automation, and our marketing materials and support structure enhance their job.
Integrity/Trust: This aspect of a principal proves itself out over time, however, AMCI commits to paying all of our rep commissions accurately and in a timely fashion. Additionally, we do not designate “house accounts” within a rep territory.
How do you feel about principals that let independent reps go because they are too successful and as a result earn very high levels of commission?
I’m not in a position to judge other businesses, however, the strength of a successful sales team (independent or employed) stems from the relationships they’ve cultivated with the customers. The problem with letting go of successful reps based on their commissions is two-fold. First, growing commissions means growing sales which should be everyone’s goal. Secondly, long term, high value customers don’t buy your products – they buy your products, expertise, and support; all ingredients embodied by a high performance rep. I know companies let go of reps because they question their value once sales have grown in a territory, however, that psychology usually stems from insecurity at the factory because steps haven’t been taken to partner more effectively with the outside sales force. In other words, letting go of a high performance rep to save the company money on commissions is a short sighted plan that doesn’t bode well for future sales.
What advice would you give to principals that are looking to work with reps for the first time?
A successful principal and rep relationship is always built on good, clear communication and expectations. It’s no different from any other relationship.
Would you like to learn more about working with self-employed sales reps?
As you might already know, CommissionCrowd is the platform that facilitates the connection between professional self-employed sales agents and companies globally. Prior to our launch we are running a series of free online training webinars that teach companies how to better understand the role of the self-employed sales agent in business. We would love to have you join us! Simply click on the following link, sign up and we’ll see you there! Free Training Events: Understanding self employed sales agents