Many companies have opted to, instead of hiring a full-time sales force, engage their market with independent sales reps. There are a number of advantages to this model. They don’t deal with the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding. They aren’t paying salaries and benefits. The overhead is minimal, and it has proven to be a very successful model.
For all the benefits, it’s not without challenges. Understanding these challenges and setting up processes around them can go a long way in maximizing the impact of your independent sales force.
Here are 4 things to keep in mind when managing independent sales reps.
1. They work with you, but not for you.
- It’s important to have regular interactions with your independent reps. But don’t overdo it. Schedule time to talk on a regular basis, not just when you need something or need a status update.
- Pass them leads.
- Go the extra mile for them when they need your support. They’ll remember.
- When you go into the field with them, give them plenty of time to plan and don’t overdo the number of visits.
- Let them schedule their own appointments. Don’t be a burden to them.
- Get agreement by using an Up-Front Contract about how the day will go. Don’t just spring things on them on the fly.
2. They own their customers, not you.
- Honor their territory.
- Respond quickly to them.
- Give them leads.
3. They take the heat when something goes wrong.
- When something goes wrong, resist the temptation to justify, excuse, and defend. This accountability will build trust and goodwill with your independent team.
- Resolve issues quickly and get their feedback as to what is acceptable. They are the one taking the heat – they’ll likely have great ideas on how to resolve issues that arise.
- Follow-up after the solution has been implemented. Get their perspective on the state of the relationship.
4. They sell other people’s products, not just yours.
- Help them feel connected to your company. Bring them in to meet the leadership of your company.
- Solicit feedback from them but don’t overdo it. You’ll want feedback on pricing, competition, new product development, customer satisfaction and the like…. but be careful not to overdo it. Set up a plan for when you will speak with them and send them an agenda in advance of your call. Allow them time to think about the information you desire.
- Remember, they have a lot of people who want their feedback. Be intentional and don’t overdo it.
These tips can help you have a better relationship with your independent reps. There are many inherent challenges that come from managing a team of people who don’t work with you exclusively. One Best Practice that we hear is this – keep the lines of communication open. A lack of communication usually results in a lack of sales.