The creator of The Busy Woman's Daily Planner needs to get her product into stores far and wide, including globally. Her own door-to-door legwork has landed her a deal with a local Christian bookstore. She has several more products, too. This busy woman needs to find help to broaden the reach of her product line. Hiring her own direct sales force is too costly. There is an alternative: sign up independent salespeople to sell on her behalf. It makes the most economic sense. Here's why.

Independent sale reps, also called manufacturer's reps, provide in-the-field representation for small to medium-size companies. These reps are self-employed, independent contractors who are generally paid by commission only when they make a sale. They serve as a middleman to promote a manufacturer's products to companies or retailers.

Other benefits of this sales relationship:

  • Reps are not paid unless they produce. Your financial risk is lowered.
  • Reps allow your firm to enter and service many markets.
  • Reps can be a shortcut into a market. Reps have contacts in the field and can often get product placement because they have a rapport with the buyers.
  • Reps can provide you with insights into the market. They'll know about competitors, customer complaints, and marketplace openings.
  • Reps can provide synergy. If a rep carries other products that complement yours, the items can be packaged together to make a sale.

Sales reps work in many industries, including beauty supplies, gifts, toys, food service, arts and crafts, and more. For more information on how to find and work with a sales rep, contact Manufacturers' Agents National Association (www.manaonline.org) or the National Association of Sales Agents (www.nasareps.com) or read Selling Through Independent Reps (AMACON, Third Edition, 2000) by Harold J. Novick.

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