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Tough times are just beginning

Commentary: Reps Raise Value as Markets Tighten

Markets are tighter and tougher that ever. Healthcare, raw material and energy costs are squeezing everyone. That's why we wanted to look at where independent reps are today (article on page 1). As manufacturers' representatives reinvent themselves and redefine their role, distributors can get more value from their rep relationships.

Many distributors have been wary of their local independent reps. They've hesitated to take reps on joint calls to visit their best customers for fear that the rep would show up there again tomorrow with a competing distributor. It's time to let those fears go.

In today's industrial marketplace, the rep's role in the supply chain has shifted, and his responsibilities to the manufacturer include finding and calling on end-users to build brand awareness. So the reality is, he's probably going to be there either way, with or without you.

It's likely that the risk of lost business was never very significant to begin with, anyway. The rep is a territorial animal, and his livelihood depends on building long-term relationships throughout his market and a reputation for fair dealing. He understands that there's no win in sabotaging his relationship with a good distributor to get a quick sale.

A lot of the ethical concerns can be laid to rest by simply talking about them with the rep. Reps would like distributors to sit down with them before making any joint calls and define boundaries and ground rules so everyone knows what can and can't be discussed. You can ask the rep not to discuss lines you don't carry. You can ask the rep to leave all pricing discussions to your salespeople. You can talk about what you want to achieve in the call and enlist the rep in helping you get there.

© 2017 Gale Media, Inc.

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