Do Manufacturers Wrongly Prioritize Their Sales Team?

IPVM integrator survey results showed what integrators most like and dislike about manufacturer salespeople. At the top of the list was proactive help, quick responses, informative reps and sharing leads.

However, manufacturers seem to prioritize / reward different, if not opposing priorities.

In most sales organizations I have seen, the 'alpha dog' / 'top guy' is the salesperson who lands whales. You land the biggest account of the year or the history of the company, and everyone praises you and you get looked at as the best.

Ironically, though, integrators, manufacturer's core customers, not only don't care about this, they actively stated their unhappiness with reps who focs on whales.

What do you think? Should manufacturer focus more on servicing / supporting their existing customers or should the greatest incentives go to the 'big game' hunters?


I would say the two aren't mutually exclusive. It's true sales people are driven initially by the compensation plan provided by their management and then by their direct manager and then their own personal habits and experience. The support structure they have at hand or lack of isn't always seen by the integrators. It's easy to become pre-sales and tech support for dealers in the name of "supporting them" or "providing that extra service" and have that kill your sales results. It's a fine line. Someone who exclusively hunts whales and ignores routine business clients is either specifically in a new business development role where they then turn over the business to regionals as defined by their role or maybe they just lack follow up skills and deserve the reputation they get. Sometimes the business has grown such that they are doing a maintenance role along with new business development beyond what should be. Eventually the territory scales accordingly and they can return to being responsive. Some have made friends and have just enough business that they don't want anyone new because that would mean more work. Yes, I have known those. Some just have a hard time delivering bad news and won't pick up a phone to tell you that from what they know (assume) your business and theirs aren't a good fit. The manufacturer controls the territory and a compensation plan while the individual controls how they deal with people. It is nice to have a whale land but regular business is always best from my personal experience and I have landed several whales for a lack of trying.

"Someone who exclusively hunts whales and ignores routine business clients is either specifically in a new business development role where they then turn over the business to regionals as defined by their role or maybe they just lack follow up skills and deserve the reputation they get."

A, good point. So are RSMs than typically supposed to be 'farmers' then?

"In the area of motivation, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does."

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink - Ted Talk 2009

The extrinsic/intrinsic motivation point should be heavily emphasized. Encouraging people to "follow their dreams" (within reason) is beneficialy for all parties involved.

The best of the best in any given occupation almost always have a passion for what they do. Money is less of a motivator and more of a pleasant side effect. They're intrinsically motivated to do what they love and would probably do it even if the pay was less.

People who want to be doctors, engineers, or lawyers for the money often flunk out, switch majors, or change careers down the road. The extrinsic motivation of money isn't enough to keep them motivated or happy.

The answer to your question must include who both the manufacturer and the customer are. For a burglar alarm panel manufacturer the "whale" IS the customer, while for a VMS manufacturer with a camera line, the end user is the "whale". Regardless, the manufacturer's rep (inside/outside sales or rep firm) is responsible for increasing the manufacturer's sales to the greatest degree possible.

In landing and supporting a new customer, the burglar alarm manufacturer (or manufacturer fitting this general profile) continues his support through the rewards (expected services) detailed within your first paragraph. By doing so, this rep ensures his brand will increase total sales by the maximum available. The customer (dealer) needs to lead sales, and be happy for any bonus leads available from the manufacturer.

In landing a new whale of an end user, the VMS manufacturer (or one fitting this general profile) is ensuring his company benefits from the greatest potential sales volume. This rep certainly supports his dealers, because if they fail in the sales, installation and service process, the manufacturer may suffer from the bad reputation created by the dealer. However, with the exception of mega-dealers who also land the whale customers, the rep serves his company best by spending the majority of their time landing whale end users.

A happy successful dealer, in either of the above circumstances, is a sign the rep has done his or her job well. A happy end user is a sign both the rep and dealer have done their jobs well.

"For a burglar alarm panel manufacturer the "whale" IS the customer, while for a VMS manufacturer with a camera line, the end user is the "whale"."

John, that's a good differentiation. Thanks! I think camera and VMS manufacturers are in a similar position here. Camera manufacturer even more benefit from whale customers that can buy thousands of tens of thousands of cameras at once.

One other comment you made:

"the [VMS] rep serves his company best by spending the majority of their time landing whale end users."

I agree with you, though I think this is part of the dynamic that causes tensions between video manufacturers and integrators.

Whale hunting and farming are two different roles demanding two different (though related) skillsets, and should ideally be fulfilled by two different people. The problem is almost every farmer dreams of being a whale hunter one day.

I think John G. made great points separating the types. Ari is correct and many whale hunters become farmers at some point to the disappointment of management. To John H's point, have you noticed the slight variances in acronyms for sales roles, Director, KAM (key account manager) BD or BDM (Busineas Develoment Manager), NAM (National Account Manager), RSM (regional sales manager). Some require more territory management and some are specificlly hunter roles, usually.

Ironically, though, integrators, manufacturer's core customers, not only don't care about this, they actively stated their unhappiness with reps who focs on whales.

At least by other flip-side though, saintly integrators never give xtra focusing to their own overgrown customer, but instead like to thin spread themselves out fairly finely, and with equality, whether: mom and pop's live bait shop or Shammu and friends at SeaWorld. [sarcaustic]

In my experience working for a manufacturer that uses indepenent rep firms, I feel that many times they want the factory direct people focusing on the whale hunting and let the independent reps handle more of the day to day business at the street level (involving the factory direct salesperson when necessary).

I think for a camera manufacturer to be successful they have to use a hybrid model like this. This is not to say the independent reps cannot whale hunt, what I'm saying is most good manufacturers have people strictly devoted to business development of the largest end user customers.

Ultimately if you close big deals for the manufacturer and drive lots of revenue it helps the company expand. While it is nice for Joe independent sales rep to close the 8-30 camera jobs on a consistent basis, the guy who closes deals with Amazon or Wal-mart is going to get the majority of the credit because not only is it good PR for the company: It brings in a lot of money.

Even when those 8-30 camera systems make up the lion's share of the camera market, the few splashy whale sales grab the headlines.