Best & Worst Manufacturer Salespeople

By Brian Rhodes, Published Nov 10, 2014, 12:00am EST

What manufacturers were rated the worst? Which the best?

What do integrators want from their manufacturer salespeople? What offends them the most?

New IPVM survey results of 100+ integrators answer these questions inside, including:

  • The 3 most polarizing manufacturer sales teams
  • The 4 key positive traits that integrators repeated
  • The 4 fatal negative characteristics that integrators bemoaned
  • The 2 up and coming manufacturers with strong results
  • The 2 incumbent manufacturers with weak results
  • The 4 key themes of bad sales traits found were:

    • Unresponsive
    • Ignorant
    • Whales only
    • Arrogant

    The 4 common traits of good salespeople were:

    • Proactive
    • Responsive
    • Knowledgeable
    • Share leads

    Bad Sales Traits

    Unfortunately, the industry is full of examples of 'how not to be a good salesman'. Here's a chart breaking down the common claimed bad behaviors of poor salespeople:

    Unresponsive: The most common complaint is also one of the most basic. Bad salespeople do not respond when called on for help. Some of the more select color comments driving this home:

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    • "We end up calling them for all our questions, however they do not field many phone calls anymore."
    • "When the #^#$ hits the fan they stop answering their phones and magically disappear."
    • "They have limited power within their organization; are slow to respond to communications"
    • "Slow to respond. No answers to many technical questions. Passing the buck to the distributor."
    • "They take days to respond back to emails and return phonecalls."
    • "We are constantly chasing them for information. Almost impossible to get sales material (brochures etc)."
    • "Their sales staff always seen to be too busy to reply to an email or answer their phones."

    Ignorant: Another fundamental mistake many salespeople make is lacking adequate knowledge of their own products. With the first line of product support falling to salespeople, not knowing basics is a critical problem in the worst possible place:

    • "Sales team is not knowledgeable of their own product, and they don't really seam to care either."
    • "[They are] Pizza men with very little knowledge about their own products and even less about market average and leaders."
    • "They don't seem to know their own products nor understand backwards comparability issues."
    • "Those guys just don't know what they are talking about. They sell products that don't work, full of bugs and issues and they just like saying yes to every possible request."
    • "Our local sales rep has little knowledge about their security products and doesn't understand basic technical terms."
    • "The sales person in our territory is inept, doesn't know the product and doesn't know how to get the answers from his company."

    Whales Only: Other salespeople only are interested in servicing big accounts. Several comments note they are completely ignored unless they are working on a big sale or buying big volumes to earn attention:

    • "The sales manager refused to help us quote a big project. He wasn't even helpful in suggesting possible distributors. We received quotes from them for a very large bid and when we wanted to confirm pricing later on for smaller qty they did not reply to numerous requests."
    • "Having decided I was not producing enough revenue for them they immediately cut me off from their dealer portal and no longer respond to my queries."
    • "Usually no help, unless a large project."
    • "Too interested in just the very big stuff."
    • "Their focus on meeting monthly targets often flies in the face of genuine customer needs."
    • "Difficult to reach. Only seem interested in BIG opportunities. Their pricing reflects this as well."

    Arrogant: Then to top it off, some salespeople convey an attitude of superiority when they speak.  This leaves many questions without answers, or otherwise makes direct communication difficult with a closed or elitist attitude about their products.

    • "They have arrogant sales people about a product which hasn't kept pace with technology."
    • "That company seems to have elitist attitude. Plus when big job came up for us was told 'it would be months' before he could come out."
    • "Their regional sales manager is pompous and self serving."
    • "RSM was very arrogant, played phone tag and never got back to me.  Oh well, their loss not mine."
    • "They think they've done enough just listening, maybe they should think about going into politics."
    • "Sales does not understand the professional or moral relationships, there is more emphasis on generating end-user buy-in without respecting the dealer channel."

    Good Sales Traits

    On the other hand, there are a few distinguishing characteristics of good salespeople. The chart below reveals the common traits most appreciated by survey respondents:

    Proactive: The most common positive trait salespeople demonstrate is active involvement in winning new business with their company's products.  Whether it is just checking in regularly, training on new products, or just sharing current information, the best salesmen do it without needing to be asked first:

    • "My rep also stops by regularly to train us on new products, send us updated price lists/product lists. He and the engineer can be easily reached, if I have a technical question."
    • "They schedule joint sales calls with end users frequently; are advocates for the dealers within their own company, and help provide demo gear when needed."
    • "We have a great rep who works to provide training and sales opportunities."
    • "They keep me abreast of their latest developments."
    • "Local presence and aggressive."
    • "Support in pursuing opportunities was very good."
    • "They are helpful with design and pre-sales support which is indispensable when working on larger opportunities."

    Responsive: Secondly, if salespeople are contacted, they are prompt in returning calls or emails. Even for seemingly minor questions, the responders to our survey question made it clear quick followup is important:

    • "They always stay in touch, email responses are quick. to the point and always looking to be helpful."
    • "My rep is great, always returns my calls directly within the hour or sends a text of when he can talk with me. If he cannot get to me quickly enough he has one of his inside sales contact me to take care of business."
    • "Almost instantly responsive and devoted to being a partner not just a salesman recognizing that he doesn't always have the best solution and is willing to help find that solution."
    • "They have promptly responded to requests for deal registration discounts."
    • "They respond quickly to communications"
    • " Our sales rep is very responsive to sales and tech support questions. He even calls every month just to check in."
    • "Give them a network scenario or application, they respond immediately with solution and equipment requirements."

    Knowledgeable: Good salespeople understand what they are selling and are able to convey where their products fit when asked. Not only is product knowledge valued, but general system understanding and market dynamics are important as well:

    • "They are knowledgeable, ready to help us win and overall great people to work with."
    • "The good ones guide you through their product range without blinding you with their knowledge of acronyms."
    • "Sales understands the product technically and market position, and the channel management in a polite, professional way."
    • "They share ood information such as possible exceptions/equals to specifications. They show some cognitive thinking and care in their responses to us."
    • "The salespeople have a very good knowledge of the product and have the support staff to call on if they do not have the answers."
    • "They all appear to be well trained and are almost "apple-like" in terms of their passion for both the brand and their products."

    Share Leads: Several responses made it clear that when manufacturers bring them leads or new business to resellers, it sets them apart. Instead of being brought in to jobs, but also bringing others in to new work is a distinguishing trait:

    • "They involve me in their sales team and provide leads."
    • "We get calls from the RSM regularly to bid on projects."
    • "They go out and help us bring in new customers in a direct way."
    • "sales manager regularly passed lead and inquiries to us"
    • "I get calls telling me about new opportunities regularly."

    Strong but Polarized - Avigilon

    Integrators had very strong feelings about Avigilon's sales team. Either they loved them for giving them gold treatment or they bemoaned them for trying to screw them over.

    Overall, though, by a 2:1 ratio, integrators citing Avigilon (total of 21) choose them as the best.

    Here are some of the most passionate favorable integrator responses:

    • "Avigilon sales manager regularly passed lead and inquiries to us. Support in pursuing opportunities was very good."
    • "Multiple personal visits, high level of sales engineering assistance, works with end users in our presence and brings meat to the table. This runs from Factory RSM to Rep agency to inside sales and tech support. Everyone is in the chain is working for our success."
    • "Avigilon. They respond quickly to communications; schedule joint sales calls with end users frequently; are advocates for the dealers within their own company; and help provide demo gear when needed."
    • "Avigilon - They are aggressive at developing their own leads and bringing them to us as well as very quick on support for our own internal leads and projects. I have basically 4 different people in place to assist me."

    And, on the flip side, the negative:

    • "Avigilon - Always looking for a ways to flip deals"
    • "We were courted by the Avigilon rep for our area- when we had an opportunity, we were told that we'd have to purchase through another dealer in another region- we couldn't by from Avigilon directly. he was trying to protect the existing dealers in the area however the whole thing was just too shady for us... why approach us if he couldn't set us up. we walked away."
    • "Avigilon - Having decided I was not producing enough revenue for them they immediately cut me off from their dealer portal and no longer respond to my queries."
    • "They over promise and under deliver."

    The net / net for Avigilon is that, if they are behind a dealer, they will evidently totally support them.

    Strong but Polarized - Axis

    By a 2:1 ratio, integrators citing Axis (total of 30) choose them as the best. 

    The key theme in comments was 'always', the ability to depend on Axis:

    • "They are always available, knowledgeable, ready to help us win and overall great people to work with."
    • "The ones we deal with always follow through with their actions and you don't have to "nag" them for follow-up."
    • "Always willing to help....always willing to get you what you need ...much less red tape with Axis than other manufactures."
    • "Always stay in touch, email responses are quick. to the point and always looking to be helpful. Despite the fact that we have done less business with them than other manufacturers, their guy is making progress every year to become more embedded with us through awesome service, positive attitude and being humble."
    • "The Axis field sales reps always get back to you. It take a few hours, but they always return your email and/or phone call."

    The negative side focused on reps with lack of knowledge or interest:

    • "Continually changing thus not extremely well trained. Typically argumentative which is ironic since depending on who the salesman is this week, I may know the product line better than him or her."
    • "Seem to have elitist attuide."
    • "Pizza men with very little knowledge about their own products."
    • "We've sold Axis gear for more than three years and we just learned the name of our sales rep a couple months ago, but they've never called or visited us."
    • "Difficult to reach. Only seem interested in BIG opportunities. Their pricing reflects this as well."

    For Axis, sales support is especially challenging given their massive ~65,000 partner base.

    Split and Polarized - Milestone

    Integrators were split down the middle about Milestone with 7 positive and 7 negative.

    The positives included:

    • "We have a great rep who works to provide training and sales opportunities."
    • "My Milestone rep is great, always returns my calls directly within the hour or sends a text of when he can talk with me. If he cannot get to me quickly enough he has one of his inside sales contact me to take care of business."
    • "Our sales rep is very responsive to sales and tech support questions. He even calls every month just to check in." 
    • "Sales reps that are willing to go the extra mile to help me when I Need it."
    • "My regional rep always make sure to call whenever there are opportunities available. He communicates with support if necessary."

    The negatives included:

    • "They listen and nod there head in agreement but don't look into anything you say."
    • "Milestone: They have salespeople?!?!"
    • "In our region at least, we have a bunch of loose canons who add very little to the sales process other than what exists in their powerpoint presentations."
    • "Milestone is one we just don't hear from but have used in the past."
    • "Their sales staff always seen to be too busy to reply to an email or answer their phones."

    Strong - Hikvision

    Hikvision had 9 best votes and no worst votes. Integrators consistently praised their efforts and knowledge. Here are a selection of those comments:

    • "Our sales rep is extremely helpful, responsive and informative. He was a tech before he went into sales so he knows the installation side of the business. He works closely with our distributors to ensure adequate inventory is available at our distributor's warehouses."
    • "They answer the phone, (usually) and stay fairly involved with our larger projects, with support and technical information."
    • "Responsive, able to help offer discounts to win projects, sent free samples, provided updates on new technology, reasonably knowledgeable and able to advised on what is the best product for the customer."
    • "I get immediate responses from Ricky @ Hikvision. Being a former tech he is very knowledgeable."
    • "My hikvision rep also stops by regularly to train us on new products, send us updated price lists/product lists. He and the engineer can be easily reached, if I have a technical question they can typically answer my questions (its impressive when the sales people know as much as tech support) if they don't know the answer they can get an answer from their engineering department pretty quickly."
    • "Most everyone is relatively new and wanting to establish the brand domestically through relationship building."

    Strong - Samsung

    Samsung had 8 best votes and no worst ones. Integrators emphasized their proactiveness and responsiveness, including comments like:

    • "Sales assist get responded too immediately, and good information such as possible exceptions/equals to specifications are offered. They show some cognitive thinking and care in their responses to us."
    • "Samsung. Although we do not sell any products of theirs yet, their rep was very helpful. He came to see me in person. He answered all of my questions in person and in a very timely fashion through email. Sample products were supplied as promised. I have never had to chase him for anything. Thorough, complete and professional."
    • Samsung - They do all they can to help us thru the sales process.
    • Samsung. Factory guy and rep are just a great team. Really go out of their way to support us and our customers.

    Weak - Panasonic

    On the other side, Panasonic had 7 worst ones and none for best, with the theme being disinterst / disorganization:

    • "Reps wait for phone calls. Vertically focused sales team can't solve problems, can't really create solutions, and can't mobilize the product management team easily."
    • "Previous territory sales person used to visit 4-6 times a year, now we haven't seen the new guy since he came onboard two years ago. When emailed, responses are extremely delayed, not fully informed about his own product line and has an arrogance about him (clinging to a belief that Panasonic have the best imagers, best picture quality and features that no one else has. Seven years ago this may have been true, but they have done very little to change their camera line since. Now, they lag behind and are unable to keep pace with tech changes. We have dropped our spend with them because of this from >$1Million/year to well under $100K/year."
    • "Sales representation still seems confused between direct and rep firms. Met our mfrs rep at a recent industry event and had no idea they were our rep."

    Weak - Lenel

    The standout access control manufacturer, and not in a good way, was Lenel, with two best but seven worst selections. Responses included:

    • "Lenel used to have the best sales people, now they have the worst. No surprise, Lenel is now run by former GE Security people, who also failed at GE Security."
    • "Sales team is not knowledgeable of Facility Commander (which is a line they represent) and they don't really seam to care either."
    • "Lenel. Obviously not interested in working with anyone other than the chosen few."
    • "Lenel: Does not know product always said to check the price sheet."
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