Security Manufacturer Representatives StatisticsBy Brian Rhodes, Published Jun 06, 2012, 12:00am EDT
Do reps represent more than a 'free lunch' to integrators? Manufacturer Representatives, called 'reps', frequently find themselves wearing many hats when working with integrators. Not only do reps 'sell to the salesmen', they are also expected to know where to direct technical questions and put the local integrator in a position to successfully sell and install their respective products. We asked integrators 'How useful do you find manufacturer reps to be?', and in this update we share the answers.
As indicated below, reps have mostly neutral to positive perception in the market, with over 70% of responses answering 'moderate' or 'very useful':
Even when presented with a 'bad' rep example, integrators offered up characteristics of 'good' ones. We found four major themes that characterized their choices:
- Good professionals make 'good reps'.
- 'Flavor of the month' representation does not work
- Good reps are more than salesmen
- Good reps are valued resources
Interestingly, these themes were mentioned by voters who both viewed reps favorably and unfavorably, indicating that reps meet a need in the market and can provide a valuable service when done properly. Despite the reputation of simply being good for a 'free lunch', reps can be an influential part of the mid channel sales model.
Good professionals make 'good reps'
The strongest theme mentioned was that the value of a rep is determined by the person, not necessarily the company/s they represent. Reps that are devoted to the mission of smartly positioning and informing the integrator channels on product benefits are valued contacts. However, in stark contrast, many reps have the reputation of being lazy, inefficient, and not responsive to integrator requests. This opinion was very polarizing. Over 52% of survey responses fell on one of the extremes of 'Very Useful' or 'Not Very Useful'.
- "Either they are super nice people who know the product well. Gives you a lead or a free demo product. These reps are the All-Stars, people you want to do business with ,which leads to a great long term relationship. Or they are the laziest people on the face of the Earth that are just marking time and really don't care about you. You are just another stop with them. Either a home run or a strikeout. There is no in-between with these folks "
- "The value of a Mfg Rep firm is dependent on the individual skill sets, social skills, experience, industry and/or product knowledge, relationships... There are extremes of good, bad, and indifferent, with stories to support experiences of the same extremes."
- "some are great and some are worthless"
- "Very tough to answer. Is varies from manufacture rep. Some are excellent and very useful (40% of the sales rep). Some are average (40%). And some time (20%) we have to talk with "clown" that says anything. These one are more than useless, they are dangerous. Luckily we have enough knowledge to detect and scratch for our list"
- "They complement your sales team if you engage them"
- "In our market, we have a lot of reps. The good ones (responsive, technically knowledgable) are great. However, there are many more bad ones than good ones."
- "There are always exceptions to the rule, but salesmen selling to salesmen is often a marginally useful exercise."
- "They usually don't know all that much but can be useful in pulling strings. Plus they are usually good for some free food. A few of them are knowledgable, those guys I keep close."
- "When they are educated and work to help you close a deal, they are great. Most of the reps don't care....so they stink."
'Flavor of the month' representation does not work
Reps can shoot themselves in the foot by being too pitchy with product recommendations they only superficially understand. Pushing too many lines or selling 'flavor of the month' product is not appreciated, because a rep is expected to have more than casual product understanding. Understanding product weakness is just as valuable as understanding strengths, and good reps share this feedback. They do not just lead with a different product each time they are asked to satisfy their own sales metrics. While it may be difficult for reps to keep up rapid changes, integrators would rather deal with a resource willing to invest time in getting an answer than one that quickly moves on to recommend another similar product.
- "They have too many product lines to focus on, so most of the time they aren't focused at all. In many cases, they are trying to present a complete solution to a customer, using all of the different products that they represent, when only one or two of those components may truly be a good fit. In the end, it is a disservice to the customer."
- "When used properly. Let them do the legwork when tracking down pricing or product delivery. Factory reps are way better then manufacturer reps."
- "We usually do our own research. The flavour of the month changes often."
- "It seems more and more reps are getting spread so thin they can't possibly respond to everything they should be."
- "Many have slacked off or can't keep up with their territory. In fairness, I was a Rep and I believe that large integrators get support when they voice out otherwise the smaller integrators get attention to gain new market share."
Good reps are more than salesmen
Not surprisingly, the effort a representative contributes to performing the job goes a long way in affirming the rep's value. It is clear that integrators expect more from a good rep beyond just being a linecard with a face. Regardless of their affiliation to their own rep firm, "good reps" will act as a direct extension of the line or lines they represent when working with an integrator. Also, Reps are evaluated as 'good' or 'bad' players regardless of the brands they represent, and a smaller manufacturer with a good rep is seen as an advantage over a large manufacturer with a bad rep.
- "The only reps in any industry I have ever found useful are ex engineers most of the others are just sales men and virtually never know more about there own product than I do."
- "If IPVM was a Manufacturer Rep then I might listen...cheap plug right It's not that they are not very useful I just don't ever find myself saying...I wish I could call my manufacturer rep...he/she is so resourceful!"
- "Some reps are top notch and know a lot about IP, others get you wondering "how in the world are they selling ip cameras if they do not even know the basics of networking?"
- "Customer tends to feel more confident when they see manufacturer supporting us."
- "They are good for lunch and that's about it. Honestly in my 12 years in the industry I've never relied on a rep for anything. They typically know nothing about the products and they never get involved when there is an issue."
- "Depends on the person. Some of them are knowledgeable of their products and the local marketplace, others are just useless order takers."
- "I have only contacted a few and always found that they were not very well informed about the technical details of their product. Tech Support has proven to be a better source of information."
- "I like the relationship especially when a problem might arise, they seem to know the in house person at my manufacturer who specializes in that area of their equipment. I have also had my Reps steer me away from problems that have corrected for other dealers."
Good reps are valued resources
The hallmarks of a good rep are almost immediately recognized by integrators, and they quickly become an important part of the integrator's business. In many cases, integrators mentioned that good reps work to address the training gap noted by many manufacturers. This puts reps in the significant position to not only expand their individual product lines, but also to advance the effectiveness of IP Video technology as a whole.
- "It truly depends on the rep, but our Sony and VideoIQ rep is outstanding. He really knows the product, and his experience with different type of installs has been invaluable to us."
- "They are helpful because they educate us about the products and their applications."
- "Good reps train us. They alway train, every visit."
- "Amazingly, some others really are very honest and helpful, (ie: Avigilon)."
- "They can help us negotiate better terms with the vendor."
- "We get good service from Bosch and Genetec reps, allot of the others are useless. "
- "We work closely with our local reps and they tend to be very responsive."
- "It really depends on the individual rep... I don't deal with them a lot, but most have rated "good" to "great". Their knowhow is very important."
- "They are very useful for giving fast and direct support, technically and commercially"
- "Manufacturer reps normally solve all your issues, have the solutions at hand."
- "I am lucky to have a good group of competitive rep in my area"
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