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How To Look For The Right Manufacturing Rep, Part 1 A good rep can boost your sales and free up your time for other business matters.

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You've been growing your company, and it's generating apretty healthy profit. But now it's time to take your productinto new areas where your salespeople may not have contacts orknowledge of the business community. A manufacturer's rep is asalesperson--a free agent who generally handles five to sevendifferent, but compatible, products. Well-qualifiedmanufacturer's reps can increase your company's sales whilegiving you the freedom to focus on other areas of your business.How do you find out who the right reps in your industry are, andhow can you successfully hire and keep one?

1. Ask your customers. They may be able to provide namesof good reps they've worked with. Also, talk to experiencedbusiness owners and manufacturers in your industry.

2. Obtain a list. Try calling such places as big-citymerchandise or apparel marts to get a list of names and phonenumbers of manufacturer's reps. The reps you contact willeither be available to work with you or may recommend someone elsewho is willing to take on another product. You can also use anindependent representative directory for your industry. Most tradeassociations have access to such books.

3. Advertise for reps. Where? In the back of tradejournals, at industry meetings and at trade shows. You can also putthe word out to everyone you do business with that you need asalesperson. When writing an ad, include the basics: "Dynamicmanufacturer's rep needed for growing company. Territory: SouthCarolina. Product line includes . . . Call 555-5555 between 8 a.m.and 5 p.m."

4. Look for reps that have a support staff. Remember, therep is showcasing your company and your product. More often thannot, however, he or she is on the road. Therefore, make sure therep has hired professional help to answer the phones and takeorders while he or she is away from the office.

5. Remember that the rep and his or her territory are apackage deal. If you're ready to hire your first rep andyou're based in California, you should probably hire a rep thatcovers the Midwest or the South to get the word out about yourproduct in those places. More than likely, you're still callingon customers in California. As your business grows, you can hiremore reps in territories where you want to focus.

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