2022-05-14 16:40:24 By : Mr. Airs Liu

If a manufacturing shop is not sold on the value a sales representative can bring to a small business, 2022 might be the year to reconsider.Getty Images

If you’re not sold on the value a sales representative can bring to your company, 2022 might be the year to reconsider your position. As a 20-year sales veteran, this subject is near and dear to my heart. Although many put little stock in the very idea of hiring a sales rep, it’s a critical role. I could speak for hours on the topic (and literally do so several times every year at industry-related conferences). If you are reading this and have a negative view of sales reps, you’ve probably had a bad experience. That’s understandable; bad reputations among outside sales reps are far more common than good ones.

A good sales representative can do much more than increase the company’s revenue. A representative who has some marketing savvy and familiarity with digital platforms can take on the professional management of your company’s brand and sales, allowing the company’s executives to focus on manufacturing in an environment riddled with supply chain constraints, high raw materials costs, challenges in recruiting workers, and continuing uncertainties regarding the pandemic.

So, what should a sales rep focus on in 2022?

We are living in a world of shortages. Companies can’t get raw materials, component parts, or labor. Your customers will undoubtedly face delays in deliveries this year, and the only thing that makes it better is solid communication.

One of my current clients imports large steel components to supply U.S. companies. I manage the communication between the China office and the U.S. customers. I didn’t deliver one bit of good news in 2021. Challenges include price increases, delivery delays, unexpected freight charges, and storage fees. However, my contact values my contribution because I maintain continuous communication with him and deliver information at reliable intervals. One of the oldest sales rules in the book is to deliver bad news as soon as you have it. One of the best opportunities to demonstrate your value is when things go wrong, but it takes an experienced professional to navigate the messaging in rocky waters.

Creating an online presence, using digital platforms, engaging in social media—to people who have been in manufacturing for many decades, it all sounds like a big waste of time. Manufacturing got by just fine without them for this long, so why do we need them now?

My clients generally have two reactions to digital concepts: irritation and delight. Irritation when I propose a digital strategy and delight when they see a steady stream of relevant postings on a variety of channels. Everyone likes to be ‘liked’. This typically doesn’t drive direct sales leads, but it elevates your brand. Most manufacturing companies I work with don’t have a dedicated marketing department, and this is a perfect fit for a sales rep. Even if you do have someone in marketing to point-guard the posting, your sales team is a great source for content.

In many small, family-owned companies, the owner, president, or operations manager has two roles: running the business and making sales. This works, but typically not as well as a dedicated sales resource. Managing a business wasn’t easy in the first place; doing so through a pandemic makes it harder than ever. There simply isn’t enough time to focus enough attention on growing the sales revenue.

My husband and I fight this in our own small fab shop. I have more than 20 years of experience in high-level sales, with good success, and I’m constantly derailed by human resource needs, capital expenditure planning, and bookkeeping. My professional New Year’s resolution for 2022 is to find 20 to 30 hours per month for sales activities. That’s not enough, and I’m not optimistic about my success in sticking to it. Therefore, even though we have a tiny company that employs fewer than 15 people, I’m already considering hiring a sales rep by year end.

Does it really make sense for such a small company to hire a sales rep? The answer is yes if the focus is on the future. A small company can’t grow unless the owners plan for growth. Growth can’t take place without dedicating resources to increasing sales.

A sales representative adds more value than communication, marketing, and selling. This person is the face of your company to your customers. You need to hire someone that you can trust to conduct business as you would. A sales rep is in the business of customer education, customer partnership, and most importantly, customer service.

As a fabrication shop owner, your goal isn’t to sell components or assemblies. Your goal isn’t even to sell fabrication capability. It’s deeper than that. Your goal is to assist your customers in meeting their goals.

A good representative understands this and knows how to do it.

See More by Lisa Wertzbaugher

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