Being a Manufacturer's Sales Rep

Learn About Income Opportunities and More

a salesman standing in an appliance showroom
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Sales positions cover practically everything you can think of. For the most part, whenever a company or individual makes a product or service, nothing happens unless someone is there to sell it. For manufacturer's, making the products that they intend to bring to market is the first step in the process. Once a product is made, it's time to turn it over to their sales force. A manufacturer's sales force can be a series of dealers, a direct sales arm or a team of manufacturer's reps.

Independent Sales Professionals

While not always the case, many manufacturer's reps are independent sales professionals who sign contracts with manufacturer's to sell their products. These reps usually work under a 1099 agreement, meaning that they are not viewed as employees but as contractors. They are responsible for their own taxes, health benefits and any other "employee type" agreements. Most of these positions are 100% commission based and include no salary at all.

There is no doubt that manufacturer's rep positions are not for the faint of heart. Those sales professionals who are uncomfortable working with no base salary, seldom choose a manufacturer rep position. But for those comfortable with their sales abilities and have confidence in the marketability of the product, these positions can be very rewarding.

Flexibility and Freedom

When working as an employee, you will be expected to work a set schedule, to attend meetings and training and fulfilling many other employee requirements. But manufacturer reps truly have but one responsibility: Sell!

These sales reps set their own schedules, handle their own sales training and are (for the most part) free to work when they want to work. As long as they produce and comply with any ethical expectations of the manufacturer, reps are more like entrepreneurs than employees. This freedom is usually what attracts sales professionals to these types of positions. Many are more than willing to trade the security of receiving a salary and benefits for autonomy.

Not For the Unmotivated

Successful manufacturer reps have one thing in common: They motivate themselves and don't need anyone telling them to get out and sell. Those who are either new to sales or aren't certain that they have the internal drive that forces them out of bed in the morning and out onto the streets should think twice before seeking a position as a manufacturer's rep. The truth is that while reps can and often do earn a substantial income, the vast majority do not. The primary reason why some succeed where many fail is personal desire. Without it, the temptation to misuse the freedom is too great.

Multiple Streams of Income

One way that manufacturer's reps provide themselves financial security is by selling for more than one manufacturer. While doing so is not always possible or may even be not allowed by certain manufacturers, representing more than one company can be a very effective approach.

The smartest way to represent more than one manufacturer is to find complimentary products to sell. For example, if you have an independent sales position selling computer parts, finding another position selling networking services may increase your effectiveness and allow you to bring a greater value proposition to your customers.

While representing more than one manufacturer can be a good idea, it is seldom a good idea to represent competing products. In other words, if you represent a transmission manufacturer, selling for another transmission manufacturer will either cost you both positions or create some doubt in your customer's minds.

Career Summary

Manufacturer rep positions are a great way to build solid sales experience, earn a substantial income and can afford disciplined sales representatives with autonomy and flexibility. Working on a straight commission may not be for everyone, but these positions are often the highest paid positions for talented and dedicated sales professionals. Manufacturer reps will need to be smart business people with solid an understanding of taxes, deductions and personal investing.

If you have the discipline and desire that these jobs demand, finding a position as a manufacturer's reps is often easier than finding an "employee-type" position. The manufacturer has less risk when hiring an independent rep than when hiring an employee and is more willing to give a less-tenured sales professional a shot.