Manufacturer’s sales representatives firms (“rep firms”) play a critical role in the security industry and act as an extension of the product company, maintaining the relationship between you (the integrator) and the manufacturing company. These representatives are charged with knowing their products as well as the actual manufacturer, so they can answer technical questions about whether the line is right for your customers. If you’re ready to grow your integration business, you’ll need to know how to work with reps.
Ask a rep firm, and they’ll tell you that manufacturers’ reps, manufacturers and end users have a symbiotic relationship. A rep with a well-balanced line card can start the ball rolling on a project, but all three partners benefit. Not only do rep firms meet with end-users directly, but for integrators, they can help you deliver the variety of solutions you need to offer your customers.
Don Zoufal, an executive with System Development Integration LLC (SDI) in Chicago said they reach out to rep firms on large projects where they need to present a broad variety of solutions to clients. “We want to go out and see what they [rep firms] have, because our customers are looking for a security solution; they’re not just looking for products,” Zoufal said. “We go out and meet with these rep firms and we kick the tires on the technologies they represent to see what the technology can really do. We recently helped [a critical infrastructure client] run test evaluations. We brought in rep firms with different lines and tested them to the operational and technical criteria the client needed.”
How rep firms operate
One of the attributes that integrators can find in strong rep firms are product lines from a number of manufacturers. It changes the sale from pushing a product to engineering a solution.
“I think our biggest role is solution selling,” said Kristian Gragg, partner at manufacturers’ rep firm KLM Marketing, Mechanicsville, Va. “If you’re a good manufacturer’s rep and you’re established, you have a line card to where you can walk into any establishment and do a job from the camera to the head end, and handle every piece of the project. It’s a ‘one-throat-to-choke’ scenario. So if you can handle every piece, whether it’s wireless, Ethernet, fiber, twisted-pair technology, IP, cameras, lenses, recording devices, storage, you have every piece of that to be able to go out and do the job,” Gragg said.
“They provide us information about what customers are looking for, and at the same time they are an extension of our sales force,” said Interlogix Video Manager Joe Vaccaro, whose history with KLM dates back to KLM’s early days, when Interlogix was known only by the name GE Security. “We do have our own internal sales, but the video reps are a tremendous extension into the field for us for different projects and products, and they are a great representative for us from a sales perspective,” Vaccaro said.
According to Chris Lanier, president and founder of rep firm LRG Inc., Jasper, Texas, another important asset from a manufacturer’s rep perspective “is having a factory partner that is committed to participating in the business pursuit. By that, we mean that the vendor actively participates in regional marketing events and will dispatch their technical resources for select training or high-profile opportunities where warranted. We are constantly gathering information on competitors’ offerings, programs, etc., and having a vendor partner that will not only adjust, but even learn and innovate from that information is very key to their success.”
An effective rep wears several hats, including that of teacher. One example: As end users seek to upgrade and transition from analog to IP (Internet protocol) video, Vaccaro said: “You need a lot of education and training, and that’s where KLM comes in. They’ve actually helped us in translating and explaining the differences, the reasons to migrate, what the costs are, what the benefits are and then ultimately training the dealers to be able to manage and install the IP solutions.”