How to Work With Rep Firms

Just who are these manufacturer's reps firms and what do they do?


Technical expertise is necessary, agreed LRG’s Lanier, but successful reps don’t rely on expertise alone. “Much of what we all know is that relationship selling still reigns,” he explained. “The combination of a winning product solution coupled with leveraging a sales team that can find and deliver the intended audience makes for a sales environment that rewards all involved.”

As Network Video Technologies’ eastern region sales manager, Joe Byron said rep firms are a necessary force multiplier for smaller technology manufacturers. Byron said NVT uses 15 rep firms (including KLM) across the U.S.; it allows the company to have an even bigger presence than its 66 employees worldwide could create on their own.

“You need an extension of the sales force in each of the major geographic locations,” Byron explained. “It’s very important that we associate with them and work as a team so that fluidly we can mesh with them to do demonstrations, to have appointments with their customers as an extension of our sales force. So we’re working as one unit selling NVT product, despite the fact that they’re not direct factory employees.”

 

Keeping current and ahead of the game

For manufacturers’ representatives, the new century has been an exciting but often challenging time. Founded Aug. 1, 2001, LRG is headquartered in the same building in Jasper where Lanier’s great grandfather sold men’s clothing 100 years ago. But in a security-technology industry that moves at comparative warp speed, keeping up with customers’ desires is a little more daunting than it was a century ago.

“The supply chain has many nuances,” Lanier observed. “The manufacturer has a huge challenge to stay on top of what the marketplace needs, how to identify and produce those quality solutions in a cost-competitive range, determine the best avenue to that marketplace and deliver those goods, all with a marketing campaign to drive that message.”

In such a climate, KLM Marketing’s recent 10-year milestone in the highly competitive mid-Atlantic security market close to the nation’s capital is “pretty exciting,” said Founder Paul Walter. KLM celebrated the occasion along with its dealers, distributors, consultants and end users at the KLM Expo in early March. Within the past year, the firm has expanded into Philadelphia by adding a field rep and brought in another employee to its home office—significant for a small, lean company.

As KLM has grown, so has its reputation. Four times the company was designated GE’s “Rep of the Year.” KLM now represents 10 product lines.

After working as a rep for another firm for about 10 years, Walter started KLM Marketing on Feb. 10, 2002, naming the firm after his wife, Kimberly, and their children, Luke and Megan. Kristian Gragg joined KLM in 2003. In 2006, he won GE Security’s Gladiator Award for sales excellence. That same year, he accepted a partnership with KLM.

Growing the product lines it represents is KLM’s priority, Gragg said, but with a decade of success under its belt, it’s time to tell its own story.

“One of the things we’ve been really trying to do the last couple of years is really market ourselves,” Gragg said. “For years, we’ve always marketed other people’s products. We’re the guy who gets things done, but nobody knows who we really are.”

 

Bob Giles is a contributor to SD&I and STE magazines