How to Train Your Sales Rep
Anyone who has ever had a really good rep service your lab knows that they are a nearly indispensable asset. What makes a rep good?
Experience - They have been in the industry long enough to know how to do all of the basic things and have been serving you long enough to know how your lab operates.
Intelligence - your sales rep is knowledgeable about the products they sell. More importantly, they have the ability to understand what you do and how the products in their portfolio will help you do your work better, faster and more economically.
Integrity - your sales rep must prove themselves to be trustworthy and honest.
Longevity - It takes at least two years for a new rep to know the basics of their job! No customer ever meets a sales rep on the first visit and decides they are “great.” This only happens after they have earned that title after years of service and trust building.
REASONS REPS ARE NOT VALUED
If you are unable to see what value a rep can offer you, there are a number of reasons:
- You may have never have either met a great representative or are too new to your position.
- You may be a “burn victim.” Someone who has had a sales representative do something so bad that your trust in all representatives has been destroyed.
- You may have invested your time and effort in cultivating a good sales rep only to have that rep leave the company or be fired or promoted just as they were becoming an asset. This may have happened repeatedly.
- Your preference is to keep sales reps at an arm's length and do-it-yourself online or for ethical constraints.
- You may think working with a rep is not a good use of your time..
THREE KEY THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CREATE A GREAT REPRESENTATIVE
1. SHOW THEM YOUR LAB AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU DO!
The majority of representatives in the lab industry have never had any experience working in a lab but most share a deep respect for and curiosity for science.
Many distributor reps are hired with non-scientific degrees. These companies seek job applicants who are good at managing interpersonal relationships. They get their product training mostly at trade shows or from “vendor fairs” where manufacturer’s show off their latest and greatest. Then they are sent into a territory, given a huge quota and told they are on probation for six months. It’s the work equivalent of being tossed into the deep end of the pool and told to figure out how to swim.
For many reasons, customers are very reluctant to allow anyone without “a badge” into their labs. This may be for safety reasons or just company policy may not want the representative to see products you may be purchasing from their competitors. Whatever the reason, if you have a representative that you think has good potential to help you, then you need to find a way to show them your lab and take the time to explain to them what it is that you do and how you do it.
This is the single most valuable thing you could do to help that representative improve.
2. TELL THEM YOUR PAIN POINTS!
What’s a “pain point?” Something - anything - that you would like to see improved. This can be anything from a better price on a reagent to a better seal on a microcentrifuge tube that is leaking. It may be a piece of equipment budgeted for next year. Why wait and spring it on them in an RFP? By giving them a heads up, they will have a lot more time to explore better options and set up demos with manufacturers for you. Remember, the research they do costs you nothing.
Many customers prefer to play things “close to the vest.” Representatives “score points” with you by helping solve your problems. Give them that opportunity to do so and you will most likely be pleasantly surprised! Set the ground rules. What is the urgency? When would you like a response? If you don’t want to be deluged with emails and phone calls, say so.
3. CONTINUING EDUCATION IS A MUST
You may be the primary contact in your lab, but it is really worthwhile for you to introduce the representative to the people who actually do the lab work. A good way to do this is to schedule regular meetings. Encourage your bench techs to reach out directly to the rep with questions, copying you, of course. If you will be discussing an item to be used by a particular department, ask the department head to sit in on the meeting. Purchasing may also wish to attend.
Don’t assume that a whirlwind tour through the lab one time will suffice. Schedule time with each department head once a quarter and let the rep safely observe while they go about their day. Show them your ordering procedure. Who does sourcing? Who issues the P.O.? How is receiving done? Where do you store your goods? Who pays the bills? All of these are valuable insights for the rep.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TO GET LUCKY
God reps are a rare commodity. Once a rep shows potential, they are typically taken out of the territory they started out in and assigned to larger customers. Today, many customers who purchase under $250,000 annually only hear a voice on the phone if they have a rep at all!
Customers prefer reps who work on their behalf. Companies like reps who work on behalf of the company. This is a delicate balancing act that all the good reps must learn. The rep is often thrown under the bus using this as an excuse if quotas aren’t being met by managers.
LPS was founded by a former rep with 45+ years in the industry who has won numerous awards including “Sale Rep of the Year.” His philosophy is that everyone deserves a highly qualified rep and that relying on luck to obtain one should never happen.
Companies that work with LPS expect to have the highest caliber representation. LPS delivers on that promise with every customer interaction.
Whether you choose LPS or work with another distributor, all of the suggestions made here will apply. If you are looking for a great rep to work with, we hope you will consider LPS.
Good representatives are a rare find. If you think you have found one, keep these things in mind:
- Don’t waste time having your rep trying to sell you things that you would never use in your lab. If this happens, you should make it clear that there will be penalties if it continues.
- Schedule routine calls with your rep. If you can’t keep the appointment, give them at least 24 hours advance notice and insist they do the same. Nobody likes someone who is a no-show and it’s just not fair to tell a rep who may have driven for hours to get to your lab to tell them you don’t have time to keep the appointment once they are in the lobby.
- Good reps ALWAYS keep their commitments. If they say they will get back to you with a quote or more details within 24 hours and either don’t inform you that a delay is possible or produce what they committed to, then they should be informed and given a second chance. Make clear to them that if this happens again, they will not be allowed to continue to routinely call on you.
- There are three possible answers: Yes, No and Maybe. Two of these three your rep will appreciate. If you’ve not reached a decision but you have ruled out their offering, then don’t string them along.
The final word: Treat your representatives with the same respect you would treat a fellow employee. You have the power - your companies money. They earn a living when you spend those dollars with their company. This sets up a power dynamic that too often leads to abuse or things situations that raise ethical questions. If a rep attempts to cross an ethical line, stop it in its tracks.
Making a good rep into a great rep is well worth your time and trouble.