Sales Reps and How They Benefit Small Businesses

I was a national sales rep for 14 years before switching sides and founding or co-founding 16 start-ups, one of which made the INC 500 list three years in a row. . .So, I feel qualified to speak on this subject which I think is misunderstood and not taught at school. This is why I’ve written a comprehensive and practical Guide to Help Sales Reps and Manufacturers understand each other better, to create a positive partnership that will yield more profits for each, and to extend the duration of the partnership.

Too often this relationship is adversarial. It shouldn’t be, as both factions need each other.

Before I discuss the highlights of this Guide, I think I should define what a Sales Rep is.

A manufacturer’s representative, also known as a sales representative, sales agent, a broker in some industries, or simply a rep, is an independent business person who acts as the sales arm for one or more businesses which are comprised of one or more products or services. Most Reps are paid a commission for their sales efforts rather than a salary. Some Reps are permitted to take a draw (or advance) against commissions; others are not. They are responsible for their expenses. The commission can vary greatly–from 2 percent to 20 percent.

Basically Sales Reps are Entrepreneurs in their own business. It is important to understand this as you can’t order them to do something. You need to sell them on your integrity, agenda, company, product, and vision. To do this effectively, you should understand how they think, their strengths and weaknesses, and the environment they work in. This Guide should help you with this to achieve a more productive relationship with them.


Here are some of the subjects covered in this Guide:



Reps are primarily paid on a commission basis although in some industries, such as Pharmaceuticals, they receive a base salary with performance-based bonus. The wide spread of commission rates (2%-20%) is based on a variety of factors explored in the Guide.


Who Becomes a Rep?

There is no Sales Rep gene, and they come from all walks of life and choose the profession for different reasons. They want to be their own boss, they see the opportunity to earn a lot of money as there are no ceilings on their compensation, they know that they can choose which 12 hours a day they want to work, etc.


Why Work with a Rep?

There are two perspectives on this question: that of the manufacturers and that of the customer who the Rep is selling. Both are covered in detail, but the two main reasons for a manufacturer are they get an experienced salesperson with no fixed cost and quick access to desired customers who are difficult to reach.

The Buyer among many reasons prefers a Sales Rep because they trust them more as they know that the Rep depends on them for a living more than the manufacturer does, and the Rep is more accessible.


How to Find and Select a Rep

Before you begin the process, you need to think through what you expect from a specific Rep, the kind of characteristics he or she should have, their customer base, the other lines they carry, and much more. Finding the right Rep is a difficult task and there are numerous approaches. My most productive methods were to ask Buyers on whom the prospective Rep calls. They are a gold mine of valuable information to help you in your quest. They not only can identify the most successful Reps that call on them but lead you to the most promising newcomers that are not on everyone’s radar yet. They will be able to give you more time and passion Second: I checked with other good Reps that we knew. Reps network with each other and know the difference between good and bad ones. Today with the advent of the internet and the comprehensive searches you can do, I discovered a site that matches up Sales Reps and Manufacturers to each’s specific needs. They are very professional and worth a look see.


Rep and Manufacturer Complaints About Each Other

There is a long list of complaints each party has about the other. I believe it’s very helpful to understand what these are. They can help you to help each other, which will profit everyone. The list of complaints that I enumerate are valid and not readily apparent to the other party. If taken seriously, each party can improve the running and effectiveness of their company. Basically, there is a healthy amount of distrust on both sides. A lot of this stems from many of these easily correctable complaints. Trust is the pillar on which effective relationships are built. With it this Rep/Manufacturer relationship should have a long life.


Training Reps

Most manufacturers give short shrift to the training of a new Rep. They make the mistake of sending out catalog sheets or directing them to their website and maybe supply some samples and expect the orders to roll in. . .not a formula for success. Would you train a new full-time hire in so casual a manner? The Guide offers solid and proven ideas on how to accomplish this training.


A Tip for Reps

This section offers an idea for Reps on how to solve a problem many Buyers have and in doing so earn themselves more sustainable earnings.


Advice for Both Parties

Here we offer key suggestions to both sides on actions and attitudes they should adopt to make this Rep/Mfr partnership more effective (Profits and Fun). We also address how to deal with the problem created periodically by many large customers who tell their buyers to stop dealing with Reps for the mistaken reason that more profits (the Rep’s commissions) will accrue to them. We offer what we did as national reps to solve it.


The Future of Reps

There are many outside world trends, including technology that indicates that reps may become extinct. I don’t think so if the parties will work closely and with honesty. . .but it helps to take a step back and think about planning for the future.


This Sales Rep/Manufacturers Guide is FREE, and you can get it by going to


Preparation Works in Business as in Sports

The sports media and coaching community consistently attribute the success of our sports stars to their dedication to preparing for their role on the playing field. Football quarterbacks, who besides their extreme physical routine, spend huge amounts of time seeing film of their next opponent and studying their game plans. Baseball pitchers study countless hours of film of the batters they will be facing in their next game. Basketball players do the same as well as spend significant amounts of time practicing with their teammates to develop the team cohesiveness to win. It has been said by many that the key to Michael Jordan’s success besides his talent was his dedication to practice and preparing himself mentally and physically for his games. I do not know the exact ratio, but I would guess that for every hour on the playing field, a successful athlete spends 30+ hours practicing and preparing.

I believe this preparation ethic to achieve success is just as important in the world of business. When I had a game company, we decided there was an opportunity and need to develop and market a line of magic. It turned out to be very successful, and I feel it was because of our preparation and learning. I had little knowledge of the business of magic and certainly knew nothing about how the tricks were done. So among other things to learn how to develop this line, I found and attended a magic school. I was fortunate enough to find a great teacher in George Schindler, a renown magician.

George is still active in magic and is a former president of the Society of American Magicians where he now is a regular columnist. In the current issue of their MUM magazine, he wrote the article below, which I share with you in its entirety. It tells about how we met and proceeded in developing the line. We were very proud of this undertaking as we helped many kids and adults overcome their shyness and develop self confidence through learning how to perform magic. It also provided wholesome fun for many.


The Dean’s Diary

By George Schindler

Bob Reiss

It was early in the 1970’s when a game company put the “Imaginary” (Invisible) Deck on the market in department stores. The name on the cover said “Jerry Lucas,” a well-known basketball payer who had done The Memory Book with Harry Lorayne. Magicians around the country were really angry. It was one thing to put a magic set on the market but another to expose a highly valuable secret. I recall a meeting of the board at PA 1 where we had a long discussion about what we could do about it. One suggestion was to write letters to the manufacturer asking him to remove it from the market. Another was even worse; one member suggested we flood the market with a cheaper version to make the good one obsolete. Absurd!

Rather than distributing this trick through toy stores, the manufacturer had found a new market in department stores. His company specialized in games and now he had a new product. The decks sold only fairly well, and somehow did not impact the magicians using the trick. Like the Svengali deck, they were sold to one-time buyers as a novelty. But the manufacturer fell in love with “magic.” He saw the SS Adams line sold in all sorts of venues and decided to learn more about magic. So he enrolled in a magic course at the School for Magicians. Fascinated by thumb tips, ropes, and cards, he decided to learn everything he could about magic. And that was how I met Bob Reiss of Reiss Games. Frank Garcia and I ran the school one night each week for a six-week course for adults, who were mostly salesmen, bartenders, and business people. Bob was an excited student who used his new talent to open doors for his business by adding a “toy” item. He also realized that the  “secrecy” of magic added a new element to attract a consumer.

We were indeed fortunate that he chose Frank and me as consultants in his new venture. When I asked him about the Imaginary Deck, Bob said he would have been delighted if we had written that letter trying to stop him. It would have definitely increased sales as a “trick magicians didn’t want you to know about.” Showbiz made a deal with him to buy his inventory, and we sold it to another magic jobber. It was win-win all around: everyone made money, and we took the trick away from the general public.

Frank and I came up with twenty-two tricks that we all had as kids, which were offered in all the magic sets from the 1800s to the present day. The keys to sales were previously unheard of packaging and modern marketing approaches not used in years past with magic sets. Plastic molds were made and easy to follow instructions and patter were written. Packaging and photos made each effect desirable and the words “The purchaser agrees not to disclose the secrets within” were added.

Then came the sales technique never before used in magic. Reiss had all of his sales reps learn one or two of the tricks to do at lunch with the buyers. I scoured the country and found more than 150 magicians to do department store demos during the holiday seasons; Bob hired a publicist to promote TV, radio, and live magic in the department stores. Their toy departments had to add them to their shelves as well. Frank and I traveled the country doing live TV and store promos. At the same time, dug Henning was on Broadway and a new magic fever hit the country. Our timing was perfect. Sales boomed, and it was then that a few traditional magic sets were added to the line. How many of you started your magic with a Reiss Magic Kit? Can I see a show of hands? I recently asked one well-known close-up performer how he learned his magic. He told me he bought the Reiss Magic Kit packaged with a real deck of cards and ten tricks from Magic with Cards, a book that Frank and I wrote for Reiss. But therein lies another column.


By Bob Reiss

Sales Reps & Small BusinessI was a national sales rep for 14 years before switching sides and founding or co-founding 16 start-ups, one of which made the INC 500 list three years in a row. . .So, I feel qualified to speak on this subject, which I think is misunderstood and not taught at school. This is why I’ve written this comprehensive and practical Guide to help Sales Reps and Manufacturers understand each other better, to create a positive partnership that will yield more profits for each, and extend the duration of the partnership.

Too often this relationship is adversarial. It shouldn’t be, as both factions need each other.

Clearly, Sales Reps turn the fixed cost of sales into a variable cost and just as importantly, provide immediate access to hard to reach customers.

Here is the table of contents for this Guide:

  • Rep Commissions
  • Who Becomes a Rep
  • Why Work with a Rep?
  • How to Find and Select a Rep
  • Rep complaints about Manufacturers
  • Manufacturers complaints about Reps
  • Training Reps
  • A Tip for Reps
  • Advice for Both Parties
  • Both Parties Tip
  • The Future of Reps

To get your free copy, go to:

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