When was the last time you thought about what regional sales managers (you might know them better as the company rep) do for retailers or what retailers want from their sales managers? Are they just the person from the company that drops in or calls every now and then to check on sales? Do they only contact you when they want to promote a new product? If they’re any good, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “no.” So, what exactly makes a valuable regional sales manager? Let’s find out.
What They MAY Do vs What They SHOULD Do
Companies hire regional sales managers to promote relationships with retailers within a specific sales area. According to a Harvard Business Review study, regional sales managers have three basic management tasks.
- Customer management: customer visits, assisting salespeople and account planning
- Business management: budgeting, administrative requirements and sales meetings
- People management: hiring, coaching, and supervising
According to this same study, sales managers spend roughly 25-40% of their time on customer management, 20-30% of their time on business management and 30-55% of their time on people management. What does this mean to the average retailer? Consider these scenarios:
Scenario #1: ABC Company’s regional sales managers spend 30% of their time on business, 45% of their time on people, and 25% of their time on customers.
Scenario #2: LMN Company’s regional sales managers spend 25% of their time on business, 50% of their time on people, and 25% of their time on customers.
Scenario #3: XYZ Company’s regional sales managers spend 20% of their time on business, 30% of their time on people, and 40% of their time on customers.
Ask yourself which of these scenarios you, as a retailer, would value most? Do you really want your sales reps spending 50% of their time supervising other people or would you rather have them spend 40% of their time interacting with you, their customer? One sales manager told Aqua Magazine, “Our regional sales managers play a vital role in supporting dealers one-on-one. We view our sales team as business consultants that provide guidance and support to dealers on a range of issues.” This can only be accomplished by spending real time with actual customers, with you.
You want a regional sales manager who can show you that the brand you are buying is “alive and well and growing.”
How do suppliers generate revenue? By getting their products into retail stores. How do they get their products into retail stores? By developing solid relationships with retailers. In short, suppliers generate revenue through good customer management. Are you getting good customer management from your regional sales manager?
What Retailers/Dealers Expect From Regional Sales Managers
When asked what retailers value in regional sales managers/sales representatives, Drew Wheat of Dolphin Pools & Spas in Salt Lake City responded with, “understanding how they can help.” To develop such an understanding, they must be equipped with specific knowledge of each business they are selling to. Specifically, retailers value relevance and education in their regional sales managers.
Relevance: Retailers want sales reps to understand the challenges they face in their particular market, to have a basic knowledge of their particular needs, and to understand the driving forces in specific areas along with the industry as a whole.
Education: Retailers expect sales managers to be able to share market trends and insights to demonstrate the value of their solutions and help buyers utilize that knowledge to improve their own businesses. Because they understand the product better, regional sales managers will also be able to provide insight on benefits retailers aren’t aware of, on how the product is made, on the value of the product, on how it could and should be used, and on what products work well together.
Basic Business Support: Besides brand, product, and market insight, retailers look to sales reps to support basic business needs. Every dealer requires a different level of support, but the functions generally involve:
- Event planning (on and offsite)
- Financing programs and promotions
- Recruiting and sales training
- POP and other showroom resources
Recognizing a Good Regional Sales Manager
Spa retailers in particular rely on a solid relationship with brand sales managers. Hot tub retail outlets often offer a variety of brands to meet customer needs. Because each brand has its own special features and benefits, knowing all the intricate details of each of those brands is extremely difficult. That is why you depend on the business support, brand and product knowledge, and market familiarity of your regional sales managers.
As a retailer, you should expect your brand representative to provide helpful ways to increase product sales, to act as a partner in your sales mission, and treat you with respect.
In addition to these qualities, Brandwise suggests that your regional sales manager should exhibit the following characteristics:
- Regional sales managers should be open to communication: Great sales managers are always accessible to retailers for updates, questions and requests.
- Regional sales managers should be unbiased: They should treat every potential buyer as if a big commission is on the line whether it is or not.
- Regional sales managers should be available: The best sales managers are not “afraid to hang up the phone, hop in their car, and drive over to visit” you. They are willing to show you their commitment to your business and your purchases.
Finally, a good regional sales manager should be “actively marketing your brand and products.” This means that you, the retailer, are not the only source of marketing and advertising for spa products. The brands you sell should also be marketed by the company you’re buying the brands from. Your sales rep should keep you informed of any social media promotions, trade show activity, direct to consumer advertising and public relations campaigns occurring at the company level. You want a regional sales manager who can show you that the brand you are buying is “alive and well and growing.”
Retailers should expect their regional sales managers to not only sell, but also to maintain an ongoing relationships with them. For both you as a retailer and them as a seller, continued success depends on sales managers being able to adapt to current buyer needs by adding value to sales conversations, engaging them with relevant content and understanding buyer personas. Keep in mind that no relationship is perfect, but a little effort can strengthen the relationship to the benefit of both the retailer and regional sales manager.
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