What If There Were Only One Fax Machine in the World?By Charles Cohon
Well, if there were only one fax machine in the world, even if it were beautifully designed, it wouldn’t be very useful, because there wouldn’t be anyone for you to send faxes to or receive faxes from.
What does that have to do with this issue of Agency Sales magazine? I promise to circle back and make that connection at the end of my editorial.
In February, Agency Sales focused on rep professionalism. Now, two months later, we are focusing on “ideal reps from the principal’s perspective.” Isn’t this the just the same topic, slightly rephrased?
OK, I will concede there is a lot of overlap. Professional reps and the ideal reps from the principal’s perspective have a lot in common, like business plans, succession plans, and a commitment to continuing education.
But it is possible to be a professional rep without being an ideal rep. Because an ideal rep will always include one element that could prevent principals from hiring a rep that is merely professional but not ideal — a network.
Consider a highly professional rep firm in Chicago that has identified a new niche that no other rep covers. And because that rep is breaking new ground, it is the only rep company in North America serving that niche.
Will that highly professional rep firm thrive? Probably not.
Why? Imagine that rep’s sales pitch to prospective principals: “My Chicago-based rep firm could do a spectacular job for your company. But if you hire us you are going to need direct salespeople in every other territory, because we are the only firm in North America serving this niche and we only serve Chicagoland. So you are going to have to set up an entire rep-support infrastructure just to hire us, and then keep on doing what you have been doing everywhere else.”
That’s why professionalism isn’t enough, it’s also crucial to be part of a network of reps that can supply outsourced sales force services across North America. It’s the network that makes sales force outsourcing scalable and makes it possible for a principal to serve every territory with reps instead of direct salespeople.
A rep firm in Chicago with no counterparts in any other territories is like that single fax machine. Until it’s connected to a network, it’s hard to make a case for its value proposition. So the ideal rep firm will dedicate itself not only to professionalism, but also to contributing to the community of rep firms and their associations.
The alternative: Be that single fax machine not connected to any network. And if you decide to try it, let us know how that works out for you.