Recently I’ve heard from reps who report hearing a new question during line interviews: “Can you write me a business plan?”
Eager to outshine other reps competing for the line, these reps pulled out all the stops to be sure that their in-depth business plans proved their knowledge of their territory and market.
Their business plans detailed all the customers they planned to convert to that manufacturer’s product and the competitors’ products those customers were using. To really impress the manufacturer, sometimes they even reported the prices those customers were paying.
It seemed like a good strategy at the time. But when reps who submitted business plans didn’t get the line, they looked back at the process with mixed feelings.
“We wrote a business plan for a product we don’t currently have on our line card, so if the manufacturer uses that information to sell his products, it won’t actually take any money out of our pockets*.”
“At the time we had an internal discussion about asking the manufacturer to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but it would have thrown cold water on our discussions for sure.”
“In retrospect, we showed the manufacturer way too many of our cards way too soon. If I had it to do all over again, I would give a list of prospective customers but not share any information about the current brands they use or the prices they pay. I would give a total of prospective sales in the territory, but not break it out customer by customer. And I would include a polite footnote indicating that I would share granular details after the rep agreement is signed.”
Have you been asked to write a business plan when you were interviewing for a new line? Did you write one? Did it work out well, or would you do things differently next time? Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!
* Details may have been added, removed, or altered to protect the privacy of those who share their stories with us and to better illustrate the concepts discussed in this article.