Manufacturers' Reps

A network of regional independent manufacturers' agents (reps) is often the most logical basis for building business. A nework of reps:
  • Has established clientele and know the local specifiers and buyers.
  • Is readily developed and can accelerate market penetration.
  • Are paid only on sale, limiting up-front costs.
  • Within their territory, they work the entire marketplace to move product though multiple levels of decision makers - including specifiers, applicators, contractors, local distributors, and owners.
  • Reps become your agent, with an interest in training, trouble-shooting, and business development within their territory.
The typical building product prospect does not know you, does not know your company, does not know your product, and does not know the material. But the prospect DOES know the local rep, sees the rep at CSI, AIA, ACI, and other industry events. Sees the rep calling on the office or job site to support the rep's other products. Can call the local rep without wondering what time zone he or she is in. Can get the rep into a meeting on short notice, when required. The typical architect or contractor may not return your phone call or email, but will accept phone calls from local reps - reps who are vital sources of support to their effort.

Reps are not incompatible with having a national distributor:

  • Uncover new opportunities.
  • Sales calls on local specifiers and buyers.
  • Training and support.
  • Your eyes, ears, and mouth in territory.
  • Set up and service local distributors.
  • Typically do not warehouse material.
  • May or may not take orders.
  • Respond to local inquiries redirected from Corporate or Distributor.
  • Notify distributor when projects are specified or a contractor is ready to buy.
Reps are paid a commission on all sales shipped into their territory; commissions are about 10% but vary according to the amount of effort anticipated in promoting a line. Occasionally a commission will be split if the specifier is in one territory and the ship-to address is in another territory.

  • Take orders, makes "sales".
  • Call existing accounts to prompt reorders.
  • Can also do prospecting sales calls.
  • Holds paper and makes collections.
  • Deliver goods.
  • Notifies rep when customer needs support.


First, join the Manufacturer Agents National Association and get their list or advertise to their database of architectural products reps. MANA also offers consulting support to manufacturers, sample agreement forms, etc. Cost is $500/year and is well worth it, especially while getting started.

Next, a day of working the phones through your existing networks will identify the most highly respected reps in leading territories. Begin by looking for reps already dealing with your product category.

Your job morphs into supporting and encouraging your reps, leveraging your talents and time. Eventually, you may want a national sales manager to manage reps. While the brand is getting established, it is also useful to give reps a small monthly budget for promotion to make sure they devote time to your line; one experienced rep suggested this could be as low as $500 a month for six months, to be used for lunch programs, local advertising, promotional materials, etc.