How to Manage Outside Sales Reps

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Outside sales representatives, such as manufacturer’s reps or other independent contractors paid straight commission based on results, offer one big advantage over in-house salespeople, notes Entrepreneur magazine. They cost less because they don’t require salaries and benefits. They are paid based only on what they produce, so that makes them fiscally efficient. On the other hand, outside sales reps present unique challenges, as well. For example, it’s often harder to monitor their activities. To get the most from outside sales reps, adhere to a few simple rules.

Create specific sales goals. In addition to a general sales plan that lays out strategies and tactics for the organization, set clear, specific targets for each outside sales rep, advises Entrepreneur. Sales goals should be broken down by quarter and month. That allows easy comparisons to results from previous years,

Monitor performance. One way to do that is with daily call reports. Set a quota for the number of daily and weekly sales calls each outside rep must make. Consistency of effort is one of the defining characteristics of a good salesperson. To monitor and analyze performance, insist that salespeople demonstrate their activities with written call reports. If your salespeople carry laptops, that process can be automated online. It can also be done the old-fashioned way – on paper.

Provide state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) technology such as or Avidian. Not only will it make sales reps more efficient and allow them to monitor and track their own performance, it will allow management to generate detailed performance reports and sales forecasts based on actual activity.

Create incentives. Most outside sales organizations today are motivated in part by performance-based incentives, such as cash or merchandise such as a Rolex watch for the sales rep of the year. Reps who meet specific sales goals win specific prizes promoted to the team all season or all year. Many Fortune 1,000 companies use incentive travel, which rewards top-performing sales reps with free vacations to Hawaii or Mexico. Incentive travel programs also include an important recognition component that publicly rewards top guns.

Partner up on key customers, recommends Entrepreneur. One of the oldest truisms of business is that 80 percent of a company’s sales comes from 20 percent of its customers. Work with individual sales reps to pay particular and ongoing attention to the 20 percent that are the core of your sales volume.

Look for conflicts. One disadvantage of an outside sales rep is that he or she might be selling similar or even directly competing products or services, notes Entrepreneur. If that’s the case, the rep could be costing you business as well as bringing it in. Monitor the relationships that reps have with other clients very carefully and act immediately to deal with any perceived conflicts of interests.