For many brands that sell wholesale, utilizing independent reps and rep firms is a key part of their sales strategy. For some, it’s not cost-effective to employ in-house reps, or they simply need to get feet on the ground quickly without having to put resources into establishing a salaried team. Others recognize the depth of the existing networks and relationships an independent rep may provide, which can open up new business opportunities in existing markets, and provide access to new territories.

Whatever the reason, wholesalers often look to hiring independent sales representatives, also called manufacturer’s reps, as an alternative to way to build a sales force. These independent reps usually have their own companies or work for a rep firm that employs a group of salespeople. They work as independent contractors on commission only (generally resulting in higher commissions on each sale) and may represent other brands, but hiring an independent rep requires no up-front risk.

If you’re thinking of hiring independent reps but aren’t sure where to start, here’s a quick overview.

How to Hire Independent Sales Reps to Represent Your Brand

So you’ve decided that you want independent reps to at least be part of your sales force. How do you find a rep that’s in the territory you want, with the domain experience needed to sell your product? Here are a few ways:

1. Find independent reps at trade shows:

Trade shows can be great networking opportunities, not just for finding new customers, but also for finding sales representation. By attending high-traffic trade shows in your industry, you may come across independent reps or firms representing other brands at the show and/or looking for new lines to represent. Try to branch out at trade shows to develop relationships with these kinds of contacts.

2. Use a rep-matching service or database:

Services like RepHunter.net or RepRight.com specialize in helping to match independent sales representatives with wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors who need their services. Sales reps go to these sites looking for new product lines to represent, while companies seek commission-only sales representation. (For more great insights on working with independent reps, check out RepRight Founder Alice Errett’s guest post on our blog, as well as a post from Jeffrey Simon of RepHunter).

3. Take advantage of LinkedIn:

Social Media can also help. Try finding independent reps in your industry by joining relevant LinkedIn groups or conducting a quick search for independent reps working in the industry/territory you’re looking for.

4. Ask existing retail customers for recommendations:

If you already have an existing list of customers, try asking them to recommend independent sales reps that they’ve met or worked with before. As retail buyers, they have likely worked with many independent reps over the years, and this method can be a great way to find independent sales reps that retailers already enjoy working with.

5. Post the position on online job search sites:

While this kind of approach may not yield many targeted results, it can’t hurt to make it part of your search strategy. At the very least, doing this kind of exercise will force you to create a concrete job description that outlines the key qualifications you’re looking for.

6. Place an ad or request in a trade publication or relevant sales association publication/website:

This is a more targeted approach than the point listed above, as publications or websites dedicated to your industry or to the independent sales rep community will more likely get you connected with exactly the kind of people you’re looking for. Note, however, that there are many organizations geared toward specific industries, so be sure to do your research.

Of course, in any of these scenarios, remember that despite the fact that these reps aren’t working on a salaried basis, they’re still going to be representing your brand to customers. Be sure to conduct a thorough interview process, get a good idea of their experience in the industry and the quality of their relationships with their existing customers, and seek referrals to validate what they’ve told you.

Do you have any strategies for finding and hiring independent sales reps that we haven’t covered here? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.