How to Get Started With An Independent Sales Rep

December 16, 2014

Say you are an enterprising businessman or woman with a new great idea. You’re a young brand who’s just brought your concept to life, established your supply chain, worked out your pricing, and developed your marketing materials. Now it's time to move the product off the shelves - but what's the easiest way to make that happen? For many manufacturers or distributors (also called “Principals”), the easiest way to assemble the sales force you need is through the use of independent sales reps. Independent sales reps have a number of advantages over a direct sales force – they require no salary or health insurance and little overhead in general. They possess existing sales territories and relationships with retailers that can help you break into new markets, and are experienced enough in sales to be willing to go it alone. What do you need to do before hiring an independent sales rep in order to ensure your product succeeds? If you're just bringing your product to market, check out the following 5 steps to take before bringing on an independent sales rep below.

How to Get Started With Independent Sales Reps

Step 1: Check Your Pricing

For young brands who may not have had that much experience selling their products, getting their pricing right is a crucial step to take before hiring sales reps. Many manufacturers underprice their product initially. Make sure you know the cost of labor, take into account sales and marketing costs, factor in shipping costs and any possible losses due to damaged products, and leave room for profit! Check your costs against the wholesale price and what the retailer will want to charge their own customer. If retailers find your product too expensive (they'll generally want to mark it up 2.2 - 2.5 times wholesale prices), your product won't make it very far with or without a sales rep.

Step 2: Prove the Value of Your Product

If reps took on every untested product, they wouldn’t have the reputation they have for sales savvy. If you want to find a highly qualified independent sales rep that is a great fit for your business, you will need to demonstrate to them that your relationship is a win-win situation. If you’re just launching your business, try placing your product in local stores on consignment, or give it a test run at local festivals or industry events you already attend. Demonstrating that the product can sell is important in attracting a great independent rep.

Step 3: Find Your Reps

If you are confident in your product, it’s time to start looking for reps and drumming up interest in carrying your line. Sites like LinkedIn are always helpful in locating assistance, but more specialized, sales-specific websites can streamline the process even further. Make sure you contact a large number of reps, as not every qualified rep will be interested. If you need 10, reach out to 30.

Step 4: Woo the Right Ones

An independent sales rep is tasked with selling your product, but first they need to be convinced to take on your line. In many ways, they are like a customer, and as with a customer, you want to put your best foot forward. The most common reason a rep refuses a line is because the company does not seem professional or reputable enough. If you are trying to establish a new brand such professionalism will be an asset, period.

Step 5: Submit a Letter of Intent

If you have found a sales rep you would like to work with, it’s time to craft a Letter of Intent. This letter will establish your interest in working with the sales rep, set out the dates of the probationary sales period, outline communication requirements, set deadlines for purchase orders, and provide commission rates (often 5-20% of gross sales). After this, you can send samples and get your sales going. With any luck, this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.   Author Bio: Jeffrey Simon is a principal in RepHunter, an A+ BBB rated business founded in 2001 that specializes in connecting sales reps and principals. They offer an expansive database of sales reps, which is keyword searchable and can be filtered for other important attributes, such as location, annual sales numbers, exclusivity, and more. Learn more at