In my time in the pump industry I’ve worked for both a pump manufacturer and as a manufacturer’s representative, and one question I’ve heard while working for both is: What do pump reps do?
From the outside looking in pump manufacturer’s representatives, or reps, can look unnecessary: just one more set of hands in the distribution process. Asked another way the question is: Why do pump manufacturer’s have reps? Why don’t pump manufacturer’s just go straight to market without using local representation?
Before answering the question a little background is necessary. Nearly all centrifugal pump manufacturers engaged in the municipal market go to market using manufacturer’s representatives. In a nutshell, reps are the local face and point of contact for manufacturers they represent.
But is a local face and point of contact even necessary? In the age of smartphones, ubiquitous air travel, and overnight shipping do these things matter? They do, and here are the top three reasons why pump manufacturers need good reps.
1. Good reps increase the manufacturer’s limited resources
Pump manufacturers have limited manpower and money to dedicate to sales efforts. Properly trained local representatives multiply the pump manufacturers limited time resource and minimize the manufacturer’s need to travel. The time invested in recruiting and training the representative firm is multiplied over and over every time the representative acts on the manufacturer’s behalf.
Properly trained reps will also take much of the day-to-day workload off of the pump manufacturer by handling requests for standard product information without requiring support from the manufacturer. This allows the manufacturer to dedicate more time to complex custom projects, and less time to projects involving standard products.
2. Good reps handle local logistics
Municipal projects tend to be very complex. The road from the initial feasibility study to final acceptance tends to be long and winding. Quite often multiple engineering firms will be involved along the way, and the project will go through many starts and stops. Good reps track the progress of projects all along the way, and make sure the manufacturers they represent are on the short list of acceptable products.
Municipal bids are also very complicated. Good reps understand how the bidding process works, know how to work with the bidding Contractors, and track down the information the manufacturers need to put together a competitive proposal.
3. Good reps provide a local face and point of contact
E-mail and phone calls make the world go around, but there’s still something about a handshake and smile that technology can’t replace. At the end of the day, when dealing with complex custom products, people do business with people they like and trust. In the world of municipal pumps problems are normal, and if the customer knows they can trust a good pump rep to take care of them the small problems will tend to stay small.
To the uninitiated reps may look unnecessary, but those who understand the municipal pump marketing process will tell you that a good rep leverages the manufacturers time, keeps tabs on projects as they progress, and is in front of the customer serving as a local face for the manufacturer. A rep who does these things is worth every dollar they earn.