An item often overlooked by principals is Training.
Principals must train the agent on the products or services that the company supplies. The question of covering agents costs whether it be for travelling or accommodation while on this training should be agreed prior to the commencement of the agent.
The single biggest factor in an agent’s failure is their lack of product knowledge. If an agent is not comfortable selling a product, they WON’T.
An induction period is a great way for agents and principals to understand the strengths and any weaknesses in the relationship. If the principal can make someone available to travel with the agent to make initial sales presentations this will give the agent time to understand and get a feel for the sort of questions that customers ask, what problems can arise, what sorts of things to look for, what the sales cycle looks like, and so on.
Sales agents don’t work under the same roof as the principal, and as they are paid commission only and because revenue is not guaranteed, it is vital that agents receive information such as copies of invoices, commission schedules in a timely fashion. Keeping agents up to date on orders received, delivery dates etc. all help the agents get a clear picture of the business and it’s potential.
When agents bring in quotation requests, the principal needs to turn them around as soon as possible! Likewise, if there are problems in the field, principals should offer support to the agent as well as their customers. Agents hate losing commission because “head office screwed up”!
Supplying the sales agent with a customer or a user list of their lines or services within the agent’s territory is a great way to help the agent build a customer base, as well as to understanding the market for the principal’s products. This can also greatly assist the principal, as it can open up previously unseen sales opportunities through cross-selling or activating dormant accounts.
Good promotional materials are an essential part of the agent’s armoury and principals need to supply agents with adequate materials such as brochures, samples, catalogues, and so on.
Last but certainly not least – Pay your Sales Agents what they are due and on time – nothing destroys a relationship quicker than not being paid on time or disagreements on what is due.