I’ve interviewed a lot of B2E reps. As a group, the people drawn to this vocation derive intrinsic value from improving educational outcomes. Most of them could sell another line for better wages, but they get more satisfaction working with schools and students. So when I ask them why they are leaving their previous employer, it comes as no surprise that the number one reason is not financial. Can you guess what it is?
Far and away, the primary reason a rep says they want to leave their current job is a lack of support. Many say the product they sell doesn’t deliver as promised, or Customer Service fails to resolve issues, or that the firm list price doesn’t compute for the small schools in their state. They simply can’t stand letting their teachers down. In this highly distributed business it’s possible a district never meets anyone but their sales rep from a product they rely on every day. That rep’s name and reputation are at stake when they walk in a district and they hold that as a sacred trust.
I myself have been at times discouraged in independent sales because I couldn’t get what I needed to succeed from a B2E provider. Independent or employee, a rep is on the same team as the headquarters but it often doesn’t feel that way. They have to navigate who does what, and when they figure that out it becomes a nightmare of gaining approvals. Slowing down reps slows down growth. Look for ways to remove obstacles and your reps will say they feel supported.
Here’s some easy ways to walk the walk of support:
- Train reps very well so they are empowered to be self-sufficient.
- Provide scripts and templates not to control them, but with which they can build their own talk track and materials.
- Build a sales-driven culture that values rep time like money in the bank. Let every department know that sales reps, independent and employee alike, are internal customers that require immediate attention to keep the wheels turning.
- Give reps a company directory including a guide to “who does what.” It’s nice to include a photo directory when you have field-based teams.
- Write clear guidelines giving reps flexibility on pricing and terms when volume or other sales objectives are met.
- Keep the rep in the loop when there is a customer service issue with one of their customers.
- When a territory is in the doldrums, resist the temptation to point fingers at the rep and rally the internal troops. Put your heads together to examine what initiatives, funding, and themes are abuzz in their state that the product, marketing and support teams can run with. Even if the problem was partially a lackluster effort from the salesperson, you might find the show of support turns that around as well!
Keep your reps supported and you’ll keep your reps!