By Katie Carson
“We knew the value that reps bring to the industry, but it’s not until you sit down and watch these guys start working that you understand what they can do for your company,” said Jason Oberhelman, production manager of FiTech EFI.
Manufacturers’ representatives play an important role in the automotive aftermarket industry and can play an important role in your company, as well. Utilizing rep agencies can expand your presence in the market, reach new customers, and be a great complement to your current sales force. Many manufacturers are utilizing the services of independent sales reps and consider them as instrumental pieces in their overall sales goals.
SEMA Member News caught up with Dan Voight, motorsports sales manager of QA1, and Jason Oberhelman, production manager of FiTech EFI, to see how their companies use a combination of an internal sales team and independent sales reps.
QA1 is driven by sales and engineering. The company manufactures shock absorbers, springs, suspension components, rod ends and bearings, and carbon-fiber driveshafts for high-performance street vehicles as well as drag racing and Circle Track applications.
FiTech EFI manufactures and sells aftermarket electronic fuel injection (EFI) systems for classic vehicles. On top of the various types of EFI systems, the company also sells supporting fuel systems for EFI kits.
SEMA Member News: How does your company utilize manufacturers’ reps?
Dan Voight: Our independent sales reps work alongside the QA1 sales team and cover the eastern two-thirds of the continental U.S. The reps are an extension of QA1 to support our customers, both directly and indirectly, as well as prospect for new business opportunities that are within our product mix or capabilities. We strive to maintain a closely unified and coordinated effort with our outside sales reps.
Jason Oberhelman: We work exclusively with one agency that covers a large territory with many reps to promote and sell our product. We have an internal sales team that processes our direct orders and works with any dealer that may be out of the agency’s territory, all while working with our reps to making sure customers are completely satisfied.
SMN: Describe the communication between your staff and the rep agencies that you partner with.
DV: We view our reps as an extension of our staff. Communication is open at all levels, and we encourage that. Basic customer, prospect, market and product information is freely exchanged to help stimulate sales.
JO: Our internal staff and our outside reps work very well with each other. When we need help or answers from them, we know we can reach out and get things resolved quickly, and they can expect the same from us. We are in constant communication.
SMN: What drove your initial decision to use independent sales reps, and what was your experience in finding the best fit for your company?
DV: The decision was reached to use independent sales reps because of long-term strategic planning and growth goals. We involved our key customers in our decision; we merged their input with what we felt was the best fit for us and our goals.
JO: Our initial desire to use a rep firm was based on our own desire for sales growth and personal experience from working in the industry. We knew the value reps bring to the industry, but it’s not until you sit down and watch these guys start working that you understand what they can do for your company.
SMN: What benefits have you seen from working with reps?
DV: We have seen improved communication with our key customers across a wider range of their departments; faster response times; easier disbursement of information such as policies, pricing and new product information, trade show, marketing and advertising ideas and support.
JO: The size of our agency’s territory and the number of reps it has allowed us to sell into the major distribution channels. Another benefit of working with independent sales reps is their relationships with the speed shops, engine builders and auto-parts dealers within their individual territories. You have people you trust selling to people they already have relationships with, which helps build instant trust for your product. Plus all of the reps are enthusiasts and knowledgeable in the lines they carry. That gives you the ability to trust, knowing your products are in great hands.