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Roles of the B2B Buying Journey: The Manufacturing Sales Rep

Understanding the customer journey – and your internal team’s journey – is critical in B2B industries like manufacturing and distribution. A manufacturing sales representative is an independent seller that represents manufacturers and their products, but is not a direct employee of any manufacturer. He often represents a series of complimentary manufacturers, but generally not competitors.
An integral part of the business, he has the best interests of the manufacturers he represents in mind. He is very knowledgeable about the products he represents, and is often considered to be a trusted advisor by both customers and the sales channel.

Easy Access to Internal Information

Since he isn’t an internal team member, the manufacturing sales representative doesn’t automatically have access to the information he needs. He needs to be able to search for and utilize data that isn’t on a public-facing website, so he really needs some kind of portal experience to help him do his job.
Everyone wants instantaneous information, and without providing access to product information and data, he’ll have to contact multiple people in the organization to gather what he needs. Having multiple people working to provide him with this information, you create transactional intensity and are wasting time and resources. You need to look at him as an extension of your business, and provide an internal system for him to access what he needs in an easy format.

Equipment to Do the Job

In addition to his need to access data, the manufacturing sales rep will also need the materials to support his job functions. He may need to request samples, get quotes, or check-out demo equipment. He needs access to sales materials and product information so he can best represent your product. Requesting demo equipment or samples is not something an outside customer may ask for, but a manufacturer’s rep may require those capabilities. You need to think about how your commerce and digital experiences can support those needs. But because of their reliance on channel partners, B2B vendors are having difficulty delivering a more personalized, B2C-like experience. 84% don’t have visibility into sales partner opportunity pipelines, and just 21% have total control over their sales network and overall customer experience.

The Data to Back it Up

In addition to product information, your manufacturing sales representative will also need relevant customer information. He’ll need to know what is happening with your customers in person and on your site, and will need easy access to that information. What are those customers ordering? When did they order? This data will help her do her job more effectively and provide custom experiences for your customers.

Interacting with the Manufacturing Sales Rep

What He Does

  • Works for an external organization as a sales representative
  • Represents a select group of manufacturers as an external part of their sales team
  • He only gets paid when he sells products. He can sell them himself as a direct transaction, or through a channel that he works with.
  • Many manufacturers he works with consider him to be part of their internal team even though he is not

What He Needs

  • A single system to connect to that gives him all the information he needs to do his job
  • An easy way to request samples, quotes, and other relevant information
  • An easy way to order demo equipment when he needs to show a customer or train the channel
  • Access to customer data and ordering that is happening both online and offline

Where You’ll Reach Him
He is often in the field and may be interacting with the manufacturer’s CRM, commerce platform, and other tools the manufacturer provides.

What You Can Provide to Make His Job Easier

  • A commerce portal with  access to information that makes it easy for him to do his job
  • Complete and accurate product information including images, documentation, and more
  • An easy way to prepare a list of products that a customer should use on a project or products that are new
  • The ability to self-serve to see order history, product availability, and other data this is relevant to him and the customers he serves
  • The ability to see sales information relevant to his customers

To learn more about the other roles involved in the B2B buying process and how you can improve their experience, check out our guide The People of the Manufacturing and Distribution Buyer Journey.

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Karie Daudt, Senior Commerce Consultant

Senior Commerce Consultant for Perficient, a leading digital consultancy. Experience includes more than two decades in digital commerce, product management, business development and marketing for manufacturing and distribution organizations. Has provided strategic leadership for global suppliers and brands resulting in innovative techniques for improving the customer experience overall, reducing cost of sales and accelerating efficiencies within complex buying and selling scenarios. Authored articles for leading publications in the manufacturing, distribution and ecommerce industries.

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