From The Editor | November 17, 2022

Why Relying Heavily On Sales Reps Is A Big Mistake

Mark Wiley Headshot

By Mark V Wiley, Chief Editor, Water Online Advantage

VAR Marketing Mistakes


No smart investor puts all his money in one investment. And no treatment equipment vendor should put all his sales efforts in the hands of independent sales reps. When investing in the market, diversification is the way to go.  A recent discussion we had with a younger independent sales rep at a trade show bore this out as well for water and wastewater treatment equipment vendors.

If you are a treatment equipment vendor grappling for stronger growth numbers, it is important to diversify how you approach the market, how you reach prospects, and how you build awareness of your products. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to do this is by providing content directly to the water and wastewater market that educates them generally about their needs, rather than promoting the specifics of your latest pump.

Audience education leads to brand awareness which over time leads to trust and then to sales. So, in addition to supporting your sale reps’ efforts you should also be supporting your own sales funnel. We have found the best way to do this is by providing compelling content that educates the reader (your prospective customers) at all levels of their specific needs, from ‘just curious’ to ‘ready to buy.’

Small Sales Won’t Grow Your Brand

Are you having difficulty selling to the larger municipalities? The issue may be your sales rep. The independent sales rep we spoke to said he prefers approaching smaller municipalities. He went on to make the following observations about why he can’t compete for the larger bids, and thus avoids them.

  • They’ve already formed an educated opinion on how to fix a problem.
  • They've got greater knowledge, experience, and a larger network to rely on.
  • They’ve got the means to try to figure problems out for themselves.
  • They’ve got established relationships with engineering firms and immediately start collaborating on a solution design.
  • They don’t want to waste time meeting with smaller, independent sales reps to hear about products manufactured by companies they know nothing about.

According to the rep, it is precisely because the smaller utilities don't have engineering competence on staff that he can make an impression on them. They also don't have deep relationships with the larger engineering firms because those firms aren't going to bid on the smaller projects. This makes the smaller municipalities the perfect prospect for the independent sales rep.

Sound Business Model or Lost Opportunity?

This seems like a sound business model, and it is for the sales rep who can spend less time and win more bids. And yes, winning small bids in hundreds of small municipalities across the country can get a manufacturer to breakeven or perhaps in the black.

But for the treatment equipment vendor it is neither a wise growth strategy nor a sustainable business model. Relying too heavily on independent sales reps limits your reach and keeps your product from being placed before the larger utilities who, in time, would otherwise come to read about your brand and product enough times and in enough ways to remember it, to develop some trust in it, and then to give it real consideration when making their purchasing decisions.

Largely because of the internet, utilities are more knowledgeable today than ever before and are getting the answers they want without having to consult with sales reps. This was unheard of twenty years ago. Today, a simple search on Google, company websites, or on Water Online will provide enough information for utilities to form an opinion about what they need and from whom they need to get it. They no longer have the time or patience to sit down and listen to sales pitches from several reps and then to compare products and bids. The world is simply moving too fast.

This seems like a doom and gloom scenario, but it is actually a blessing in disguise. With content marketing treatment equipment vendors can now control their own message and place that message in front of the water and wastewater market.

Beat Information Overload

Information overload is a real problem online. The internet is swamped with information that historically was fed to utilities through a vendor’s independent sales rep channels. And now data sheet specification information that validates the products that the sales rep has been pitching are everywhere online. With so much white noise utilities will naturally gravitate toward the best-known brands.

To stand out in a crowded space you must establish your brand as a leader in the industry by creating compelling online content that talks about the issues your buyers’ want, without pushing your product specifically. This sounds counter intuitive, but its priceless advice that has proven itself successful time and time again. And you want access to the largest possible audience within the water and wastewater space to increase readership of your content and thereby exposure to your brand. Water Online is uniquely positioned to help you achieve all of this.

We Can Help

As more and more buyers conduct their product discovery activities on the Web, many treatment equipment suppliers use Water Online to generate interest in their products and feed sales leads to their rep firms. Our content presentation model means that when bidding on jobs, contractors and operators will recognize your brand as a product they want to work with and your company as a best-in-breed reliable vendor, elevating you over the competition when all else is viewed as equal.

Through our analytics we can identify exactly who it is that you need to influence, and we can figure out exactly what kind of questions those individuals have. Based on those questions, and their need for answers, we're going to help you create (or create it ourselves on your behalf) the piece of content or the portfolio of content that helps those people find your content.

Let us show you how…