A manufacturer's representative, or Rep, is an outsourced sales team for a manufacturer. Manufacturers are great at making products, but seek the expertise, relationships, and market knowledge to sell what they make. Reps are most often found in professional, commercial, industrial, and other B2B markets where technical knowledge, training, end user specifications, and compliance knowledge require a sales team that is specialized to a given market.
Reps can be either independent contractors, or sales agencies with multiple salespeople and extensive infrastructures. In our industry, the smallest reps are <5 people, and the largest can be over 100.
Among reps, there are a few variations. The traditional model calls for reps to get paid a percentage of the sales in their territory as a sales commission. A rep will only get paid for what they sell. In addition to that, some reps also warehouse product and fulfill orders for their reps. These are called warehousing reps, and in this model a rep gets a commission on the sale, and a commission on the shipment of the goods. Finally, there is the stocking rep. A stocking rep includes the traditional rep and the warehousing rep, but they also buy and re-sell product much like a wholesaler will. These are also called master distributors or buy-sell reps.
Specific to the plumbing, mechanical, HVAC and related trades, manufacturers reps sell primarily to wholesale distributors but spend a majority of their selling time at various specifiers in the industry. These include, but are not limited to, plumbers, home-builders, engineers, mechanical contractors, general contractors, HVAC contractors, architects, developers, owners, building maintenance, city utilities, trade schools, trade unions, and more.