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Have you ever wondered how manufacturers get their products into stores? Maybe someone has come up with a great new stain remover or a wonderful new line of clothing. The product may be great, but no one will know about it unless someone convinces a retail outlet to display and sell the merchandise.

Manufacturers rely on sales representatives to show their merchandise to retail outlets. A manufacturer's sales representative sells the manufacturer's product (cars, groceries, clothing, electronics, and so on) to retail buyers, who then sell the product to the customer. This middle step between manufacturers and consumers is known as the wholesale trade. Manufacturing sales representatives work directly for the manufacturer.

The manufacturer's representative introduces a manufacturer's product to wholesale trade firms, retailers, government agencies, and construction contractors. His or her goal is to get the customer to buy the product. The manufacturer's representative demonstrates the product to show the client how the product is used. He or she describes how it will reduce costs and increase sales, and points out how it differs from similar products. Potential buyers expect the representative to know every detail of the product. Sometimes the sales representative takes a technical expert along to explain the intricacies of the product. Sometimes, it is a challenge just to get a potential buyer to listen. Manufacturer's representatives must be friendly and appealing, and they must be able to work quickly and convincingly.

Once the client has bought the product, the sales rep may offer to help with installation and training the employees in its use. The rep continues to stay in touch with the customer, making sure the product is performing as expected and offering help with displays and promotion. Establishing relationships is very important in this career. Some representatives send their customers letters and cards on anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. They find that they get and keep more business by treating each customer as if he or she were the most important person on Earth.

In addition to keeping current customers satisfied, the manufacturer's sales representative is constantly recruiting new clients. The representative gets leads from satisfied customers, follows ads in trade magazines, and goes to trade shows and conferences to meet people who are interested in the product. Often the representative entertains prospective clients in the evenings and on weekends, taking them out to dinner, to concerts, and to sporting events.

Manufacturer's representatives usually have sales territories that may cover several states, which means they are on the road for days or weeks at a time. They have to carry heavy bags of samples in and out of buildings. During these trips, they meet with clients during the day and work on presentations or contracts in the evening. In addition, a manufacturer's representative needs to keep ahead of the competition. The representative will spend time learning about new products and keeping track of what others in the field are doing. Representatives have to anticipate what customers will want next year.

Manufacturer's sales representatives must be goal-oriented and persuasive. They need good communication skills. Often they have to work on solving problems. A sales rep must also have patience, since many sales take several months to close. As representatives get more experience, their territories expand and they have more chances to earn larger commissions. Others go into business for themselves once they have learned the basics.

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