The difference between a sales rep and a sales agent, is that a sales rep works directly for your company. A sales agent is usually self-employed and works as an independent contractor. A sales agent may have multiple, even competitive, clients that they represent.
Since the sales rep works directly for your company, you have complete control over what he/she is doing for you. You can control for instance that the sales agent is not selling competitive products and does not offer your products or services to your clients on a selective basis, which is typically the product/supplier that offers the best price just to secure the order. The sales rep works 100% of his time for you and should only promote your products. You have the possibility to provide your sales rep with the best training. The effectiveness of a sales rep in selling your goods should therefore be very high. The sales rep is usually paid a base salary and a commission or incentive based on how much sales they make.
Sales Agents are self-employed and by that they are entrepreneurs, usually with a lot of drive to achieve something in life. Because they are self-employed, you have less control over them. The sales agent can create a very large basket of products or services just to make sure there is an income that can be generated. You should be so convincing to the sales agent in what you offer in the form of a potential product or service plus support that he/she may decide to give your company more attention than others. You can regulate this all in the form of a contract. Furthermore, you can stipulate if, or how many, competitive products the sales agent is allowed to market aside from your products. You can, should, also provide good product training to the sales agent just to make sure he/she knows the ins- and outs of your products and markets. This contains also a risk where it is possible that well-trained sales agents, with all the information and skills you tought them, is loored away by a competitor. Also, include an anti-competition clause in your agreement with the sales agent. Our experience with sales agents in general is very good. When your product, your support, delivery times, quality etc. is good they can be great performers for your company. We know of sales agents that have company relationships for over decades and have become a part of the company they represent. Very important is that you as the company that wants to attract sales agents has made sure that you are ready as a company for that sales agent and give him/her the right product, delivery time, price, training, regular sales meetings and overall support. If you just search for an sales agent, appoint him/her and wait for the orders to come in, you will fail. A sales agent is usually paid a commission on sales generated by the agent.
A manufacturers’ representative is an independent sales representative or sales agent and is often an individual or a multiagent sales agency or company that sells and markets’ a manufacturer’s products to wholesale and retail customers. A manufacturers’ representative is often paid a commission on sales generated by the representative.