Commercial intermediaries and sales partners in technical industries

Among German commercial intermediaries in technical sectors, most of whom are commercial agents in Germany, there is an especially large variety of designations for their commercial agencies. The terms industrial agency, factory representatives, and technical commercial agency are particularly common. This is often supplemented with a reference to the product range, e.g. to "factory representative for machines and industrial equipment" or "industrial agency for electrical engineering". However, many commercial agents in technical industries in Germany also act as sales engineers or refer to their commercial agency as an engineering office or sales engineering office. These designations are an indication that in addition to the sale of technical products, technical planning and/or design services are also offered. Industrial agencies in Germany often offer technical support, for example, for the commissioning of machines or systems, maintenance services, and technical customer service. The commercial agencies and sales partners of the supplier industry and the commercial agencies and sales partners for semi-finished products, raw parts and finished parts are also included among the industrial agencies. The number of German commercial agencies that sell agricultural machinery, municipal technology, or commercial vehicle bodies is relatively small.

Industrial agencies and sales partners as service providers

By selling and distributing in Germany for their represented companies, industrial agencies and sales partners not only provide a range of services that are inextricably linked to sales, but also provide services that can extend far beyond sales and distribution activities. In the following, an attempt is made to give a general overview of the services that technical commercial agents and sales partners in Germany (can) provide. That is not to say that every commercial agent in Germany has to provide all of these services. This is because the type and scope of the requested services depend on the needs of the suppliers and customers of the commercial agencies.

Market development services

Market development services include constant personal advertising to potential customers, explaining the products, and building trust. Market development services also include written advertising to customers and interested parties, additional advertising through one's own website and print media, and company presentations to potential customers using all available resources of the company represented, such as presentations, brochures, samples, and so on.

In addition, technical commercial agents and sales partners also support the trade fair appearances of their represented companies in Germany, especially those from abroad. They organise participation in trade fairs, from booking hotel rooms to arranging for catering. Above all, technical sales agents are also responsible for customer care at the exhibition stand. This so-called manning the stand is usually provided alternately by the German commercial agents of an exhibiting company.

Observing the market and reporting

Technical field service agents in Germany normally provide the service of observing the German market and monitoring trends in the demand for products. They also observe the activities of competitors in the market, at trade fairs, and with certain customers, and subsequently report on these. This includes all reportable transactions in the market and at the customers. This also includes situation reports on new projects and future plans, reports on market, industry, and company developments, information about the competition, and quality surveys and possibly even quality statistics.

Customer care and tracking supplier goals

Supporting customers is the central task of all industrial agencies and technical sales partners in Germany. This includes relationship management both with the sales management of the own represented companies, i.e. the suppliers, as well as with the important decision-makers of the customers. Visits to customers and interested parties are irreplaceable and are the main function of the commercial agent. They are used primarily to present offers, but also for recording and analysing customer requests and customer problems, for technical preliminary discussions, and for giving advice on new projects.

Telephone contacts in all relevant areas complement the communication. All relevant departments are included in the communication: purchasing, development, production, quality management, and logistics.

Asking about and promoting customer satisfaction is also one of the jobs of a technical commercial agent in Germany. In addition, there is the post-processing of joining trade fairs and exhibitions in the form of visits to potential customers, telephone contacts, and in some cases even procuring leasing offers, checking the credit of potential customers, and tracking payments.

In technical industries, it is not uncommon to encourage and organise visits by senior employees of the suppliers to the buyers and senior employees of the buyers to the suppliers. Technical field service employees, for whom both sides are equally its customers, often take meeting minutes at such meetings.

Project management

Project management tasks and services of industrial commercial agents in Germany are also very technology-specific. This includes processing inquiry documents, preliminarily clarifying technical issues, tracking inquiries at the supplier, and tracking deadlines, up to submitting quotations and tracking bids and quotations at the customer site.

Project management with the help of the departments of the represented companies, such as simultaneous development, kick-off meetings with suppliers and customers, design discussions, and simultaneous development together with the supplier, moderating coordination discussions, and getting cooperation partners or external consultants involved, is more likely to be part of the service portfolio of larger industrial agencies or factory representatives in Germany.

Customer service

(Technical) customer service is particularly typical of technical commercial agents or sales partners in Germany. When selling capital goods, this includes maintenance services, repair services, or the acceptance of machines together with the customer. When selling supplier products, this includes the handover and clarification of initial samples and limit samples.

Additional customer services can include documentation meetings with factory technicians, taking into account areas such as hydraulics, occupational safety, NC programs, tools, electrical systems (in the area of investment), influencing the approval of drawings, creating initial sample test reports, moderating workshops, or accompanying audits of the customer at the supplier's premises.

Processing complaints

In many cases, factory representatives or factory commercial agencies in Germany are involved in complaint processing to a greater or lesser extent, also in sectors other than technical. The factory representative is the first point of contact for the customer. Technical commercial agents and sales partners of the supplier industry in Germany often take on recording and analysing complaints as well as procuring complaint samples and, if necessary, involving companies to do rework. Commercial representatives of capital goods develop solutions to problems, possibly with the help of customer service technicians, and are also involved in recording damage to machines or determining field failures in accordance with VDA 6, Part 1, Item 21.22.

Additional services for selling and distributing capital goods

In addition to the already considerable portfolio of possible different services from industrial agencies and sales partners in Germany mentioned so far, the following possible services were also mentioned by commercial agents for capital goods:

• Arranging orders for customers to ensure higher machine utilization

• Training for accompanying decision-makers (especially in the electrical sector)

• Requirements for installers or assemblers

• Obtaining spare parts

• Taking over a spare parts warehouse and/or distribution warehouse

• Providing installers and assemblers

• Arranging for new customers for old machines

Modern industrial agencies and technical sales partners in Germany have thus developed from pure salespeople into problem solvers and providers of a wide range of services for buyers and suppliers.

Would you also like to use the advantages of a technical sales representative or sales partner for your sales and distribution needs in Germany?

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