Territory sales representatives work in a number of industries, including food. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 1.8 million people worked as wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives in 2010. Food firms sometimes pay a regular salary to reps, but others offer a base monthly salary and a percentage cut of the sales made by the representative. Reps also handle products for a number of small food companies unable to support an exclusive sales employee, according to MANA, a professional trade organization. These reps have individual contracts with each firm to create a full-time position in a specific territory.
Stocking and Selling
Representatives inspect store inventory and stock and encourage regional and store managers to order more product when inventory runs low. Large chain stores typically have standing orders, so reps need to have the skills to analyze a spreadsheet to determine the best and worst selling products for a store or region and develop a sales presentation based on the information. Reps need persuasive abilities to encourage regional managers or store owners to introduce new food products and sometimes offer marketing promotions that serve free samples of food to store customers during the rollout of new items.
Sales and Promotion
Food reps promote the firm's product line and push the products at the store level by working with store owners and managers to secure prime-shelf space for food products. Food companies sometimes give reps small gifts to give to important store workers to encourage future orders. Reps look for ways to market products to the best advantage and sell the goods. Firms give reps colorful posters, cardboard cutouts, shelf decorations and interactive presentations, including video displays and coupon vending devices, to help attract consumer interest in food items.
Sales representatives for most companies have protected territories, restricting sales to a designated rep in a specific geographic region. Food territory sales reps make regular rounds of restaurants, groceries, specialty stores and catering companies to service accounts and to make new contacts to sell the firm's food items. Food manufacturers collect records from the rep to track the contacts made during the regular workweek. Most firms set monthly and yearly sales goals for representatives, and they must meet the quotas to keep their jobs.
On the Road
The size of the rep's territory can be as small as several neighborhoods in a large city or as large as several states, depending on the marketing strategy of the food company and the size of the company's sales catalog. Large companies frequently supply company cars to reps with large territories, but others give a cash allowance for the representative to lease or buy a car used for business. Many smaller companies ask reps to use a personal vehicle for company business and pay a reimbursement fee for mileage. Food firms also reimburse reps for overnight stay and provide a food allowance when on the road. Independent food representatives typically take a percentage of the sales each month and offset work expenses from this payment.