Factsheet – Where do Sales Agents Come From?

It is essential to have a good understanding of the unique UK sales agent culture.

Let’s start by looking at where commission only agents come from…

The Path To Becoming A Sales Agent

Not many people set out in their professional careers with the intention of becoming a sales agent. It is what I call an obscure profession. There has been no clear route into becoming a commission only sales rep. There are no courses, no professional bodies (other than sales agent registers and a small trade union). Most sales agents have found out about sales agency work through talking to existing sales agents, or seeing or being offered sales agency opportunities. They may have considered the security of employment more attractive, than the challenges, risks and potential rewards of self employment, and may have lacked the confidence or knowledge to become one.  Many sales agents are then ‘nudged’ by circumstance into becoming self-employed sales people:

The stars align:

  • Getting older = harder to find sales employment
  • Desire for more control over work/life balance, be their own boss, not be controlled, managed, etc.
  • Not a ‘yes’ man or a ‘company’ man – like to do things their way.
  • Possible double income – wife earning = security
  • Possible nest egg – pensions, redundancy pay offs, inheritances, etc = security
  • Low cost lifestyle – kids grown up or left home, mortgage paid off, no expensive hobbies? = low overheads
  • Get made redundant, get offered an agency, and give it a try, possibly as ‘filler’ until they find another job
  • Love it and don’t look back! Earn more, have more time off, have more control, take holidays when they want, etc. ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?!’

There is an imbalance between supply of, and demand for, sales agents. It seems that sales people do not venture into agency work in boom times. Recessions force people out of work and into considering new options. The UK enjoyed a prolonged boom between the early 1990’s and 2007/8 which has seen the pool of agents slowly dry up as agent retire or go back into attractive jobs. Very few new agents have been created during this period. This has created an acute shortfall in supply, and means relatively rich pickings for the agents that exist. They can pick and choose the opportunities from the buoyant demand that exists from industry for self-employed sales people. Only recently have we seen a reversal of this situation with the credit-crunch fuelled recession that began in the late summer of 2007 and is persisting at the time of writing (mid 2009). For this aspect of the economy at least, the sun is shining! More agents will be made over the next couple of years as unemployment figures soar. Furthermore, AgentBase has created the UK’s first and only training course for sales agents.

Working with sales agents can be an ideal way to grow a business or launch a new product with minimal costs. Often sales agents are the most cost-effective, quickest and lowest risk route to market. They may also simply be the best strategy when trying to open up new markets, where pre-existing customer relationships are key.

At AgentBase we have extensive experience of sales agent planning, recruitment and management. Call our friendly staff for a chat about your situation and how we can help you to get the most of out of using sales agents.

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