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Manufacturer's Representative Vs. Distributor

To successfully manage the manufacture and distribution of a product, you need both a manufacturer's representative and a distributor. Read more below to see how these occupations work together, but have very different roles.

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Comparing a Manufacturer's Representative to a Distributor

Manufacturer's representatives help a manufacturer sell their products, while distributors help a manufacturer store and ship their products. The distributor usually works in a warehouse setting while the representative makes phone calls from an office and travels to meet customers at their business location.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Manufacturer's Representative High School Diploma or
Bachelor's Degree (technical/scientific products)
$60,530 (wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives) 6% (wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives)
Distributor High School Diploma $89,190 (transportation, storage, and distribution managers) 7% (transportation, storage and distribution managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of a Manufacturer's Representative vs. a Distributor

Both a distributor and a representative may work for the same manufacturer. The manufacturer's representative is responsible for generating sales and working to identify new customers. The distributor works with the vendors that the representative identifies to coordinate delivery logistics like making sure they receive their product in a timely manner. Both positions require an extensive knowledge of the manufacturer's product.

Manufacturer's Representative

The job of the manufacturer's representative is to identify, contact and cultivate clients to purchase products made by the manufacturer. Clients are usually specific to a particular type of industry, be that retail stores, restaurants, hotels, scientific organizations or the military. The representative establishes a relationship with the client by listening to their needs and selecting a product to fit those needs. After the sale is made, the representative checks in with the client to make sure they are satisfied with the product. To be successful at this job means that you need to be familiar with the manufacturer you represent and understand the applications of their products.

Job responsibilities of a manufacturer's representative include:

  • Attending trade shows to become familiar with competing manufacturers and potential customers
  • Negotiating pricing options with customers
  • Demonstrating the attributes of the manufacturer's products
  • Keeping records of contacts and sales information
  • Training clients on the proper use of products
  • Communicating with distributors for the delivery of the product

Distributor

The job of a distributor is to manage the flow of materials from the manufacturer to the customer. To be successful in this career you must have a diverse set of skills from managing workers to scheduling the arrival and departure of materials. In addition, safety is a major concern. Distributors must be very familiar with the optimal conditions for storing and transporting the product, including temperature tolerances, viability timeline, and handling regulations. A distributor must be able to analyze these factors in addition to the location of the warehouses in relation to the customers to insure the product arrives in good condition.

Job responsibilities of a distributor include:

  • Inspecting the storage conditions of materials in the warehouse
  • Documenting transportation costs for sales department
  • Using software to track inventory in transit and in the warehouse
  • Developing emergency procedures for the handling of dangerous materials

Related Careers

If you like working with people to buy and sell products like a manufacturer's representative, then the job of purchasing agent may also be appealing. If you prefer to manage and coordinate materials like a distributor, then you would also enjoy the job of an event manager.

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