Sales Reps 101
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re looking for a way to increase your sales without breaking the bank and without having to invest more of your precious time.
One of the fastest, best & most affordable ways to do that is to hire sales representatives to help.
A good sales rep can be your best ally and the best money you’ll spend.
They grow your sales, you pay them a commission and you’re left with more money in your pocket AND more time to focus on other important aspects of your business, like advertising, marketing, and product development.¬†Not to mention, more free time to spend with your family.
For the optimal relationship with a sales rep, you should view them as a partner and treat them as such. Do everything you can to make their job easier and more productive. ¬†A great sales rep can be a miracle worker for the ever-busy and time-crunched mom entrepreneur.
- Be the finger on the pulse of your business–they can tell you what’s selling & what’s not, what display/POP materials would work for your products, suggest product line expansion ideas & more.
- Represent your product line at trade shows even if you’re not there.
- Get your products into big box retailers.
- Help you expand your sales territory nationally, internationally & online.
To get an insider’s look into this all-important partnership, I interviewed Cathy Downey, a veteran sales rep & former retail buyer for Sears, Spiegel and One Step Ahead. ¬†Cathy gave great tips on finding a sales rep & making that relationship successful.
TMM: How can you find an independent sales rep? Are there directories? ¬†Showrooms?
CD: The best way to start is to look on James Girone where reps are listed by geographic area. ¬†Some reps listed will have¬†showrooms. Additionally, talk with other manufacturers and see who they are using–ask if they’re happy with the rep & what they’re like to work with. ¬†You¬†should also get an idea from other manufacturers about the commission and other fees they are paying to their reps.
TMM: What questions should a mom entrepreneur ask a potential rep before hiring them?
- What is your territory?
- What type of stores do you call on–Specialty, Major Department Stores, Discounters, Boutiques, Hospital Gift Shops, etc.
- How do you work–from a showroom or as a road rep?
- If you have a showroom, are there showroom fees? How much?
- If you’re a road rep, how do you cover your territory?
- Do you do trade shows? Which ones? ¬†Are there trade show fees?
- Do you make store visits?
- Do you do mailings? Telemarketing?
- What commission rate do you charge? Does it differ depending on the size of the retailer/sale?
- How & when do I pay you?
- What other lines do you represent?
TMM: Once hired, what does a sales rep need from a mom entrepreneur?
- The rep needs SAMPLES. ¬†If it comes in multiple colors, the rep needs every color–customers want to touch and feel.
- Reps need CATALOGS, BROCHURES & LINE SHEETS.
- Reps need a 2 PART ORDER FORM. ¬†I always give the customer a copy of the order. ¬†If the vendor does not have a 2 part form, I¬†have a blank preprint form with my info on it. This is a real pain if there are multiple sizes and /or colors.
- Reps need a PRESS KIT if you have one. Features in magazines are best. Celebrity press is ok–some stores go for it. I’ve found that it is most important for strollers & diaper bags.
TMM: Tell us a bit about yourself and how we can connect with you.
CD: I have been a rep for 5 years. Prior to that, I was buying for Sears, Spiegel, and the One Step Ahead catalog. ¬†I mainly call on¬†specialty retailers. The lines that I represent complement one another and this affords the retailer one stop shopping for the¬†best items in each classification. ¬†It’s great for the manufacturer too because their product is showcased with items that are best in class.
I can be¬†contacted by phone at 708.977.4229, by email or at www.midwestchildrensapparelgroup.com for a complete list of lines¬†represented and shows that I will be participating in.
Additional Sales Rep Resources:
http://www.jamesgirone.com (they have sales reps listed by state/region)
More Tips from The Mogul Mom:
- You don’t pay sales reps a salary, you pay them commission on their sales. It’s like having an on-staff sales person without the on-staff overhead.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a sales rep for references.
- Keep in mind that a sales rep’s commission is usually paid 15-30 days after the retailer pays you–so, it’s in the sales rep’s best interest to write orders for retailers who pay their bills on time.
- Sales reps aren’t one size fits all–just because a sales rep is a great sales person doesn’t mean they’re the right person for your product.
- Your relationship with your sales reps is like any other relationship. Keep the lines of communication open & it will flourish.
Looking for more guidance on getting started with sales reps? Check out these great resources:
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