Sales Reps 101

If you’re like most mom 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.

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, product development and your social media strategy.  Not to mention 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. They can:

  • 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?

CD:

  • 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?

CD:

  • 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)
http://www.americasmart.com
http://www.dallasmarketcenter.com
http://www.californiamarketcenter.com
http://7wnewyork.com
http://www.greatrep.com
http://www.findfashionrep.com
http://www.nyigf.com
http://sellingtogiftshops.com/

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.  I once had a male sales rep who didn’t have children & asked me repeatedly what “swaddling” meant–not the best person to be selling Swaddleaze. :)
  • Your relationship with your sales reps is like any other relationship–keep the lines of communication open & it will flourish.

Have questions, need additional information? Comment on this post!

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61 Responses to “Sales Reps 101”

  1. Sonya_at_TMC says:

    Great, info – thank you. After reading this, I am seriously considering it!

  2. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this. I will share this article link with my entire news list because so many people are craving this info! Thanks for another wonderful and much needed article!

  3. Katherine says:

    Great article! This question comes up a lot and I’ll refer people here!

  4. Linda says:

    Another valuable post. I needed this. Thank you!

  5. Ros says:

    Thanks for this educational post. Worked with a couple of experienced reps last year and they had to teach me a few things, not a bad thing as I’m a student always, but wish I’d been a little more knowledgeable of the basics at least. I’m definitely filing this post as part of my educational tools and reference.
    Ros=)
    Ficklets.com

  6. Jennifer says:

    Great post. I just started the process of doing this myself. Now if I can find reps taking on new clients, I will know what to ask!

    Jennifer
    thebabybloak.com

  7. I neglected to mention something really important in this interview–and that’s the fact that Cathy is the BEST sales rep I’ve ever worked with. She got my product Blankeaze into the One Step Ahead catalog and now it has over 200 5-star reviews!!

    If any of you are looking for a great sales rep, look no further–CONTACT Cathy today! :)

    Heather

    • Olivia says:

      Hi,
      I don’t see any mention of Cathy’s contact info, could somebody send it to me?
      I appreciate it!
      Hats@dotsontots.com
      Also if anybody could recommend a sale rep for organic babies ear protection headwear ( I’m in ny, but my target area is California ) – it would be terrific!!!!
      Thanks in advance and thank you for the helpful info in this post!

      Olivia

  8. What is the ballpark comission rate one should exptect to pay a sales rep? I am SO new at this and don’t even know what the range for that would look like. Thanks!!

  9. Brian Fate says:

    Thanks so much for the valuable information and we are looking forward to you tweets!! Thanks again for following on twitter @DOGUA “the healthy liquid treat” that will have your dog barkin’ for a new beverage!

  10. a.larson says:

    Great Post. So many folks I talk to say bad things about htier reps, but it might be they are not keeping the communication lines open.

    Very helpful this post.

    Angela

  11. Sandy Dell says:

    Great article! Having worked as an independent sales rep for over 8 years, I find it refreshing to find an article that includes the some of the important points that you bring up in your post. Thanks for the reference to James Girone’s Guide. I was not familiar with his website. Also, you might want to refer your readers to http://www.UAMR.com as a resources for finding reps.

    ‘GiftRepSandy’
    http://www.SellingtoGiftShops.com

  12. Kris says:

    I’m telling you, you and Cathy make a rockstar team! LOL

  13. susie shina says:

    This post was so good I printed it out. Thanks for listing the resources AND the questions to ask.

  14. Lynn @Mama_Says says:

    Heather, Once again your tips are so timely. Thank you. I’ve also RT’d this out to share your ideas with others. Best, Lynn

  15. But what about for those of us who sell to businesses–not consumers? Any tips on where to find B2B sales reps? Thanks!

  16. Hi Heather,

    Thank you so much for this post. It is so, so helpful!!

    Candice
    http://www.FunMunchkin.com

  17. Need a back-to-basics guide to hiring #sales reps? Here you are http://ow.ly/6w1aA #mompreneurs

  18. Abbi says:

    Fantastic Article!!!!.

    Thank you Heather for this. It is so refreshing and educating.

    Considering that I had been at my wits end on how to go forward with my kids footwear brand and writing orders.

    Could you kindly recommend kids footwear sales rep and which territory to start from in the US. My brand is UK based and looking to enter the US market.

    My other question is: is the commission paid to Sales Reps for kids apparel same with kids footwear.

    Cheers

    Abbi

    • Hey Abbi! So glad you enjoyed the article. As to footwear sales reps, I’m not sure about the specifics. You’d have to check some of the resources we listed and/or find similar footwear companies and maybe ask them about their reps. Good luck!

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Abbi,

      I’m in an identical situation to yours, with a UK based kids footwear brand and interested in selling to the US market with a rep. Can I ask if you had any luck finding a suitable rep? My product is a range of very unique and diverse kids socks, so hopefully no direct competition with yours. Please let me know how it’s going if you have time: jpaul0983 @ gmail.com

      Jonathan

  19. This was a great article!! I even contacted Cathy, but she wasn’t available to take any new clients at this time. Would you be able to refer a rep looking for our unique and creative new handbag that can be used for moms and women in general? I am so stressed trying to find a good one! If you can, please HELP! LOL

  20. Nat says:

    Hello, this may be a silly question but do you typically pay the sales rep commission only for the initial sale, or for the lifetime of the relationship with that specific buyer?

  21. Diana says:

    Thank you so much for this great information! I have been searching for this info. for awhile, this will really help me take the step in my business.

    Thanks Again!

  22. Yvonne says:

    Hi Heather, how can I get in touch with Cathy (Sales Rep)? Thanks! Yvonne

  23. Yvonne says:

    Thanks so much, Heather!! I found it…

  24. Prat says:

    Really awesome info.. Thank you! I too have a question, I have designed baby blankets and thinking of going through sales reps. I do not carry stock, and will start production only after I get booked orders.. So I am given some production lead time on booked orders! :)

  25. Sandy Dell says:

    Prat,

    As a sales rep, I would want to know WHY you do not carry stock. Do you only make custom blankets? If you want to use a sales rep, you really need to have stock on hand to ship out as soon as you receive orders. If you have too many options to keep them all in stock, I suggest you narrow your wholesale line down to what you can keep on hand. I tell my producers and buyers that orders are shipped within a week or receiving the order. Once again, I would like to know why you are not planning to keep an inventory of your blankets on hand if you plan to wholesale.

    Sandy
    “Gift Rep Sandy”

  26. Prat says:

    Sandy,

    Thanks, I like your suggestion.
    In fact I have developed many colors & designs and keeping a stock is very expensive proposition since my blankets are on the top end . I think I should only market few designs/colors this season and have these in ready stock. I have been approached by few reps and was at a loss on how to deal with this situation.

    Prat

  27. Edie says:

    Love this and once again you are so helpful – thanks Heather!! Edie

  28. Kim says:

    Hi Heather,
    Your website is just what I needed to move forward. Can you recommend a sales rep for the upstate NY area. I have a very unique product that will be ready to move in about 2 to 3 weeks.
    My products are not like no other on the retail market. I thought about it over 5 years. In that time I watched how potential customers shopped. I also approched them to ask some questions on how they shopped.
    Because of this I decided to move forward 10 months ago and develope my products. I had to feel that it had the potential to be a big success if I was going to invest my time and money into it.
    I am a grandma that had custody of my 2 young granddaughter. This venture come late in my age while I do have much responsibilities and alot on my plate to say the least. I want them to reap what grandma has sewn so I must sew a nice straight tight stitch.
    I guess by now your wondering what could the unique product be that has never been on the market before. Because I am so close I can now revel what it is.
    My products are unscented shampoo and conditioner. Each product comes with 4 different designer fragrances where the customer can add what scent they want per use. So when purchasing both products the consumer with have 8 fragrances to use in both products.
    I will be expanding to a men’s 3 in 1, lotions, creams, bath products and body washes. All fragrances will be able to use in all of our line. The more they purchase the more choices they will have.
    If the customer would like different scents they can go to my upcoming website and create their own package from my growing line of fragrances. They can have the fragrance as mild or bold as they like.
    For those who don’t want or for health reasons cannot use fragrances can purchase all of the products that are unscented.
    Told you it was different. I have been filling out vendor forms on websites to get these products on the shelf. A local Wal-Mart manager wants to see the finished product. They have a local buying program.
    So what do you think about my product? I would love to hear from you readers as well. The company name is U Make Scents. I am in the final stages of trademarking the name.
    I really appreicate that someone like yourself is out there helping and directing people like myself. Hats off to you!
    Thank you for your time and input.
    Kim

    • Hey Kim! Congratulations on your business idea. Sounds like you’re off to a great start with a unique product line. As far as NY reps, you’ll have to check some of the sites/resources mentioned in this article – it’s been a long time (5 years!) since I had to find sales reps. :)

      Good luck to you!
      Heather

  29. Sandy Dell says:

    Hi Kim, If you are interested in purchasing a list of sales reps, you might want to check out this link: http://www.payloadz.com/go/jump?id=1321788&aff_id=3427295

    Also another resource:

    http://www.squidoo.com/where-to-find-sales-representatives-for-your-gift-products

    Good luck,
    Sandy Dell

    • kim says:

      Hi Sandy,
      Thank you for the links for sales reps. After reading them I see that you not only rep gifts products but personal products.
      Personal products is what I offer. Are you open to new clients?
      I love some of your stories that you posted in the link. I like that fact that you have been through some things that a new business face. You know first hand what it’s like to be on the other side of a not so good sales rep. It’s to bad some small business have to go through things like this like you did as well.
      Most reps from what I read have never had the shoe on the other foot like you have.
      Small business are looking for just that. Someone that has walked in their shoes and knows what it is like to get walked all over.
      Please email me at umakescents@rochester.rr.com
      I look forward to hearing from you.
      Thank you,
      Kim

  30. kim says:

    I have a question.
    How does someone figure out what wholsale price to charge? For example if an item costs me $2 what things also need to be included in the wholesale price? I’m sure that many new business will want to know the formula in figuring what they should charge for wholsale and retail.
    Thanks for your help.
    Kim

  31. Sandy Dell says:

    Hi Kim,

    I have a Squidoo lens that addresses that topic:

    http://www.squidoo.com/pricing-your-products-for-the-wholesale-market

    We also offer a FREE e-course on Pricing Your Products that is currently down, but if you are interested, you can email me direct and I email the course to you.

    Good luck,
    Sandy Dell
    GiftRepSandy@gmail.com

  32. Amy says:

    Hello all,

    I am a childrenswear Sales Manager currently based in the UK. I have recently moved from the USA where I worked with a large NY based childrenswear distributor for several years. Since I have years of experience within the US market I have recently joined a London based brand overseeing the US market on a part time basis. At this time I am currently looking for an opportunity to represent another childrens brand within the US market while being based in London. If anyone is interested in discussing any opportunities please feel free to contact me. You can view my profile on linkedin http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/amy-gaillard/34/0/173/

    • Mark Darwish says:

      Amy, my wife and I have stared a new high end kidswear line last year. We have been to the ENK show in NY and sold to a few boutiques in NYC. We’re currently working on our second collection. We need a sales rep that is connected with high end boutiques. US market and/or Europe. if you’re interested, please contact me at 949-391-9757/ or email me. Our website should be up the next couple of weeks.

      Thank you,
      Mark

    • Faiza says:

      I am based in NY. Would you be interested in repping a line of high-end childrens’ bucket hats? The product can be viewed on my site. The prints I offer stores are never a repeat of what is on my site. Willing to send a sample if interested.Faiza
      http://www.purplealex.com faiza@purplealex.com

  33. Jas says:

    Thank you for writing this post. It is very informative and answered a lot of my questions. Could you suggest someone for my products? I design stoles, scarves and need a good sales rep. Thanks!

  34. I launched my new business called Soulful Ceramics 3 weeks ago. Since most of my products are limited editions, I can only wholesale our fashion accessory lines. My designer finished creating our line sheet (catalog). I am ready to contact potential rep partners. Regarding samples, my products are very costly as they are not mass-produced from factories at a few cents to a few dollars. In this case, am I still supposed to send out every single sku I carry to all reps?

    The reason I’m quite reluctant to give out all my products to all reps is linked to my negative experience with my wholesale biz that I started in 2011. A long story short, 70% of reps I’ve worked with got all my samples and did not send me a single order. Luckily, these products are low-end household goods. But still, all the samples I sent out to our rep partners sum up to be over a few thousand dollars. I tried too hard to please my rep partners because I wanted to be a reliable, great vendor partner to them. They know this too. A good intention does not guarantee a good result, all the time.

    Back to my current business, it is pretty hard for me to give out every single product to all reps. What should I do?

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