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, and 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: Tell us a bit about yourself .
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.
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.
**You can find everything you need to know about line sheets, order forms, invoices, etc. in the all new GET RETAIL READY guide, right here.
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.