Moving beyond selling your handmade, manufactured, or resale imported items at fairs, and region retail shows and hiring a sales representative is a big decision. Maybe you’ve already hired your first sales rep. Or maybe a sales rep is showing interest in your items. Either way, before you rush into hiring a sales rep, make sure you, your product line, and your business is ready.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Setting Up Your Business
If you want to be taken seriously, you’ve got to present yourself in the most professional light and indicate that you’re ‘retail ready‘ and primed to take the next steps. Consider the following questions:
- Does my business have a professional presence, such as registered name, business cards, separate business bank account, business phone and / or fax, business email and /or website?
- Do I have wholesale sales sheets or catalog with good quality photos of my line?
- Have I established my payment terms, minimum order amounts, and delivery/shipping systems and options?
- Do I have policies in place for exchanges, returns, outdated and damaged products?
- Do I have a good system for tracking sales, receivables, expenses and commissions?
- Does my company enjoy excess capacity or the ability to beef up production to accommodate extra sales that a sales rep will bring me? And will I be able to get those orders out the door in a timely manner?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you may need to stop and regroup before going any further. Getting your systems in place BEFORE you look for a representative is critical to your success with reps. If you fall down on your first couple orders with a rep you’ll lose your credibility and risk being dropped by the rep.
Making Your Product Line ‘Rep Ready’
Most legit reps will not be interested in taking on your line until you’ve established yourself in the marketplace or been in business for several months to a few years. Seem unfair? Unfortunately, there are plenty of horror stories about new companies coming and going without fulfilling orders or paying reps their commission. Sometimes, small companies can’t handle the growth that a new rep will bring them. Others just don’t have their businesses in order yet.
Making those first retailer sales calls yourself and selling your to a few key accounts is an important early step, providing experience and feedback from wholesale buyers about your products, before taking on reps. Consider this a trial period where you work out the kinks in your ordering and delivery system.
The experience of selling your own products at wholesale to a local retailer, before hiring a sales rep, will help you appreciate what reps do for you and also generates your presence within the marketplace. Having established, successful accounts adds value to your line when approaching potential reps.
The sales statistics you accumulate during the process are helpful in giving your company distinction and awareness when you present your product line to a potential sales representative. Being able to provide your rep with statistics like your re-order rate and your average turnover rate go along way toward your credibility.
Having experience working in the business will enhance your own confidence, as well as potential sales partners, in your line and your systems.
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