After working for over 12 years as an independent sales representative to the gift industry, I could share plenty of interesting stories about producers and gift shops. I doubt that I have “seen it all”, but there are some pretty interesting stories to be told!
All and all, I have loved working as a gift rep with both producers and gift shops. Actually, I love the retail environment from every angle … so many interesting things and people to deal with! But being a sales rep, has put me in a position to help new or seasoned producers see their business in a different perspective.
1. Treat your rep as your sales and/or marketing partner. They are out there to help you make sales, not to compete with you!
2. Pay your rep promptly and accurately. Nothing will de-motivate your rep faster than going months with being paid. Selling your products is what they do for a living and they need to be paid – just like you would pay your employees.
3. Try to follow up with your rep in a timely manner when he or she calls for information – most likely the request came from a potential buyer. They longer you take to get back to the rep the less likely they will be able to close the sale.
4. Be generous with flyers and sample. Once again, these items are probably requested by a potential buyer.
5. If you receive an order direct from the customer, don’t assume the rep is not doing their job. Many buyers will order first time from a rep and then prefer to order direct from the company. Or maybe the rep stopped by with the information and potential sale, but the buyer calls you instead.
6. Be honest and upfront with your rep. If you plan to hire someone else to cover some of their territory, for example, talk this over with your current rep. It is de-motivating for your sales rep to find out sensitive information such as this from your customers.
7. Be timely with price or product changes. If you inform your customers about your changes and forget to tell your rep, you will make your rep look misinformed about everything in your line.
8. Don’t be afraid to have a written agreement with your rep. I have found that “good fences make good neighbors”.
9. Give your rep(s) as much information as possible about your potential customers (if they are servicing your house accounts). They more they know, the better they will sell for you.
10. If you have a problem with a customer, make sure to talk this over with your rep. They may be able to help you.
These are just a few tips – from a sales rep’s perspective – on hiring and working with sales reps. As you continue growing your business, I am sure you will find more items to add to the list.