As the second installment about Sales Reps, let’s look at the important role they perform in the wholesale/retail arena. (Find the first article here)
First, a common myth pervades commerce, which implies you can “cut out” the middleman or sales rep and make more money. While you can certainly sell without using sales rep, YOU CANNOT ELIMINATE THE SERVICES THEY PROVIDE! You just end up doing those duties yourself.
If you choose to take advantage of sales reps (and you will rarely achieve long-term wholesaling success without them), most will serve you effectively. As a result, you get more time to design and expand your product line and run your business!
What Important Role Does a Rep Fill for a Producer?
The job of a rep is basically to “represent” the manufacturer’s, distributor’s, or importer’s line of products to prospective buyers, and make sales. Those buyers are typically retailers but may include wholesalers, distributors, or service businesses as well, depending upon the industry and/or product line.
Sales reps exist to target virtually every size retailer from small mom-and-pop stores to large “big box” retailers, including chains. And of course, reps usually specialize in either the product lines they sell and/or retailer categories they call upon.
In the gift industry, reps want to show some of the newest, and most attractive or innovative products on the market. (Which benefits you, if your line is new to the market.) When hiring a rep, you become part of a sales machine that was created decades ago and continues to evolve. Reps typically maintain face-to-face contact with retailers and make it easier for retailers to trust you and try your line (and harder for them to dump your line).
Good sales reps work hard and perform many behind the scenes tasks such as the following:
- Research stores to see if your products will complement the current inventory
- Call on stores numerous times if necessary, to generate an order for you
- Spend a large amount of time on the phone, on the road, at trade shows, or in their showroom presenting your products, answering questions, and finding just the right combination of your products to sell to their buyers.
- Take care to organize and follow up on leads they receive
- Manage a large amount of information on you and your products along with information on store buyers – including their buying preferences
- Make sales appointments – which buyers may or may not keep – and still maintain an upbeat attitude in the process
- Inventory your line while in the stores to make order recommendations and alert you if there are buyer resistance and low inventory…
- Process orders for you – and to you – promptly
- Maintain numerous customer databases, customer management records, bookkeeping and other paperwork (for their business, not yours!)