What makes a good sales representative and how to make sure you have one.
Being a road rep in the gift industry is one of the hardest jobs I know. Managing the wants, needs and expectations of a couple hundred accounts is more than a full-time job and doing it well takes drive, determination, organization and most importantly, a cell phone! Having over 30 years of experience in the Gift and Toy industries, I have worked with and managed my fair share of reps. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but I have also seen the exceptional, the amazing and the very best!
The math is simple – follow me. A good rep calls on about three customers a day and most of those appointments last about two hours. Generally, this happens four days a week meaning that the rep sees approximately 12 customers per week. If the rep has about 180 regular accounts, you should expect to see them walk through your door roughly every 16 weeks. The fifth day of the week is spent processing orders, handling customer service issues and other administrative functions. You can quickly see where the organization part comes in.
What makes a great rep? One that above all else listens to you and your wants, needs and expectations. A great rep is constantly making sure you are aware of the newest merchandise in the lines they carry. They are suggesting products that they know are selling well for others. Remember, they have the results and knowledge gleaned from about 180 retailers. People doing exactly what you are doing. The great rep is your trusted industry expert, your retail professional and your partner in margin and profit. In today's "Zoom Economy", a great rep has mastered the art of virtual meetings and has the ability to give you the tactile buying experience that you desire while not being in your face if that does not work for you! Their success is directly tied to your success making a great rep act and react accordingly.
When able (in today's socially distanced environment), the great reps respect your time by coming in your store and taking an inventory of the lines that you purchase from them. They provide you with suggested reorders based on that inventory. Great reps straighten the shelf so their product lines look inviting to purchase. The great reps show you the new and the improved and let you know when items in your store are expected to be discontinued or are slowing down in the marketplace so you can act accordingly.
Juggling nearly 200 customers and 25 vendors is a difficult task, but a great rep is still able to be responsive and nimble enough to take care of your orders and issues alike. There are a hundred little things that make a great rep, and all of those things stem from their desire to make sure that you are successful with the products that they introduce and sell to you.
The gift industry is built on relationships. All of you have your favorite rep, your favorite vendor and your favorite customer. Great reps build great relationships and great relationships are generally built on a mutual respect and collaboration.
What should you expect from your relationship with your rep? First, ask yourself what kind of a relationship you are giving to your rep. Do you rush them through their appointment and usher them out the door? Worse, do you blow off your appointment altogether? If you have answered yes to either of these questions, you are not utilizing your rep to the best of their ability. Additionally, you are handing over a competitive edge to your competitor who has already built a collaborative and respectful relationship with your rep.
You should expect, if you have built a solid relationship with your rep, for them to do anything they can to be of service to you. You should allow them to show you new products. You should seek their advice. I receive calls daily from reps fighting for their favorite customers’ needs. They are looking to gain any advantage because the rep feels like a partner, as I talked about earlier. You should expect your great rep to help you handle any customer service issues, place reorders and visit you roughly every 16 weeks. If you need to see them sooner, make sure that you have clearly stated your needs to your rep so that they know what they need to do to provide you with the world-class service that makes them a great rep!
Remember, all relationships, whether they are with family, friends or your rep, require give and take, and you get what you give.
I love hearing about great reps! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me about your great reps, or if you have any questions, comments or concerns.