Ask Grace: Finding The Right Sales Rep

by Grace Kang of Retail Recipes & Pink Olive

grace kang, retail recipes, ask grace, how to find a retail buyer

Q: Michelle asks, “Where do you find sales reps?  And how do you pick the right one for your business?”

A: This is a great question!  When you are ready to grow your business, a sales rep may just be just the person who can help you get to that next level.  If you decide this is the route you want to go, you have to decide if you want to hire a road rep or a showroom rep.  The biggest difference between the two is that a road rep is “on the go” and typically works from home or “on the go” spots.  They don’t have major overhead cost except for when they do trade shows.  As a showroom rep, they typically work in a physical showroom space with someone who actually owns the showroom.  Buyers will come to see them and check out the lines they represent.  This arrangement works when the showroom has a good reputation in the market and they have good relationships with stores buyers across the country.

So where do you find them?

You can find sales reps via various channels.  Here are some options to get you started:

via internet directory
www.greatrep.com

via market territories
New York-  www.7wnewyork.com
http://nycfashioninfo.com/wholesale/nyc-showrooms.aspx (for fashion brands)
http://www.modemonline.com/fashion/mini-web-sites/multilabel-showrooms (for fashion brands)
Los Angeles – www.californiamarketcenter.com
Atlanta – www.americasmart.com
Chicago – www.mmart.com

via walking the trade shows:
www.enkshows.com/
www.nyigf.com/
www.nationalstationeryshow.com/
www.capsuleshow.com/
www.magiconline.com/
Please keep in mind that showrooms specialize by category so research, research, and research.

One other trick that I like to recommend to my designers is to research their competition.  Ask yourself, “Who do I want to hang next to?”  Then research those companies and see where they are repped?  If they have a sales rep or in a showroom, you will most likely find their info on their wholesale link.  Research the website and see if the it’s the right fit for your brand.  Similar to how retail buyers pick merchandise for their stores, sales reps are going to do the same thing.  They want “new” lines that will complement what they already have, not duplicate it.  So this leads me to the next question:

How do you pick the right sales rep for your business?

Before you sign the dotted line, be sure to ask prep AND ask questions.

PREP:

Showrooms want to know that you have done your part in getting your product out there.  Highlight some of the stores that you have been able to get in by yourself.   You should have your product in a few brick and mortar and online shops before taking on a showroom.

Press coverage is very appealing to showrooms.  It makes their job easy when they can say to a potential buyer that your product was featured in DailyCandy, Real Simple, and Oprah..etc.   It also shows them that you are actively marketing your line.

Share with them your “compelling story” and past work experience.  Providing this information creates instant connection and also insight into your competency.  The biggest fear that a sales rep has is for them to do ALL the work in “selling” your line to prospective buyers and then for you to go out of business and not be able to ship the merchandise.  Typically, sales reps do not get paid until the merchandise has shipped to stores so this is a big risk when taking on a new line.

10 burning questions YOU should ask:

1. What is their sales commission?  Will there be any other fees associated with hiring them?  Depending on the sales rep and category of business, the commission typically ranges from 10-15% of the wholesale orders they generate for you.  If you end up going with a showroom, they may also have a small “overhead” cost to cover the showroom space.

2. When do you pay them for the commission?  Typically, you pay them after the product is shipped but definitely confirm that with them.

3. Which trade shows have they participated in the past?  What are the costs of participating in a multi-vendor booth at a trade show?

4. What are some of the stores that the rep sells to?  Do they have all territory or specific territory?

5. What other lines do they carry?  Can they provide you some vendor references?

6. How do they communicate regarding prospective clients and existing ones?  Email? Shared space (i.e. Basecamphq.com)? Google Docs?  Face to face meetings?  You should specify the method that works for you.

7. How often can you expect to hear from them?

8. What are they looking for in a new line?  How many lines are they looking to rep at a given time?

9.  How long is the contract?  Are there grounds for termination?

10. What is their WOW factor? How are they different from other sales reps out there? 🙂

Just remember that this is a partnership agreement.  They will be “representing” your brand so do your due diligence in picking the right partner who really GETS your vision and product potential.  Interview them as much as much as they are interviewing you.  Make sure they are passionate about your business!

Lastly, be sure to put together your own contract with your rep so that you both agree on the terms.

Good luck!  Here’s to an exciting journey!
Want to hear more?  If you want to make your product retail ready and create a desirable brand, sign up for Grace’s free checklist report – Top 10 things you MUST do before approaching a retail buyer.  www.retailrecipes.com

{photo credit: showroomseve.com}