Sales expert Sandy Dell gives insight into getting “rep ready.”
If you wholesale your work, you may be exhibiting at trade shows. You might also do some prospecting yourself to land new accounts with gallery and store buyers. But sooner or later, you will probably be thinking about hiring sales reps to extend your reach to new territories and retailers you would never sell to otherwise.
Artsy Shark spoke to Sandy Dell, an expert on selling and one of the authors of How to Find, Recruit and Manage Sales Reps. Sandy has been a manufacturer, a retail manager and a rep herself, so she has the advantage of understanding all of those viewpoints and relationships.
So, how do you know when you’re ready to hire your first rep?
Sandy Dell: That’s easy – when you have your systems in place and are already selling wholesale to stores!
Okay, that is rather broad, so I will break it down. Most reps are not willing to take on a line until there are some proven sales in the marketplace. I know that probably sounds unfair, but a rep will want to know that your line is saleable and that you are able to wholesale BEFORE they take it on themselves.
To make sure you are rep ready with your line of products, let me outline a few tips:
1. Have a wholesale/retail pricing structure in place. Meaning, you have a wholesale price that is approximately half of your retail price. You don’t want to compete with your wholesale customers on price, if you sell retail, and no retail store is willing to take on a line where they cannot at least double the price. (For a free e-course on Pricing Your Products, sign up here.)
2. Have a line of at least three related products. For example, if you make jewelry, you will need at least three different types of pieces, preferably with matching accessories. Three different styles of necklaces with matching earrings would be the start of a good line. I tell my gourmet food producers to make at least three types or jams, or different flavors of BBQ sauce. Or at least expand your product offerings so that it looks like a line and not one or two items that will get lost on a store shelf.
3. Make sure you have a professional looking sales sheet (does not mean you have to hire a professional, but it must look professional!) No need for flowery verbiage used on retail sales sheets — just the basic information:
- Company name and complete contact information – including address, phone, fax, email, website (if you have one)
- Unit pricing
- Terms and minimum order requirements
- Good photos of your product(s)
4. Have your shipping procedure in place. Open an online account with USPS, UPS or FedEx, for example, where you can print shipping labels right online. Have your boxes and packing materials lined up. Figure out which person or employee is in charge of packing and/or making sure the orders are picked up or delivered to the freight carrier.
5. Most importantly, when you take on a sales rep, you could easily double your current sales in a very short period of time. Have extra inventory on hand or family, friends or employees ready and able to help put together more inventory in a moment’s notice.
Once you feel confident that you have all the procedures in place, go ahead and hire your first sales rep! And good luck to you!!