Working with a sales rep can be a great way to add new wholesale accounts for your product-based business and to reach markets and stores that you would otherwise not reach. Many entrepreneurs have been able to grow their product line from 100 stores to 1000 stores – all with the help of a sales rep.
But before working with a sales rep, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- Sales reps work on commission – for an apparel business it’s usually 15% of any sales that they make; for bath and beauty products or accessories, for example, it can be 20%. The average commission is 10-20% for most industries (if you decide to work with sales reps, make sure to build this into your pricing structure).
- Sales reps need free samples, marketing materials and anything else to help them sell your products – before working with a sales rep, you need to make sure that you have budgeted for free samples and have created marketing materials to send them to support them during their sales efforts. So you’ll need to make a bit of an investment before deciding to work with a sales rep.
- You need to constantly communicate with and check in with your sales reps – from my experience with running my t-shirt business and selling through sales reps, the more I kept in touch with and communicated with my sales reps, the better they performed and the more sales they brought in. You might want to schedule it in your calendar to follow up with them every week or every two weeks or once a month, depending on your needs and schedule.
Where do you find a sales rep?
- Online – check out websites like www.greatrep.com, www.findfashionrep.com, www.rephunter.net, or We Connect Fashion.
- Trade shows and showrooms – you can either ‘walk the show’ or visit their website for a listing of showrooms and sales reps. Once you find a showroom in you category, you can contact them and see if they are taking on new lines. A few places to start with are the New York International Gift Fair, the Dallas Market Center, California Market Center or Chicago Merchandise Mart.
- Other companies’ websites – if you sell inspirational apparel, for example, you might want to check out an inspirational jewelry line’s website and see if they work with any sales reps. Often you will find a listing of these under the WHOLESALE section of their site. Here are a few examples – http://www.live-inspired.com/retailpartners.cfm, or http://www.babyktan.com/distributors.html
- Other entrepreneurs – join entrepreneur networking organizations (like SavorTheSuccess.com or LadiesWhoLaunch.com) and share resources with existing members. Ask for sales rep recommendations and even for contacts at stores that they sell their products to.
Also, before you decide to hire a sales rep, make sure you contact some of the other vendors they represent and see how they like working with them, what kind of sales volume they are bringing in and if they recommend that particular sales rep.
If you are looking for an amazing e-guide on how to find a sales rep, check out Sandy Dell’s How to Find, Recruit and Manage Sales Reps. Here are some of the things you’ll discover in Sandy’s guide: How to know if your product line is “Rep Ready,” the 10 questions you should ask EVERY rep before making an offer, twelve main elements of a sales rep agreement, tactics for motivating sales reps, what commission rate should you pay for your industry, 11 online and offline resources for finding sales reps, a comprehensive directory of US gift marts (believe me, you’ll need this one!) and a lot more.
Would love to hear about your experience working with a sales rep! Leave a comment below if you have worked with a sales rep for your product based business.