Twenty-five years ago I invited two sales reps to my wedding. I didn’t know them before I was working at Toy House. I didn’t know them from outside Toy House. Our relationship in life happened purely through our relationship at the store.
Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about sales reps. My new job at HABA USA is to help the sales reps do their jobs.
I help them help you help your customers.
Can I ask a favor of you?
Can I ask you to help your reps, too?
Here’s the funny thing … I’ve actually been asking this of you for several years. I did a quick search of my blog and found several posts pertaining to sales reps. They all talk about the same thing—the relationship between you and your reps. Most of them focus on you training your reps to work best for you.
Back in 2011 I wrote, Are Your Reps Coming to You for Training? I had a sales rep who, whenever he picked up a new line that we were carrying, knew to visit us first because he would learn about the line from a retailer’s perspective that would help him sell to other retailers.
A year later I wrote, How Good are Your Sales Reps? Mine were incredibly good for the most part. But we also cultivated the relationship and trained them how we wanted the relationship to go. There are some good tips in here of things you can do to help your reps help you.
Then in 2013 I doubled down with, Sales Reps are People, Too. Do you consider your reps to be employees of your business? Do you you send them thank you cards or gifts at Christmas? This post talks about why you should.
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” – Jimmy Stewart
Also buried in that post is the link to this article by Tim Miles … Are Sales Reps Partners? He shows a distinct difference between order-takers and true partners. If you are a sales rep, this is a really good read.
Your sales reps are your partners in your business. They should be bringing you value. If they aren’t bringing you value, the first place to look is at yourself. Have you shown them how they can bring value in the way you want it?
When you build the kind of relationship/partnership you should with your sales reps, you’ll be inviting them to your wedding, too.
PS In my twenty-four years we only “fired” three reps. One of them was so offensive we banned him from ever coming into the store again. The other two barely even wanted to be order-takers and didn’t last long as reps. Mostly, our reps were incredibly hard-working people who spent most of the time on the road and the rest of it on the phone. They want you to be successful because the better you do, the better they do. Show them how to help you and they will.
In two weeks the world of toys will be on display in New York City for the International Toy Fair. All the vendors will be there showing off their new products. Retailers from around the globe will be there to take a peak.
New York City is a fun place to visit. Oh sure, February might not be the optimal time. I trudged through three 12″ plus snowstorms over the years and braved wind chills that matched the polar vortex of the last couple days here in Michigan. (Unfortunately I missed the unseasonably warm 2017 where temps got into the 60’s.) But with all the fine dining and top-level entertainment, it is fun no matter the weather.
My friends outside the industry would hear our tales of fine dining, bar-hopping, and Broadway. The partying was legendary.
The work was legendary, too.
We just never shared those stories.
There are countless articles about how to prepare for a trade show including tips that tell you to …
Map your course through the show
Bring comfortable shoes
Don’t forget your business cards
There aren’t as many that tell you what to do at the trade show. Here was my approach …
WALK THE FLOOR
I rarely ever made appointments at the big shows. I didn’t want to be crisscrossing a large floor and adding a couple extra miles to my day.
Instead I chose one end of the floor to start and walked the whole showroom aisle by aisle, stopping in at my regular vendors as I passed them by. When I had to make appointments (LEGO wouldn’t let you in without one) I tried to make them either first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon so that I could walk as much of the floor as possible without interruption.
LOOK FOR NEW
The main purpose of a trade show is to find new items. You don’t need to see the stuff you’ve already seen, bought, and sold. Included in that “new” is new vendors. You should plan to visit several new vendors at any trade show.
This is where my affiliations with industry associations paid off handsomely. As a member of American Specialty Toy Retailing Association(ASTRA) I would look for new vendors who were supportive of ASTRA. ASTRA also had a special meeting one night at Toy Fair called Share the Fair where several retailers gathered to highlight the cool, new stuff they had seen. Those resources alone more than paid for my membership.
Every year you should be replacing your bottom 20% performing merchandise with something new. Trade shows are one of the easiest ways to find those new items.
I learned this from my father. He would always ask for a catalog and two price lists. The first price list he used for notes. As he walked through a booth he would scribble notes on the price list next to each item. He had his own system. Mine was easy. I would star things I liked, circle things I knew I wanted to buy, cross off things I wanted to avoid, and write down short, descriptive words of the new items to remind me later what I thought of them. (Too small, price?, copycat, super cute, etc.)
Every night I would sort through all my notes and write down my thoughts on each vendor I visited. I would then sort the catalogs and price lists into two piles. One pile was going home to look at later. The other pile was for lines I might possibly write orders while at the show.
SAVE ORDER WRITING FOR YOUR LAST DAY
At some trade shows I brought orders I had already created. As easy as it would be to simply drop those orders off as I walked by the first time, I always held them until my last day. I wanted to see everything before I made any decisions.
More than once I added to an order because I loved all the new stuff the vendor was showing. More than once I canceled an order because I saw something I liked better from another vendor.
As soon as I finished my first walk-through of the trade show floor I found a table to sit and process my notes. I had three criteria for which orders I would place at the show and which ones I would take home to write later.
Show Special – if the show special was a good one and only was good until the last day of the show, that vendor went into the write pile. (Note: sometimes I would write at the show even if the show special was extended because I knew I wouldn’t see my sales rep before the deadline.)
Excitement – if I was really excited about a product and wanted to get it in right away (or feared there would be limited quantities), that vendor went into the write pile.
Sales Rep – if I had a lousy sales rep that I didn’t trust would see me soon enough to get the order placed, that vendor went into the write pile.
I knew I would be busy with all the other aspects of running a business as soon as I got home. Writing orders often went to the bottom of the To-Do List. I relied heavily on my sales reps to get in and help me write orders. My great reps knew that and always stopped in to see me right after a show.
The rest of that day was about plotting the second walk-through.
USING THE MAP
Every vendor would remind me their booth number in the multiple emails they sent before each show. I never cared until that last day. If you’re on the showroom floor, I’ll walk by you at least once.
My second walk-through, however, was plotted. I made a list of every vendor I needed to see a second time. Some of those second visits were to write orders. Some were to ask questions and get clarification. Some were to help decide between two competing products.
This is where the trade show maps come in handy. I always made my list by booth numbers. It minimized my walking and maximized my visit time. The list also made sure I saw everyone I needed to see. I circled all the vendors on that list where I knew I was writing an order. That way, if time got short, I had my priority list.
At our peak, we were buying product from over five hundred vendors. Trade shows were critical to our success in finding the right products, staying on top of industry trends, and building the relationships with our vendors that mattered.
This system served me well for close to one hundred trade shows. And when done right, it made the partying even more fun!
PS The “partying” served a purpose, too. That’s when I would meet up with other store owners and share all the new stuff we saw. That’s when I would go out with some of my vendors and build stronger relationships. Find a restaurant or bar that is not so loud that you cannot talk. The evening will be much more fun, and as long as you drink lots of water, you’ll feel much better in the morning.
I am taking a class to work on my business. It is a class for startups, primarily, but the exercises will not only help me with my business as a speaker, writer, and business coach, they will help me help you become a better business.
My instructor, Frances Schagen, has granted me permission to do all my homework worksheets live here on this blog. You can read the first worksheet here. Time for Part 2.
DISCOVERY DANCE – WHO?
The previous step was about me, what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. This next exercise is for me to think more about who I want to work with. I have three questions to answer …
What problem are you solving?
What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?
List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.
What problem are you solving?
Giving tools other than the markdown gun to retailers and small businesses to help them create successful businesses that can compete on a field slanted against them.
What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?
Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses who:
Can make their own decisions
Want to learn new and better ways to run their businesses
Believe in continuing education
Are open to trying new things
Care about their customers
Care about their community
Want a push in the right direction
Want to learn new skills
Notice that these characteristics align with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. Your answer should align with your Core Values, too.
Notice also that I did not limit myself to just retailers. I go back and forth on this part of the answer. Although my background is in retail and some of my presentations are strongly retailer-focused, the characteristics listed above are not just limited to retailers. Nor are all my programs and teachings just limited to retailers.
There is something to be said for narrowing your focus so tightly that you become the known expert in a narrow field. There is also something to be said for keeping the net more broadly focused not on any single type of business or individual, but on the characteristics. I love that part of this question. If you own a non-retail business and have the characteristics listed above, I am sure I can help you.
There are still a couple problems with my original answer of “Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses.” Most of those people cannot afford my services on an individual basis and I prefer to work with large groups of these people at once.
Therefore, to truly reach them in the ways I can help most, I have a secondary customer that is in many ways my primary customer. I have to go through the gatekeeper.
My true customers are typically Trade and Business Organization Leaders who, along with the mindset above, also:
Plan learning events for their members
Hire people from outside their echo chambers to give fresh perspective, new insights, and sharper tools to their members
Those organization leaders are the gatekeepers to the first group because A) they have the money to plan learning events, and B) they can corral a number of businesses into a group setting.
Therefore, to reach my preferred customers, I have to find these gatekeepers who share these characteristics and reach them.
This is an important understanding and distinction. I write this blog and create the content on my website for you, the small business owner. I have to find another avenue to convince the gatekeepers to hire me. This blog isn’t for them, nor will it ever get me hired by them*.
When you understand your customers at this level, it changes the way you look at how and where to find them.
List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.
I think Frances wants me to list specific people or businesses here. I’m going to take a slightly different approach in my answer.
I think the following businesses need my solution …
Independent Retailers & Restaurants
Locally Owned Franchise Retailers & Restaurants
Service-based businesses such as insurance agencies and beauty salons
Anyone involved in Sales
who belong to …
Downtown Development Authority districts
Chambers of Commerce
Shop Local Organizations
Industry Buying Groups
Industry Trade Associations
Main Street Programs
and/or attend …
I also think the following people need my solution because it can help strengthen their members, which strengthens their organization …
Chamber of Commerce Directors
Main Street Program Directors
Shop Local Directors
Economic Development Directors
Trade Association Educational Committee Directors
One of the first questions I always ask when I meet this last group of people is,
“Do you offer or have you considered offering any training programs for your members?”
Listing 20 people can be challenging. For your benefit, I thought about my business at Toy House and came up with this list:
Aunts & Uncles
Anyone with a waiting room with kids
I’m sure with enough thought you can come up with a list like this for your business.
Here are my takeaways from this exercise for you.
If you can clearly identify the problem you are trying to solve and clearly identify the characteristics of the person with this problem you would most like to work with, you’ll understand more clearly the advertising and marketing you need to do to get more of the customers you want (and less of the ones you don’t want).
(Having read ahead in the course work, I think Frances will take this info to send us in a slightly different and more fascinating direction than that. Sit tight. I’ll explain it when we get there.)
PS *This blog actually can get me hired by “them,” but it involves YOU. When you tell your DDA/Chamber/Shop Local/Trade Association person about wanting opportunities to learn more and having educational programming available to you, then they are more likely to hire me to do that. Tell your organization directors about me. Send them to this page.
Today is a Hinkley Donut day. Those of you who have lived in Jackson know what I mean. There are only four of these days each week. Hinkley’s Bakery is the exception to the rule of needing to be open seven days a week to be successful (although they would make waaaaaayyyyyyyy more money if they were open more, it is a quality of life issue, quality of product issue, and a choice they have made, which I respect.)
Not everyone likes Hinkley’s Donuts, but enough people do that they were the runaway winner in a poll here in Jackson of the best donuts, and the overall winner in a statewide taste test held by the food writer for MLive, a newspaper with editions in several Michigan cities.
I had sales reps who would only call on me in the morning, and only on Hinkley Donut days. I also had reps who always came at lunch time to either go to Mat’s Cafe for BBQ or Schlenker’s for a hamburger (both also placed highly in their respective categories on MLive.)
Good sales reps know one of the best ways to make connections with the retail buyers is over meals and food.
They don’t have to buy for you all the time, either. In fact, decades ago my parents would take sales reps to lunch at a private business club in downtown where you signed a bill, rather than pay cash or card for the meal. That way the reps couldn’t pay!
Once word got out on the street that Toy House was buying you a nice lunch at a cool restaurant with a birdseye view of the store, all the reps stopped in Jackson for a visit.
Surprise and Delight. We surprised the sales reps, delighted them with a free meal (when the expectation was often that they would have to pick up the tab). Guess who went to bat for us when new products were released, when shipping was tight, or when we needed information?
I was doing a presentation about Customer Service (that dead phrase) with an eclectic group of businesses, not all were retailers. Ernie had a sales force that called on other businesses to sell his product.
I asked him what the client’s expectation was when his team went on a sales call. He said the stuff you would expect like show up on time, dress appropriately, be prepared, don’t waste time, don’t get in the way of their regular business. All good stuff. All expected stuff. If you don’t do any one of those things you’ll have a hard time making the sale.
I then asked him what time of day they made these calls. Some were morning, some were afternoon.
Does your salesperson show up for a morning meeting with a box of donuts for the staff? Not any donut, mind you, but Hinkley Donuts?
Does your salesperson show up for an afternoon meeting with a Klavon’s Pizza Pie? (another Jackson-based restaurant high on the MLive list)
Imagine your sales rep shows up at your store with a box of your favorite local donuts or a pepperoni pizza from your favorite local pizza joint. Does that change the relationship? Of course it does! You’ll talk about that sales rep to all your other retailer friends. You’ll likely try to do more business with that rep, too.
Same thing is true if you, the retailer, do something unexpected like that for your reps. They’ll tell all the other reps and you’ll have a rep-utation that makes people want to do business with you.
Generosity. Word-of-Mouth. Doing the Unexpected. Surprise and Delight. It doesn’t just work with your end-users.
PS Don’t for a minute think that I am telling you your reps won’t service you if you don’t feed them. Your sales reps are mostly a hard-working group of individuals that don’t get paid nearly enough for what they have to put up with. Heck, feeding them is also just a nicety that keeps them from spending too many days on the road eating fast food. What I’m talking about is another example of how doing something surprising and delightful can help your business (and another example of what surprising and delightful looks like.)
PPS How hard would it be to call the local chamber and ask what is the favorite donut shop or pizza joint in town?
I used to be on the receiving end of sales calls and pitches. Now, as a business consultant (and also in my new role as a salesman selling logo merchandise and apparel*), I’m on the giving end. As you know, I like to look at every interaction from the other person’s point of view to make sure I meet, then exceed, their expectations. My experience on the receiving end of this role reversal will help me tremendously.
I’ve only ever asked one person to leave the Toy House in my twenty three years as a buyer. It was a sales rep. He sold a couple higher-end furniture and gear lines for the baby product industry that I was interested in bringing in. Here is the opening conversation …
Sales rep: Hey. Sorry I’m late. Had to make a phone call.
Me: Hey. You must be Tim. I’m Phil. Welcome to Toy House.
Sales rep: No wonder you don’t sell any gliders. Your department is a holy mess!
Me: We just had a customer in trying all the chairs and moving them around so that she could see different ones side-by-side.
Sales rep: Here. Let me show you the order I just wrote for (a competitor to the east). See how many chairs they ordered? Now that’s a baby store! You know, I used to call on your father years ago. He was a real asshole.
Me: I think we’re done here. You need to leave. Now. You’ve just insulted my store, my father, and my sensabilities. Thank you for stopping by but I will not be needing your services.
I’m pretty sure he walked away thinking “like-father-like-son.” I’m okay with that.
Here is what I liked in a salesperson:
Someone who called or emailed to make an appointment when he had something new to show or special terms to offer.
Someone who made it clear why the appointment was necessary, what we would discuss, and how long it would likely take so that I could plan accordingly.
Someone who showed up on time and was friendly and polite.
Someone who showed up completely prepared with catalogs, prices, order forms, a charged computer (if necessary), and answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Someone who followed through with the order giving me updates on the processing and shipping of the order.
Someone who called me after the order was shipped to make sure I got it and that everything came in properly without problems.
I didn’t always get that—especially those last two—but when I did, it was magical. Those are the sales reps I trusted. Those are the sales reps who got my business whenever possible. Those are the sales reps I most enjoyed seeing in my store. Those are the sales reps I think about when I’m making pitches.
Sure, building a relationship is an important part of selling, maybe even the most important part. I can promise you this, though. Those six bullet points above will help you build a relationship with your client that will be as rock solid as if you were high school besties.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why I’m talking about sales reps to a bunch of retailers, here are four reasons:
I have plenty of sales reps who read this blog.
You have the chance to “train” your sales reps to do their job the way you want it done.
In many ways, this applies to your salespeople on your sales floor, too.
To show you one more example why you should always look at everything from your customer’s point of view. Then try to meet and exceed their expectations. Can’t hammer that point home hard enough.
PS I had several salespeople I truly liked. Yes, we had fun talking shop. Yes, we went out for lunch or got Hinkley’s doughnuts. Yes, we talked about family. But if they didn’t show up prepared, if they screwed up orders, or if they disappeared when there were problems, all that other stuff was for naught.
*If you want your logo imprinted on pens, notepads, water bottles, mugs, blankets, shirts, caps, even pizza cutters, shoot me an email before you order. At the very least, I’ll make sure you’re getting a good deal wherever you might be buying your stuff. If you order through me, you know I’ll follow through to the end to make sure you’re satisfied because I know that’s what you want.
I had a Hinkley Donut this morning. My favorite is chocolate frosted cinnamon, but I could eat any of about a dozen of their different donuts with equal pleasure. Those of you in Jackson know what I mean. In a statewide competition Hinkley’s Bakery won Best Donuts in Michigan (if they hadn’t there might have been an uproar – or at least a road trip to see if it was true that there existed something better).
When I eat Hinkley Donuts I often think about Ernie.
Ernie sells chairs. Not just any chairs, but fully customizable, fits everyone, incredibly comfortable, office chairs. I put Ernie in the hot seat and asked him about his sales process. He led me through the cold calls, the visits, the dog-and-pony shows, the follow-ups, the closing of the sale and the delivery.
At each point of contact I asked Ernie what his staff was instructed to do. Then I stopped him, and everyone else in the class, and asked, “What does the customer expect out of you at this point?”
This was an eye-opener for everyone in the class. We know what we do, but we rarely stop to think about what our customers actually expect and want. Yet, that is the secret to great customer service – meet your customer’s expectations. In fact, that is critical in today’s connected world where if you fail to meet their expectation, all 962 of their friends on Facebook will know by tonight, and visitors to Yelp and Google will read about it for years.
If you aren’t doing this exercise, you might be missing a critical problem in what you thought was your awesome customer service that has been holding you back.
Once we established the customer’s expectations I asked Ernie a second question. “What would it look like to exceed your customer’s expectations?”If you want to take your customer service to the level where it generates Word-of-Mouth, you have to exceed your customer’s expectations.
Ernie’s sales team did early morning or early afternoon visits to show off his chairs. We wondered what would happen if the sales people showed up with Hinkley Donuts (well, okay, the equivalent in that town) for morning meetings or Klavon’s Pizza for afternoon meetings. All it would take is a simple call to the local Chamber of Commerce to find out which local bakery or pizza joint is best known in town. A good salesman could probably find a way to get that info in a conversation. I told Ernie, don’t announce you’re bringing the yummies. Make it a surprise. As Roy H. Williams says, “Surprise is the foundation of delight.” It was a simple change, an inexpensive change, but one that would pay high dividends.
By the time Ernie was out of the hot seat he had several ideas of how to meet and exceed what his customers expected. I’m pretty sure he’s been doing that ever since.
When you go above and beyond what your customer expects, you will delight her and win her as a customer. No matter what competition you face, no matter what technology disrupts your future, that will always be true.
That’s what I think about when I eat a Hinkley Donut.
PS Yes, I can be bought with food. But it isn’t so much the food itself as it is the gesture. You went above and beyond because you found the local source and made the effort to ply me with something unique, not generic or mass-produced. That’s a powerful statement that earns a lot of trust.
The dreaded sales rep. We all have one. Maybe more than one. The rep that just doesn’t get you or your business. The rep you wish didn’t get all the good lines. The rep who makes you wonder if they even care. The rep that makes you roll your eyes just setting the appointment.
Then there is the good rep. The one who gets it. Who gets you. Who anticipates your needs. Who knows your style, your store’s style, your store’s goals. Who you can’t wait to work with again.
They got their problems solved and the product they needed at a fair price, you got the sale and the smile and the long-term relationship.
You win, the vendor wins?
You got the product you needed at a margin you can afford, they got the sale, the smile and the long-term relationship.
Wait? You didn’t promise your vendor anything other than this order. If it doesn’t sell or someone else comes at you with a better offer, you’re moving on. Right? And they better give you a decent show special, and good terms, and an extra discount, and channel protection, and exclusivity, and price protection, and free training, and a free display, and samples, and literature, and point-of-purchase signs, and seasonal promotions, and guaranteed sales, and immediate shipping, and drop-shipping, and touch-up paint, and brochures, and advertising co-op, and markdown money, and web support, and…
I admit. I am guilty of it. I want all of that from my vendors. I want the whole nine yards, the whole kit and kaboodle, the whole enchilada. Yet when my own customers come at me with those kinds of demands, I never feel like the winner. Yeah, I got the sale, but I sold my soul to get it.
Don’t put your vendors into that same position. Treat them like partners. Find the win-win for you and your vendor. Understand that they have expenses, too. Amazingly high expenses. They have to invest a lot of money into research and develop of new products before they know if the product has a chance at selling. They have to buy up front without terms.
The smart vendors often have built all those goodies you demand into their profit margins, just like the smart retailers have done with their extras. But if it is going to be a good long-term relationship, the vendors need you to give a little, too. Go back to the list of demands. Which do you need? Which can you live without? Which are deal killers? Which are merely nuisances? Which ones move the needle?
When you enter a relationship with a vendor (and all purchases should be looked at as relationship-building), make sure you are clear up front of what you want and what you can live without. Make as many concessions as you make demands. Make sure you and the vendor are on the same page. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Make it about the long-term relationship.
There is always a win-win scenario. That’s where you’ll find the profit.
PS Sure, when you’re small and just starting out there will be vendors who don’t care enough about you to look at it that way. Some of that is because they have been burnt by too many retailers who don’t look for the win-win. That’s okay. You’re not them. Do it the right way and if nothing else, you’ll sleep better at night. More likely, however, is that when you treat your vendor – no matter how big or small – as a partner, they will often come through for you when you need them most.
Ernie knows a lot about sitting in comfortable seats. His company makes the best, custom-built, ergonomically correct office chairs you’ll ever take for a spin. You just haven’t heard of him. Yet.
Ernie knows that his product is amazing. He wants his customer service to be amazing, too. So he spent two days with Tim Miles and me at Wizard Academy. He jumped at the chance to sit in the Hot Seat.
Ernie and I broke down all of the touch points, all of the interactions his company has with his customers. We identified seven steps…
Sales Rep Calls Customer
Sales Rep Makes Appointment for Demonstration
Sales Rep Does Demonstration
Sales Rep Asks for Sale
Company Confirms Sale
Company Delivers Product
Sales Rep Follows Up
We then went through each of those steps and scrutinized what his company was doing and where they could improve. We looked at it from different perspectives.
What are you currently doing?
What would the customer prefer you to be doing?
What would be above and beyond the customer’s expectations?
That middle question is the key. The biggest breakdown that gets in the way of offering amazing, shareworthy (Tim’s really cool word) customer service is when your sales staff does what they want instead of what the customer wants.
First you have to figure out what the customer expects. Then you have to meet it. Then you have to exceed it. Ernie squirmed a little when we found a few areas needing attention. But now he knows how to exceed customer expectations on a consistent basis.
I have no doubt Ernie’s company is gonna catch his competitors. No, check that. He’s gonna blow right by them. You’ll probably be sitting in one of Ernie’s chairs long before you claim your gold watch.
Are you willing to sit in the Hot Seat first to see where you need to improve?
PS Ernie, if you’re reading this, I had another thought about Step #3. When your rep shows up, have him or her bring food. If it’s a morning demonstration, bring doughnuts from the LOCAL bakery that everyone loves. If it’s an afternoon demo, bring pizza from the hottest pizza spot in town. Don’t tell them you’re bringing it, just do it. Covers that Over-the-Top Generosity thing we discussed. Also covers the “above-and-beyond”. Just make sure you have the right brand of doughnuts or pizza. It says a lot about you when you get that right.
PPS Most of you reading this just imagined what it would be like if your sales rep showed up with your favorite food, didn’t you? Bet you would be thinking… Yeah, this rep gets me. He knows my business. I bet you end up doing more business with him, too.
Christmas is over. The dust has settled. The inventory is counted. The phones are ringing. Sales Reps are invading, loaded down with 2013 catalogs, samples, and stories.
Some of us dread this. Some of us look upon our sales reps as a whole different breed of creature designed to suck the life out of us (not to mention every penny). Every page of every catalog needs your full attention. Every product is a home run. Every product is a destined best-seller. Every product should be bought deeper, every company bought wider. There is so much hype, you need to wear waders just to get out of the office.
Ugh! When will this plague end?
It ends when you get better. It ends when you realize that your sales reps are people, too. In fact, they are more than just people, they are YOUR employees. They work for YOU. They help you fill your store with products that make you money. They help you find hidden gems and stay clear of sure-fire dogs. They help you keep your look, your philosophy, your reputation intact. They make money for you and you don’t even have to pay them.
What? You say your reps don’t do this? That is because you haven’t trained them.
Yes, you need to train your sales reps. You need to train them just as you would any other employee. Teach them your core values, your philosophy. Teach them what products you want or don’t want. Teach them how you want to receive information, what information you want, and when you want it. Teach them how you place orders, when you place orders, why you place orders. Teach them how you handle mis-ships, defects, back orders. Teach them what you expect from them and you will be surprised how much better they will become.
Your reps take you out to lunch to try to buy your favor and buy an order. Have you ever taken your rep out to lunch to thank them for the job they do for you?
Your reps send you gifts to thank you for your orders and the commissions they have received. Have you ever sent your rep a gift for helping you find the products that made you money?
Treat your reps as good or better than your employees and they will work incredibly hard for your business.
PS I was at a conference years ago when one session turned into a bitch-session about reps. I watched with amusement because for the most part, my reps are wonderful. Treat them well and you will see a huge improvement.