What type of rep do you want?
You’ve decided you want a sales rep and you’ve decided you’re ready for one too. The next step is defining what sort of sales rep you should hire. I’m using the word “hire” pretty loosely here… If you want to work with an independent sales rep, both of you create a contractual relationship rather than an employer/employee relationship. You don’t typically pay an independent sales rep benefits or withhold taxes from her commission check. If the relationship ends, the sales rep won’t receive unemployment benefits. These are some of the legal reasons why sales reps are independent.
There are other reasons sales reps choose to be independent too. Sales reps are small business owners. They have that same entrepreneurial spirit you do. Typically reps are self starters, gregarious and ambitious. They are often driven by success (and money) and by the flexibility of their day-to-day work schedule. They might not like the hierarchy of a typical office work setting, preferring to be more in control of how they run their rep business. Few reps will work the typical 9 to 5 day but most work more than your typical 40-hour week.
You might be wondering at this point if you still want to hire a rep… After all, if you hire a rep that’s so independent that she doesn’t like to be told what to do, how are you going to work with her? The good news is that a rep that already knows what to do to sell your brand—and doesn’t need to be constantly managed or reminded about your expectations—saves you time and earns you money. After all, you wouldn’t want to hire an independent rep that needs to be given a daily to-do list, would you?
When you go about hiring your rep, don’t worry so much that you won’t have a typical employer-employee relationship with her. Instead, find a rep you genuinely like and evaluate if your communication methods sync. Are you a phone call person or are you 24/7 email and text? If you live by your iPhone or Blackberry, and rarely pick up the phone to make a call, make sure your new rep is tech savvy too. Also evaluate your communication style. Are you blunt and straight-forward or subtle about your needs? How do you react when you hear bad news? Find a rep that has a communication style that complements yours and you’ll avoid time-consuming future issues.
Next, decide if you want a 30-year veteran of the industry or someone new and eager to grow with you. Both have their advantages. A veteran rep already has solid relationships with accounts, and might be able to place your line immediately, giving you instant sales growth. Veteran reps are great industry resource too and can guide your growth, preventing some of the frequent hiccups a growing brand encounters. A newer rep is still establishing her account base. You might not see immediate sales with her but she might be an out-of-the-box thinker for sourcing new clients for your brand, and ways to promote your business. A new rep might also have fewer lines and more time to spend selling your brand.
There are other details to consider too. What other brands does your potential new rep sell? Do the brands that she reps have a similar feel to your brand but nothing so similar that buyers will choose one or the other but not both? If you manufacture organic cloth diapers and your new rep sells bamboo layette, it sounds like you have a good fit. If your brand is organic cloth diapers and you sign on with a rep who sells frou-frou collectibles, the partnership might not be as beneficial to either of you.
Also consider your price point. Does your new rep sell to high-end, moderate or low-end accounts? Where does your brand fit into that pricing continuum? If you partner with a rep who sells mainly to high-end boutiques, but your target audience is moderate to low, you might not see the growth you anticipated, because she’s presenting your brand to the “wrong” buyers.
Whether your new rep has a showroom, does regular road work or attends trade shows are other considerations. More to come on this in the next few weeks.
Lara owns and is the primary sales rep for LJBryn&Co., a Midwest-based, independent rep group specializing in children’s gift, toys, gear and apparel. www.LJBrynAndCo.com