Tracy and I love our community of jewelry designers! Last week we were on a call with the jewelry designers who are taking our Ramp Up Your Holiday Sales course and the subject of sales reps came up. The questions being asked were fantastic –
- Where do I find a sales rep?
- When should I hire a rep?
- Do I really need a sales rep to grow my wholesale business?
- What happens once I do hire a sales rep?
Well, we thought if our group was asking these questions, then there must be a whole slew of jewelry designers who have the same the questions so we decided to answer them in a blog post.
Where do I find a sales rep?
If you are participating in a trade show like Accessories Circuit, Accessories The Show, or NY NOW, independent sales reps may just find you. Most rep groups are at trade shows either working with their existing lines or walking the show in search of a new line. Some rep groups exhibit at the shows. If they are exhibiting at the show, it gives you a good opportunity to see them in action as well as check out the other lines they rep. Knowing the other lines a sales rep has will give you a good idea if your jewelry line will “work” with what they already sell. Another place where you can find a sales rep is through the buyers you already sell to. Buyers are amazing resources for sales rep. Ask the buyer who they like working with and if they can recommend anyone. I have found a lot of reps this way.
When should I hire a rep and do I really need a sales rep to grow my wholesale business?
When your wholesale business begins to grow you have three choices, have in-sales staff, hire reps or do both. When I was hired by Dogeared to head up their in-house sales department they had made a decision to let go of all of their sales reps except for one and they were ready to go after a broader market than just jewelry stores. The rep group they kept had strong relationships with their customers and they grew their sales every year. These are two very important things! Dogeared was a 14 year old company when I joined them. When growing your business you can only wear so many hats. Hiring a rep group can be wonderful for your business, but know that there are costs associated with working with reps (these costs are in addition to the 15% commission they make on orders). There could be showroom fees and trade show fees or maybe there are territory restrictions. For example, if you high a rep group that is based in Atlanta, they may have a contract that states they cover all of the South. Their contract will (or should) list out all of the territories they cover. The contract may also state that they will receive commission on any sales made in those territories. Make sure you read any contract and that you are very clear on what is expected from you, the designer/company. Most sales rep won’t take on a new line that is just starting out in wholesale. They want to know that your jewelry line is already being sold in stores, you have new collections at least a twice a year and you have tools to support them (line sheets / catalog, website, hi res images, customer service support, etc.) The other option is to have in-house sales. The advantages to having an in-house sales team (even if it is a team of one) are that they sell only your jewelry and they are “experts” in your line. They also have the opportunity to build customer loyalty to your brand.
What happens once I do hire a sales rep and how can I ensure a strong, positive relationship with my rep?
Communication is key! Once you do hire a sales rep or a rep group, you need to be very clear on your expectations and goals for your biz. Set up regular meetings with them. Request monthly sales reports. And if there is an opportunity to get in front of your reps, do! Just like your customers, you want to stay top of mind with your reps. The more they know about you and your brand, the better they will be at selling your line! Ask for feedback. Are you providing all of the tools that they need to succeed? What are their customers saying about your jewelry? Is there a whole on your collection? What can you be doing better for the buyers. Finding the right reps can be a match made in heaven, but remember to weigh out the pros and cons. Do what is best for your business and know that just hiring a rep is not going to translate into instant growth. Like any relationship, it takes time, nurturing and willingness to listen and try new things.
How are you currently selling your wholesale line?
Tell us in the comments:
- Do you have an in-house sales team (it can be a tea of 1) or do you have sales reps?
- If you currently work with reps, what are two things you are going to do differently to help support them?
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