Articles for Retailers by Tom Shay

Working with Sales Representatives

Published in eNews September 2018
When I have the opportunity to speak to a group of sales representatives, I always enjoy telling about the representatives who became like extended family.
My father and grandfather often told me of the strong bond that existed between them and many of their sales reps . . . and how both they and the reps benefited.
When I have spoken to other dealers, I have frequently heard, "You were just lucky to find those reps." Actually, that is not the case. My family was, instead, lucky to have a father and grandfather who knew they could profit greatly by developing a relationship with their reps. And that experience can be the same for you today, if you will give these ideas a try.
Granted, we deal with more reps at a trade show, or through a telemarketing department, but we can create this same type of partnership.
With the walk-in rep, trade show rep, or telemarketing department rep, give them information about what you have stocked and sold in the past. Ask them how your competition is doing and what they are stocking. Are there products you should be ordering and let them know your order cannot exceed whatever amount of money you’ve budgeted. After all, if most of the reps will never see your store, they need to know as much as possible as they help to guide you.In this day of mass merchants and chain stores it’s easy for a rep to bypass your store so when you have a chance to speak to them, take advantage of it.
And always say Thank You.
The experienced rep knows how to answer these questions and the average sales representatives will see more stores in a week than you may see in months. The reps will have seen a large number of good displays, clean stores, well-run operations, as well as merchants who had developed great sales staffs. Learn what you can to help make your store a better operation.
Of course, be prepared to share your success stories with the rep; tell them how you have taken their suggestions and implemented them. Reps often report that retailers who are complaining about the problems of business, are the same ones who ask questions and then are not doing anything with the information.

One of the keys to creating a partnership is to be sure to express your appreciation.
When you have received even a little bit of help from the sales rep, send a short thank you note to the rep . . . that will go a long way. And to go even further, send a note to his boss, the sales manager.
With this effort you’ll often see that the rep will be glad and anxious to extend the relationship to another level. And the retailer will be just as glad to work in the same direction.
Most retailers cannot afford to hire a consultant. If a business consultant were to volunteer their services to help you, you would probably accept. That person may be walking in your front door tomorrow, seeing you at a trade show, or calling you on the phone. They are called sales reps. Cultivate that partnership!

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner, author, columnist, coach and speaker who has authored several training manuals for retailers that can be found in the Resources section of the NAMTA website – His knowledge of small business marketing, business strategy, staffing, and financial management have provided small business owners with the help necessary to increase their profits plus build their business for the future. You can learn more here -