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Cultivation Vendors That Help

Getting the Help You Need

Dear Sales Representative,

Just like the Marines, I am looking for a few good men (or women). I need a sales rep, whether that person visits my store, services me through telemarketing, or sees me at their booth at a show, who can be an integral part of my business. In addition to writing orders for the lines you represent, I need you to provide services similar to that which a consultant would provide. The pay? The commission you receive now, but more importantly my repeat business.

Signed, your retailer accounts

Whether you are a sales rep or retailer, you probably have never received, or sent this letter. Spoken or unspoken, this could, maybe should, be the message from every retailer to the reps they work with.

While few independent retailers have the resources to afford them the luxury of hiring a consultant to assist them in developing ways to increase sales and profits, the consultant you can use may be the sales rep we are sending this hypothetical letter to.

Is the messages being heard by manufacturers? Kathy Phillips of Primitives by Kathy, a manufacturer of a gift line, knows her company is. While they did use reps at one time, they have changed their method in an effort to be more responsive. Visit their booth at any of 20 shows each year, and you will meet four people. The designer of her product line, someone from her office staff, another person from her warehouse, or Kathy, herself, will be glad to write your order and answer your questions.

From the retailer's point of view, what are they looking for, and more so, how are some of the more successful retailers getting what they need?

1. Share with me a promotional idea - Irene Bowie of Riverview Farm in Lisbon, Maine remembers the sales representative who introduced her to the idea of offering samples of the foods she now sells. Today the display of dips in her store, includes a fresh supply of chips and open containers of dip. Sales of the dips have increased and Bowie has increased the variety of products.

Roger Lund of Aunt Betty's General Store in Kensington, Md. tells of one sales rep who hosts an annual party for Lund's customers. The rep even provides invitations for the staff to mail to customers inviting them to come see the new additions to the line.

While retailers like Lund report they like to visit other stores to gather ideas, you should remember that the rep calling on your store will probably see more stores in a month than you could see in a year.

2. Share the experiences of another retailer - Judy Narducci of Country Charm in Muncie, In. realizes there are occasions where she has bought a line only to have sales be less than expected. As she recalls one favorite rep, she knows a phone call to this person will provide her with the input to change the display, the pricing, or marketing efforts so as to reverse the current sales trend.

3. Show me a great display - Lund remarks, "It would be nice if the sales rep carried a camera and photo album with them. It is hard to display food, and I know there are folks out there who are doing a good job of it".

From the manufacturer's standpoint, Mary Albert of A Homestead Shoppe, a lamp and lampshade manufacturer in Lapaz, In., knows the value of a good display in moving merchandise. Her company hosts a "lamp camp" for their sales representatives. In the camp, Albert educates her sales reps on how to cross merchandise their products with items a retailer is already selling.

4. Tell me about another product line - Narducci admits she can be persuaded to add a product line. She notes how she has received assistance from a rep who has shown her how to assemble a product category using multiple lines. The rep mentioned several lines which have been good sellers which she would have never thought to add. Narducci did add the lines when the rep told her about other stores that had followed the suggestion and were now reordering the line.

Lund reports he has heeded sales rep's advice several times as he looks at a line, and when preparing to order has been told, "Don't order this. It doesn't sell anywhere". This type of advice goes a long way towards building a relationship.

5. Advise me on an advertising plan - Larry Bird of Gabriala's in Plymouth, Mi. tells of one rep he visits during each show at the AmericaSmart in Atlanta. Because of the information received from the rep, Bird now creates several "value added packaged sales".

Bird explains the value added packaged sale is created by displaying an item which may retail for $25, and then having a second item, with a minimal cost, which has a perceived value of $25, but is sold for $10 when the customer buys the first item.

He goes on to mention the telemarketing department for one manufacturer who suggested he utilize a full page color flyer which they provide at a very minimal cost. Bird can use this flyer as a handout at the register, a statement stuffer, or as a mailing to specific customers as he tracks his sales by product categories. This allows him to inexpensively tell customers of the newest items in this collectible line.

6. Educate me and my staff - This idea of assisting the retailer actually covers two areas. Bird tells how pleased he is when the telemarketing department of a manufacturer calls to tell him about the most popular items for a season, and then tells him how much of that product he sold for the same season last year. He says it gives him a "heads up" on watching the inventory of that particular item.

Albert, the manufacturer, provides telemarketing to her retailers. When a back order is necessary, her telemarketing staff will inform retailers of the delay, as well as call them when the back order is ready to ship so as to allow the retailer a last minute opportunity to add to the order or even cancel it.

With regard to the employees, Lund reported the rep who not only took the time to visit his store to explain the products and the features of each, but also provides a gift item to each of the employees.

As you implement any or all of these ideas, you are making yourself into a better retailer, and you are helping the rep become better. Just don't forget to give the rep plenty of your business. You don't like a customer who shops you only according to price; the rep doesn't need someone who only wants him for his knowledge. There is no charge for his service, and you are getting the help you need.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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