Jen from New Gloucester, Maine recently beamed this query over to me:
“My husband & I have a wholesale/retail soap/personal care business and we are growing. We currently have one sales rep, but we need more help & have been having problems finding any. What is the best way to go about getting more sales help or a distributor? We have tried word of mouth, Facebook & Craigslist so far. Any suggestions would help. Thanks!”
Great question, Jen – and it just-so-happens to dovetail beautifully with what we’re studying this week in my LBU: Secrets to Wholesale Success class. This week, we jamming out on trade shows and sales reps and I asked the LBU crew if they minded if I shared a few tips. We played Rock, Paper, Scissors and I won, so here it is!
1. Connect with reps via the internet.
- Greatrep.com: Create a company profile and connect with buyers and reps at no charge. A greatly enhanced service is available for $60 per year.
- WeConnectFashion.com: Complimentary directory of 4,000+ showrooms and reps for free. Did you hear me? I said free.
- Findafashionrep.com: For $40/month, connect with reps for mens, womens + childrenswear.
- Manaonline.org: Trade association for sales agents + manufacturers. Membership runs $514/ year and includes a searchable database + classified ads.
2. Ask your current wholesale accounts.
Ring up any and all accounts with whom you have an established relationship and ask if they have a rep they’re willing to recommend.
3. Connect with lady friends in networking groups.
If you ask nicely, they’ll probably answer. If you need to widen your circle of women entrepreneurial friends, try joining these groups and putting out a clarion call.
4. Visit trade shows.
Walk shows, even if you’re not exhibiting. Trade shows are crawling with eager reps and you’re bound to meet a few if you put yourself out there. Come prepared with samples, line sheets and order forms.
And I saved the best for last. My very, very way to find a killer sales rep is…
5. Collaborate with entrepreneurs who offer complementary products.
Seek out other creative makers who make complementary (rather than competitive) goods and ask them for a reciprocal recommendation. If you create handcrafted soaps, find someone who makes scrubs and lotions (but not soap) and ask if you can mutually share rep contacts. Don’t have your own rep contacts to offer? Find out how else you can help.
Honestly, finding a rep with a pulse is the easy part. What’s far more challenging is vetting those reps, establishing clear parameters and expectation and successfully managing those relationships. You can scour the internet and find thousands of reps, but successful reps must be hungry. They need to have a well-developed territory. They need to be passionate + knowledgeable about your product line and know how to position it. That makes all the difference.
We spend a handsome chuck of time learning all about sales reps in LBU. And I have some reaaaally groovy curriculum handouts to help, too including: a template for a sales rep contract and a worksheet designed to be used when interviewing potential reps, so you know if this is a match made in heaven or a relationship that’s going to suck your resources and energy dry.
Jen, I hope this post has helped sparked some ideas about where your next sales rep might be hiding. Want to dig around in my brain to with a one-on-one to strategize for your business? I offer comprehensive hour-long consults!
What other strategies have you employed to find a sales rep?