Throughout this blog I will be talking to people in the industry that I think can inspire and give you tips and insight to the industry. This might be other sales professionals, buyers, shop owners and creative business owners that's already started their journey. These conversations will bite sized and I will ask just a handful of questions. First up is my lovely friend Victoria who lives and work in West London.
Victoria has been a sales agent for over 16 years in the London and Surrey area. Her journey in the industry started when her husband who owns a chain of independent gift shops noticed that one of his suppliers, Ryland Peters & Small was looking for an agent. This was before you could find books in almost every gift shop and the brief was to sell their new stationery range into gift shops. Now Victoria represents several book publishers and gift companies selling to around 300 independent businesses.
For those of you who are new to the industry a sales agent sells products for several suppliers in a particular area on a commission basis.
I've sold to Victoria's husband Mark since I started in the industry and got to know Victoria at Ryland Peters and Small where I worked for 4 years. I meet up with her and Mark in their kitchen for tea and biscuits and had a lovely conversation about both selling and buying. It was really interesting to hear from both sides at the same time. However, for this post, I will focus on my conversation with Victoria. To read Mark's story, please click here.
How do you approach & find a new potential stockist?
During the quiet months, I visit as many shops as I can in my whole area, dropping in catalogues and chatting about the companies I represent. I also get sent leads from the companies I work for and attend various trade shows throughout the year.
How often do you follow up?
Sometimes it takes years to get into a new shop, the range might not be right at the time but I don't give up, I keep going back or phone or email every time I have something new to say. It might be a range that is selling particularly well at the moment or just one product that is flying off the shelf. Anything that I think might be of interest to the buyer is worth highlighting.
What are the most common reasons a new stockist gives for not wanting to take on one of your ranges?
Margins not being good enough, that they already have enough suppliers for that product, it's not the right look or they don't have any budget at the moment.
How do you handle rejection?
Badly, it doesn't get easier. It can be very frustrating when buyers don't value sales people's time.
Top sales tip?
Send samples or bring samples, buyers want to see and touch the products.
A range sells the best if there's enough there to create a story, sometimes you need to help the buyer see what the story is.
Keep up with trends and talk to your buyers about them.
Get to know your buyers stories, care about them and what's important to them, this will really build trust and it will make your job nicer too.
I plan on writing a post about working with Sales Agents at a later stage, if this is something you would be interested in hearing more about please drop me a line to encourage me to move it up my list.
If you're interested in working with me, you can email me to discover how I can help you. If you have any feedback or any topic you would like me to cover please get in touch. I also share tips every week on my Instagram account.
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