You do not need to hire a sales rep if you want to do business with a large retailer. However, you should consider hiring one for many reasons.
A sales rep should be very familiar with how the retailer does business, know their category review periods, know when decisions are made, how to get things finalized, what negotiating tactics work best with this retailer, work in the same town/city as the retailer (the more this rep “lives” at the retailer’s corporate headquarters, the more familiar they are going to be with the powers that be and how this retailer works), and be a likable and strong presence for you when you are not there.
It’s not easy to find a sales rep and it’s also not easy to get one to rep you. You have to convince this sale rep (or rep company) to agree to rep you and they will only do so for the same reasons a retail buyer would want to stock your product. They have to believe that your product will make them money. Be just as prepared to “sell” the rep as you would any retail buyer.
How to find a rep (so you can even pitch to them):
- Ask other entrepreneurs who are selling at the retailer where you want to sell for recommendations
- Ask the retail buyer if they can recommend a few to you (this way you know the buyer likes doing business with this rep – in this case, the personal relationship is there)
- An added benefit is when the sales rep has an already established relationship with the buyer (this may or may not be the case). Remember that buyers come and go (as do reps) so this personal relationship may or may not be present. In fact, some retailers don’t want their buyers to become too cushy in their jobs and so they actually transfer buyers to different teams every 18 months (this is true of a MAJOR retailer that you all probably want to do business with).
- Hiring a rep means paying a commission. This commission is negotiable and dependent on many things (another blog topic).
- When you hire a rep, it doesn’t mean you just sit back. You are still actively involved, but you are operating from a place of greater information than you would have had without this rep (or you wouldn’t be hiring them). And, it means they can be your legs on the ground on a daily basis, so you don’t need to be.