Join Kim Leister as she shares her thoughts on the value of a Sales Rep.
The Back Story
I have always loved retail. It could be that I just love shopping, but c’mon, isn’t that a job requirement in this industry? From working in a small pharmacy to owning my own shop, it is something that I just get. I have been fortunate to have many positions in the industry, including sales associate, shop owner, buyer, Sales Rep, agency owner, and now President of a larger agency.
In 2019 I sold my small agency, Knack, to Ivystone. Knack was owned by myself and my best friend, and we LOVED owning it. But life changed, larger agencies were getting larger, and we found ourselves in the position to sell our business. It was better for our team, and truly at the end of the day that was our driving force. Little did we know we would end up running Simblist Group, and the rest is history.
Now, I find myself running this much larger agency, with more vendors, more reps, more employees, and of course, the showroom. I love my job, I love the industry, the craziness of it and most importantly I love the customers we work with. The one thing I miss in my current job is my lack of contact with actual “for real” customers. Being a Sales Rep was by far my favorite job – ever! However, it was not easy. Fun - yes, easy - no.
A Time to Reflect
Last year, my daughter had the opportunity to take a Sales Rep position with Ivystone. She grew up in the industry watching me and while I was hesitant, I wanted her to take the opportunity. It is funny how life works, as it has now given me the good fortune to see the business through the eyes of someone fresh, which has been very enlightening.
Julia has been on the road a year now and recently I was able to “ride along” with her. She was going to a favorite former account of mine and I could not resist tagging along. Not only did we meet with the account, but we also had 5 hours of driving together and boy did we have a lot to discuss!
The first real reminder I had of the good old days as a Rep was that no one pays for your gas, tolls, hotel, parking, and your time spent in your car – aka your mobile office. For a Sales Rep to engage in a single appointment, an investment is made – not only of time, but with real cash outlay. However, the investment is necessary and should be a requirement for all Reps. To be a “good” Rep you need to service your accounts, but to be an “exceptional” Rep you must understand them. There is a big difference.
I am often asked, “What value does a Sales Rep offer?” Here is what I believe – it is all about partnership. Reps and customers should be partners for the one end goal – to make the customer successful and better. I was, and am, always mindful on all levels of what a Sales Rep has to offer. They should be:
- Experts in their lines Invested and understanding of your individual business model
- Carefully curating a presentation of lines that is the right fit for you to not waste your time
- Assisting in creating best sellers for your business
- Accurately guiding and placing your orders with things like ship dates, cancel dates, ship complete, promotions
- Once the order arrives answering any questions and solve any problems.
Yes, you can order online, and yes you can look at a catalog and email an order, but no you cannot (literally for free) get a live person to help your business be better.
It’s funny that we call them Sales Reps, but not once when I think about the role, does selling enter my mind. So, while yes, I run an agency and yes, it’s a family thing, I 100% believe in the partnership of a customer and Sales Rep. Not only do I believe in it, I value it and want to change the narrative. Maybe we should start by changing the title of the role to Buying Partner rather than Sales Rep.