How-To

How To Find An Independent Sales Rep

Independent Sales Representatives tend to be privately owned companies that represent a number of different companies and product lines. As a young designer you will most likely be dealing with an Independent Sales Representative. Good sales reps will have a strong focus that is reflected in the different lines and retailers they deal with. For example some will focus on high end while others cater to women’s bridge or contemporary young designers.

Successful reps have good relations with specific buyers who return to their showroom season after season. Commission of 10% to 25% is standard for reps that show your goods and write orders for you. The average commission is between 10% and 15% depending on volume. Commission is paid ONLY for orders shipped to and accepted by the retailer. Some showrooms may require a “showroom fee” on top of the commission to help cover the cost of the showroom. Road Reps conduct sales by visiting retailers directly. Reps who attend trade shows often charge a pro-rated booth space fee. Make sure you establish minimum orders (and maximums) and negotiate the terms of your agreement in writing. Be sure to include a 60 to 90 day termination clause and terms of payment to the sales representative.

To find a listing of sales representatives, make sure to visit our Showrooms & Sales Rep Directory. This is the first place you should go to when searching for sales reps.

Also, try Rephunter.net, where you can search for independent sales reps according to their product category or by keywords, and the listings show the target customer for the rep and who they already sell to. When searching for a sales rep, it is important to try to find one that sells similar products as yours, which makes it easier for the rep to become familiar with your product line. Some sales reps are just looking to make money, but there are those reps who are extremely good at what they do, and therefore they make it their responsibility to fully understand and get to know the product line, the company, the designer, etc. which in turn helps them to make a better sale. A good sales rep can answer any questions that the buyer may ask them without having to continuously call the manufacturer/designer to get the question answered.

It is of the utmost importance that manufacturers/designers have the best possible relationship with their sales reps because it can mean all the difference. It can mean better communication, better understanding of one’s needs, better sales, better profits… it all goes hand in hand.

Also, a good place to look to find specific product categories and the reps that sell them is go to actual market websites. Four of the major markets in the United States include New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Go to the market websites for the area(s) that you plan on selling to or the area near you to find sales reps. When contacting reps, you should keep in mind that because you are beginning, it may be a long process before you find a good rep to represent and sell your line. In the beginning, it is a good idea to sell the line yourself, since you will know the most about the line and what can be done. And this is a good way to build up a good reputation with buyers, and then when it comes to finding a sales rep, you can show them your reputation and history, which can then help you get a good rep who is willing to do business with you. Now, as a young designer and just starting off, you will encounter reps that don’t want to represent your line because of the risk involved. Reps prefer to represent established and well-selling lines because that minimizes their risk, since reps mainly live off of their commission from the companies that they represent. The payment process begins with the delivery of the goods to the retailer, then the retailer pays the manufacturer, THEN the manufacturer pays the sales rep.

Some manufacturers who are based in one city prefer to just have one rep that sells their line in that city. Other manufacturers who want to branch out more may have more than one rep, all based around the country, but that can prove to be a little costly. For example, a company may have one rep in New York, one in Los Angeles, and one in Dallas, and then one road rep for a smaller or larger region wherever the manufacturer decides to sell. Many road reps are also showroom reps, and sometimes you can find one showroom rep that also is a road rep. This is a rare find, but they are out there. Road reps take your product line on the road and sell directly to retailers, instead of buyers coming to the showroom. Road reps often can cover more ground than showroom reps. For showrooms, buyers either have appointments or just walk in while looking around.

Often times, whether a road rep or showroom rep, they usually always have samples of the line with them. It is always a good idea for your rep to have samples of your line, since selling from a line sheet can only do so much. Some manufacturers make reps purchase their samples in case of damage or wear, and then the reps sell them after market at sample sales. Manufacturers generally sell their reps samples at discounted prices. Sales reps, however, aren’t too inclined to buy samples from start-up companies, because again, they don’t want to assume the risk of buying samples from a product line that may not sell. Therefore, start-ups usually don’t have the history or reputation to make their reps purchase their samples, but they do have the option of asking for a small deposit for the samples taken by the rep, and then the deposit is given back to the rep after market is over and the rep returns the samples to the manufacturer/designer.

Experienced reps, if you chose correctly, already have many accounts/clients that they sell to, especially if they have been a rep for a long time. Often times when representing a new line, they will call up their regular accounts and set up appointments, and sometimes they even set up new accounts, based on how well the product line does with their current accounts.