Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Expanding Your Sales Team

The next question comes from Nicole Vaslot, co-owner of Westcoast baby, a collection of infant and children’s apparel and accessories.

How can we figure out how much we need to have in stock before we hire US sales reps to sell our product?

1. Use Current Experience to Identify Trends
For Canadian companies, the US market can look like a goldmine of untapped potential. And it is. So I recommend that you pursue this market but be sure to take the learnings you have gained in the Canadian market and apply them to the hiring of US sales reps. Review the success of your Canadian reps, how many accounts they opened in their first six months; the average order size for each account; the reorder pattern for each account. This data should give you an idea of the volume you can expect when you take on a new sales rep, whether they are located in Canada or the USA.

2. Find the Right Rep for Your Brand
Finding the right sales rep can be challenging. Many apparel reps carry a number of brands putting only a small portion of their energies into promoting your collection. Rather than pursue multi-line distributors, Robeez had more luck with “sales-moms”. Moms, with some selling experience, who love the Robeez brand and were keen to introduce it in their area.

That’s how I found Sabrina back in 1996. She was a new mom and had received a pair of Robeez as a baby shower gift from a Canadian friend. When her daughter outgrew the first pair, she looked Robeez up online and called to order. We got to chatting and shortly after she started approaching boutiques in the San Francisco area to carry Robeez. That was our entry to the US market. As time went on, we found more moms and grandmas with similar stories. This was the early basis for our sales force.

3. Add New Territories
My suggestion from experience: start with one region at a time. By entering one region at a time, you can stay on top of demand and production of your products. If you hire a number of reps at one time, you may put yourself in the sticky situation of not being able to fulfill orders. The “one-at-a-time” strategy also allows you to identify a pattern for growth I mentioned above. We found that each new territory we added followed a similar pattern in its growth rate. We could learn from the pattern and it helped us forecast for the next territory.

You should know fairly quickly if the sales rep you hire is going to bring you the level of business you are hoping for. If you have not seen results within three to six months, it may be time to look for a replacement.

4. Set Measurable Targets
To continue to stay on top of demand, get your reps to set targets for new accounts and sales each month. This will help predict production quantities and revenue targets.

5. Position Your Brand Carefully
My final words of advice: ensure that your reps approach the “right” types of stores for your product. Especially in a new territory, this ensures consistency in the quality and perception of your brand.

Happy Selling!add to sk*rt

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