If you feel your brand has outgrown its current market and is ready to expand into new territories, you might want to look into hiring a sales representative to take your business to a new level. And though sourcing fashion sales agents isn’t particularly difficult – you can search internet directories, attend industry trade shows and even snoop around to see what your competitors are up to, selecting the right one is a feat in and of itself. So what do you need to know about a showroom or a rep before signing on a dotted line?
Well, before you start interviewing potential sales associates, you’ve got to determine what you expect to gain from a new partnership. Your goal is not just to find a person that is knowledgeable about the market you’re trying to penetrate, but someone who truly understands your line and is passionate about selling it. Which means that you have to be ready to ask tough questions – first and foremost the following:
1. What categories of products do they sell?
If you design and produce street-wear for the young crowd, see if they already carry a couple of brands from that niche. Ideally, you should be looking for a rep that works with lines that complement yours – those that could be easily mixed, matched and merchandised with your pieces.
2. What other designers do they represent?
Asking a potential rep for references is always a good idea. Reach out to their current clients to find out about their experience with the agent in question, their work style, communication style and general level of satisfaction with the agent’s performance.
3. What market do they work with?
Do they cover any particular territory? What stores do they sell to? What could be expected in terms of sales growth and potential when it comes to collections similar to yours? What items sell best? These questions will help you gauge the rep’s level of expertise and familiarity with the market you’re trying to target.
4. What are their terms?
How much should you expect to pay in commission? Do they charge any fixed fees? How and how often do they bill for their services? How long is the contract and what happens if any of you decide to terminate it?
5. Why should you favor them over other agents?
An experienced rep will clearly and confidently tell you how they can help your business grow. They will also share their previous success stories, and offer tailored strategies to promote your commercial goals.
6. What do they need from you?
Since you’re looking to establish a mutually beneficial partnership, be open and honest about your business. Tell the agent about your current stockists, prepare a press kit with any and all media mentions of your brand, go over your best sellers. That will help the potential rep decide whether or not they’ll be able to pitch your brand to their buyers, and how to best do it.
Don’t despair if you don’t click with the first couple of people you interview. It takes time to find a partner you feel you can trust. And once you do sign a contract with the right sales rep, make sure you maximize your chances for success on the new market by getting the product information, photos, catalogues and samples to them on time. Also, don’t forget that it’s in your agent’s interest to sell as many of your pieces as possible. So if they are offering you advice, do listen and take note.