In sales, time is money. When your livelihood depends completely on your sales commissions as an independent rep, it’s crucial to be constantly finding ways to improve and streamline your sales process.
We’ve seen thousands of internal and external sales reps use digital tools like sales order management software to save time and work faster, transforming their businesses and ultimately making more sales. After digitizing many of their formerly manual processes, they see more customers in a day, sell more product, and end up providing better customer service.
Here are some ways to make the most out of each day on the road:
Set specific goals for each customer interaction.
Before going into a meeting with a buyer, set goals for what you’d like to get out of the visit. What are the easy re-orders that you know you can get out of the way quickly? What new products do you want to push? What are the products you think they’d be most likely to add to their assortment? Having a game plan will allow you to steer the conversation effectively.
Much of this has to do with coming prepared with certain information–namely, the customer’s past order history. Knowing in advance what kinds of products your retailers normally buy opens up the opportunity for you to quickly and efficiently suggest a list of products that they’d be likely to add to their order, rather than spending time flipping through your product catalogs and lingering unnecessarily over items that don’t fit into their assortment.
Look for tools that will help you organize this information. Great sales order management software tools like Handshake will allow you to use a digital catalog and store customer information (including past order history, most frequently ordered items, etc.) in an easy-to-navigate mobile database.
Plan your route in advance.
This is another important piece of prep work. Efficient route planning can save you a lot of time in a day. When making your sales appointments, try to schedule them so that you’re not wasting too much time en route from place to place. There are easy, quick ways to do this, with travel applications and mapping software like TripIt and Sales Navigator.
Digitize your product catalog.
With several software options available to help digitize your product catalog, you should no longer have to be hindered by cumbersome product samples and paper catalogs. These are troublesome both to carry into sales appointments and to actually sell from.
Digital catalogs allow you to stop searching for page numbers and squinting at SKUs in tiny text on a page, and instead scroll through a visually rich, easily navigable product database. This is the most efficient way to present products to a buyer, and you’ll end up putting more product in front of them than you would have with the paper catalog and sample method.
Eliminate complicated order entry processes.
This is probably the biggest time waster of all. Though every independent rep’s order entry process varies–whether it involves a fax machine, excel sheet, phone calls, emails, and/or a backend database–they are usually drawn out by delays, causing product to get shipped out later. The work involved in submitting these orders also translates to less time in which you, the sales rep, can make sales.
Take control of this process to speed up fulfillment times and stamp out unnecessary busy work. Sales order management software applications can make a huge difference, allowing you to send out an order to the retailer and your brand immediately after it’s been written. You can move on to your next store visit without having to worry about entering that order for fulfillment later.
Increasing your sales numbers can be a struggle in today’s hyper-competitive market. In order to capture more customers and retain your old ones, streamlining your sales process isn’t just preferred–it’s necessary.
By moving faster, you’ll waste less time and allocate those hours to the things that’ll actually have an impact on your commission–making more appointments, having more meaningful conversations with customers, and selling products for your manufacturers.
Sarah Leung is Content Marketing Specialist at Handshake, where she creates high-impact sales, marketing, and technology-related content for wholesale brands. When she’s not writing, she’s talking with sales reps, sales managers, and other industry professionals to source new topics of interest and further understand how Handshake has helped them increase sales and build their businesses.
Social networking in many ways has made us more attached to our computers and phones, but there is one social network that lays its emphasis on getting people out and about in the real world. That network is Meetup. Meetup was launched in 2002 and currently boasts over 9.5 million members. Having recently completed a second round of funding, Meetup looks poised to raise its profile and continue to be a powerful tool for people wishing to organize in real life.
For independent sales reps in particular, Meetup presents a number of opportunities to make contacts with potential leads across many industries. Below are some tips on using Meetup to improve your professional skills and expand your list of leads.
Attending Existing Meetups
Signing up with Meetup is free. Create your profile and start looking for Meetups in your city or in any city you are visiting for work. Meetup will tell you how many Meetups are planned near your location. Use the search feature and find Meetups that are relevant to you. Search by your industry, your particular business or career interest, or even search for sales rep oriented Meetups to get together and talk shop with your fellow manufacturers reps or independent sales reps. It can be a great opportunity to network outside of your normal social circles.
Before you start joining Meetups willy-nilly, make sure you have goals in mind for what you want to get out of each event. Make a list of who you want to meet and what you want to accomplish. Meetups don’t necessarily have to be business oriented, and can be a great way to socialize and meet new people in general. If you know you have a common interest with someone who could be a great prospect, why not join the local Frisbee or craft brew Meetup and start a conversation?
Organizing Your Own Meetup
If you already network a great deal or have a large local network of contacts, organizing your own Meetup may be a great tactic to use to meet new people and make yourself a hub for local business interests. Meetup does charge a monthly fee for organizing groups of your own (between $9.99 – $14.99/mo, depending on your choice of plan), but if you can get a few leads out of your group, it’s a small price to pay. It will also help other Meetup members find you and help establish your reputation. If you already host networking events, Meetup can be a good way to improve attendance numbers. You’ll be able to organize attendees and RSVPs better, and the visibility of Meetup in Google is an added marketing bonus.
If you are an independent sales rep who uses Meetup, let us know in the comments. We’d love to know about your experiences with Meetup and any tips you are willing to share!
Insurance is one of the most valuable benefits any job can provide and with the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, obtaining quality health insurance has never been more important. For independent sales reps, getting health insurance or any kind of insurance can be more difficult than it is in other professions, yet health insurance for sales reps is just as vital as it is for any other type of professional.
Fortunately, with the help of RepHunter and MetLife, independent sales reps now have access to a variety of medical and life insurance choices that can provide unprecedented security and options. Learn more about the RepHunter benefits programs and rep insurance below.
As a RepHunter member, you now have access to new life insurance policy options that are simpler and more affordable than ever. Accidental Death Insurance can be obtained without a medical exam and has a very simple application. Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance can help sales reps who juggle paying for this important benefit with the financing of other obligations, like tuition and a mortgage. Guaranteed Issue Whole Life Insurance is a great choice for RepHunter members between the ages of 45-75, offering fixed rates and ensuring reps cannot be turned down for medical reasons.
Medical Insurance & Prescription Drug Benefit
Our health is the most valuable asset that we possess as individuals and as professionals. RepHunter’s appreciation of this has led us to put together medical benefits from MetLife for our members as part of an industry leading small business and rep insurance program. CancerWise is a supplemental insurance policy that can help you pay for any expense in relation to the disease. This supplemental cancer insurance policy provides additional insurance coverage when you need it most. The Accident Companion policy covers you and your loved ones to help with emergencies. In addition to these policies, you can also obtain a Prescription Discount Card that will help you find major savings at major pharmacies like Walgreens, Target, and more.
Identity Protection with Identity Theft Insurance
If you have experienced identity theft, you know how destructive it can be to your finances and your life in general. The MetLife Defender plan offers up to $5 million in coverage for identity theft related damages, with around the clock customer support.
How to Enroll
To access these benefits, all you need to do is be a member of RepHunter, an A+ BBB rated business going on our 14th year. Not only will you have access to fantastic professional opportunities as a rep or company looking for reps, you also will now have access to the savings inherent in a group insurance plan. Contact us today to learn more about our Principal insurance plans and outside sales rep insurance plans or to sign up with RepHunter as an independent sales rep or sign up with RepHunter to find sales reps.
5 Ways Sales Reps can Get Busywork Done Automatically with the iPhone or iPad
Everyone knows Salespeople have one of the hardest jobs around. But its not just how they act in front of customers and how good they are at closing a deal that makes a Salesperson great at their job. Salespeople need to crank through a mountain of busy work everyday so that they can actually spend time selling. What a lot of Salespeople don’t know is that the iPhone or iPad can automate a ton of the busywork.
Here are 5 of the worst time-wasters that Salespeople could outsource to their iPhone or iPad:
- Juggle 4 different systems to schedule their day. Reps have to go between their calendar, customer notes, and CRM system while referencing a map to figure out where their customers are in relationship to one another. This is a huge time killer, because reps either spend a ton of time up front trying to figure out efficient routes to visit their customers or they waste time zig-zagging across town with inefficient routes.
- The need to use their laptop on the road instead of having access to the information they need right from their iPhone or iPad. For example, many reps are not able to update their CRM from their mobile device.
- Respond quickly to schedule changes. Everyone has had customers make last minute changes or cancel meetings; with the right tools, reps can adjust plans in real-time to avoid wasting time waiting for their next appointment.
- Not being able to organize your sales route to minimize drive time. When reps are driving across town or across the state, they want to maximize the number of customers they can meet with along the way filling in as much time as possible between meetings. If reps can see and work with all their customer data on their phone, kind of like the way they can already use Yelp or Google Maps but with their customer data, they will save a ton of time and effort.
- Not having the data to focus on the best accounts. Instead of wasting time on low value accounts, reps can use apps that leverage data to guide them to the best accounts in their territory
It turns out there is an app that attacks these time wasters for outside sales reps, the Badger Map. They offer a free trial, so its worth checking out to see if it could help save you time. Also, for every friend or colleague that you refer who subscribes, Badger will send you $50. Click here to get your free trial.
About the Author: Steven Benson
For over fifteen years, Steve Benson has been professionally active in sales – as an inside sales person, an outside sales rep, and as a sales manager. Steve Benson is a founder and runs Sales and Marketing for Badger Maps, Inc., a software application for sales people to build a schedule and automatically route their calendar on their iPhone or iPad.
About Badger Maps, Inc.
Badger is a software company focused on providing the tools and applications for sales reps to be more efficient and effective in the field. Badger has a unique application, the Badger Map, which enables the sales team to manage their territory by combining Google Maps, data from the CRM, schedule planning, route optimization, and lead generation on the sales person’s mobile device. Badger offers the best software mapping solution to map customer accounts and sales routes.
The Badger blog contains discussions of topics of interest to Sales Reps who are interested in sales map software and route optimization.
Anyone working with or as an independent sales rep can benefit from the wisdom of Bob Reiss. You can find a lot of his writings on his blog at the Bootstrapping101 website, at http://www.bootstrapping101.com/blog/.
The software landscape changes all the time. Start-ups innovate and new software models, such as Software as a Service (SaaS), emerge to change the way even the largest businesses do business. Despite this rapidly changing landscape, enterprise IT sales still operate on many of the same fundamental principles they always have. In fact, all of the changes in software may even reinforce traditional ways of doing b2b software sales. Check out our software sales tips below to stay up to date with how enterprise IT sales are done today.
- Appeal to Conservative Customers
In Enterprise IT sales things move far more slowly than they do in B2C. Members of IT departments or operations don’t always need the flashy new thing on the market – in fact, getting too caught up in fads might make them look bad. They need to be reassured that your software is a sound decision, that it will meet all their needs and that they will receive sufficient support in installation and beyond. You are selling to someone who will likely have to train up a staff to use the software. Reassuring them that their job responsibilities will get easier, not harder, and that they won’t get fired is very important!
- Emphasize Utility
As much as some people enjoy being early adopters in their lives as consumers, businesses rarely can afford that kind of luxury. Selling enterprise software requires emphasizing functionality, usability, and security. Extra bells and whistles are just that.
Replacing enterprise level software can take a long time, and involve the input of a number of decision-makers. As a B2B software sales rep, you must learn the nature of the food chain at businesses you are targeting, and make sure you get the right materials in front of the right people on that chain. One of the most important software sales tips is “don’t give up easily, but don’t lose touch.” Different members of an organization will find different parts of a software compelling. Even giant companies like Salesforce have sales reps getting in front of customers, and the reason is, it still works.
The LED lighting industry in the United States is already quite large and new innovations on the market promise to only expand its reach. The market not only offers great opportunities for LED sales reps, it also saves energy and helps the environment.
Eco-friendly lighting is an important aspect of any environmental movement due to how much energy it is able to conserve. Saving a watt of energy is generally more efficient than creating a watt of clean energy. LED lighting is a very practical solution for businesses that want to reduce their footprint. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 461 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) were used by commercial and residential buildings in 2011. Cutting into a number that large by significant percentages makes a huge difference, and is a significant advantage that LED lighting adoption offers.
One of the newest innovations in the LED lighting field are LED-based T8 tube lights. They offer 30% energy savings instantly, putting far less stress on the environment and creating less pollution. Perhaps their greatest advantage is their eco-friendly lighting design. They are designed to replace the overhead tube lights you closely associate with office environments. Traditional tube lighting has a dull quality that LED lighting significantly upgrades for a more pleasing experience. This in and of itself is motivation to convert to LED. When you consider that almost half of lighting electricity is used for the commercial sector, and a little under half of that is consumed by fluorescent tubes, applying the energy savings of LED lighting could have a huge impact on our office experiences and the environment at large.
LED lighting has other advantages that extend its lifespan and add to its eco-friendliness. The lights are highly durable and less likely than conventional bulbs to break. They are resistant to vibrations and shock, and hardy enough to last through exposure to bad weather or public use. They can also handle extreme cold and heat well. This makes them a great choice for eco-friendly lighting of outdoor spaces. They have almost no UV emissions, which makes them ideal for indoor lighting on sensitive materials in museums and art galleries, too. An additional advantage to these lights is that they do not contain mercury, like fluorescent bulbs do.
As long as LED lighting is taking such effective aim at the lighting market, LED lighting jobs should continue to grow. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in this exciting industry next.
If you own a business in the apparel industry you are well aware you must think years in advance and anticipate changes in consumers, the supply chain, and more. How can you position yourself so that you’re catching the wave years into the future, not being knocked over by it and more powerful competitors? Read our list of some apparel and fashion industry challenges below.
It’s hard to ignore the emphasis on sustainability that has penetrated a number of consumer markets in the past years. The apparel industry is not immune to this, both in terms of public relations and in terms of improving the sourcing of fabrics and products. Discussion in the apparel industry has focused on being more pro-active in response to environmental and worker conditions. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition over the past few years has developed what they call “The Higg Index,” which measures social and environmental impacts at the Facility, Brand, and Product levels. This index appears to be gaining in popularity and influence, and encourages companies to use the same frame of reference in determining how successful their efforts at sustainability have been. Sustainability is one of the most important of fashion industry challenges.
The cost of production is increasing all over the world, leaving apparel companies no longer tasked with finding the cheapest new source of production, but with coming up with efficiencies and savings in their own processes. This is one of the major challenges in the fashion industry. Increasing demands for transparency on the part of nations and non-profit organizations has exacerbated this need. Speed is another important aspect of efficiency. H&M and Zara turn over inventory quickly, pushing new looks and creating demand for novelty. They provide a lesson to other apparel companies on how to succeed in the present day business conditions. Finding a great apparel sales rep can also help you get inventory out faster.
Coping or Conquering Online
Simply put, all businesses in the apparel industry should have a plan for engaging with customers or potential partners over the Internet. Social media and online communities and services provide new outlets for discussing of pressing industry issues and, if you are a rep, finding new apparel sales opportunities. A good CRM is essential for tracking orders and creating efficiencies among staff. Mobile is probably creating efficiencies for you already, thanks to the ability to access data on the fly, but it should be an important consideration in your marketing, as well.
What apparel and fashion industry challenges do you see on the horizon for the apparel industry? Let us know in the comments!
The beauty and cosmetics industry are particularly susceptible to trends, as the market is constantly changing due to technology and fashion. There are many groups with their eyes on the beauty market, and we take a look at some of their predictions below.
Skincare Benefits Still Popular
According to the NPD group, 86% of women purchase makeup products with skincare benefits, like moisturizer or SPF protection. If you are selling a product or thinking of entering the makeup market with a cosmetic sales representative, know that this added benefit will be a major plus to your consumer.
Beauty Spending Has Bounced Back from the Recession
The recent economic recession depressed spending in all areas. However, spending is bouncing back. In 2012, 14% of women began to spend more on beauty products, whereas 45% of women had spent less due to the economic crunch. Households with incomes greater than $75,000 a year were never touched by the recession, increasing their spending from 2008-2010. Beauty sales are a good bet in almost any economy.
The Men’s Grooming Sector Continues to Grow
When looking at product development, it’s hard to avoid the men’s grooming market. This market continues to grow as men pay more attention to their appearance, driven by the move from physical labor toward white collar office jobs. From 2012 to 2014, men’s grooming is expected to grow from $27 billion globally to $31 billion. Products contributing to this are shaving-related and increasingly post-shave, skincare and fragrance products.
BB Creams Are Flagging Slightly
BB Creams were the biggest trend of the past few years in the cosmetics industry. These products were advertised as an all in one product that helps eliminate blemishes, spots, and so on. If you are looking at selling cosmetics, these still provide a lot of opportunity, as does any product offering multi-purpose use. The buzz has died down a bit, however.
DD Creams May Be Rising
Buzz seems to have shifted to “DD creams” or “daily defense” creams. These are multi-purpose, like BB creams, and their added value is to protect the skin against external pollution as well as sweat and grease.
What trends do you see emerging in the beauty industry in 2014? Share your thoughts on skincare, cosmetic sales, and beauty sales in the comments section below!
The jewelry industry encompasses a wide range of products and purposes, from the most expensive upscale precious jewels to fun and casual jewelry for everyday wear. Checking in on jewelry trends requires looking at high end fashion shows, consumer behavior, and what patterns and ideas are intriguing designers now.
Blue was a big color in 2013 and looks to continue its reign in 2014. Sapphire and topaz are key jewels, as are imitations of sapphire and topaz. Abalone has been used more frequently in jewelry in the past year, and is somewhat inexpensive, as well as intriguing, since it is not your typical jewelry substance.
Other trending colors include orange (which looks great with blue) and what has been named the 2014 Color of the Year by the Pantone Color Institute, “radiant orchid.” Yellow gold has increased in popularity and will probably continue to do so, with the price per oz of gold dropping.
Focus on the Wrist
While watches and bracelets never go out of style, per se, there does seem to be a resurgence of interest in them as beautifully designed, statement pieces of jewelry. Bracelets are particularly great for spring, as sleeves get shorter and bare skin occupies more real estate. Watches are in some ways the companion to this trend for men, while also maintaining popularity among women. Technology is restoring attention to the watch. The Samsung Galaxy Gear watch may’ve revitalized interest in watches in general, and there are a number of watches available that look great but sit in the mid-level price range. Plus the often-rumored iWatch from Apple is something else to add interest in this area, and is sure to be a high-style item.
Another jewelry trend that’s been spotted is the emergence of eye-catching shapes, like circles, pyramids, and chevrons. These are appearing in high-end and mass market jewelry stores, adding some pep and fun to contemporary looks, and playing off punk and rock inspired fashion.
Whether you are a retailer looking to stock the hottest items in the jewelry industry or a designer looking to capitalize on trends in your production or wholesaling, paying heed to these jewelry trends and keeping up with jewelry news should help you meet with success in 2014. Learn How to Find Great Independent Jewelry Sales Reps or Jewelry Sales Rep Opportunities to set yourself up well for the rest of the year.