I have written a number of articles about the pros and cons of using jewellery sales reps I had recently spoken to a customer of Stones And Findings who also wholesales her jewellery collection through a salesrep. I had introduced the salesrep to her. She is quite happy with the performance and presentation of this salesrep and she asked me if I knew of some in other territories. After talking to her about her experience and expectations, I think it would be beneficial for me to elaborate on a few things which I did not touch upon in my previous article.
Make your expectations for the service of the Jewellery Salesrep clear. Although this agent is an independent consultant, she/he does work for you. Your livelihood depends on their performance. So, just as you would with an in-house staff, state clearly what your expectations are. Some of the more important issues would be: other jewellery lines, territory covered and frequency of travel.
There are more jewellery lines in North America than there are communities. It would be impractical to think that you can find a stellar jewellery salerep who does not already carry another jewellery line. However, you can request that they do not carry any other lines. You can certainly explain your reasons or specify the conditions potential lines must meet, and that you retain the option of allowing the line or opting out. It would be up to the jewellery salesrep to make the economic decision to continue carrying your line. This is a sticky point, however and every salesrep wants more lines that they can split overhead across. More lines can give them better clout in making appointments with clients. But there are drawbacks and setting clear expectations is paramount.
It is to the jewellery salesreps’ interest to hold as large of a territory as they possibly can because that means more commission. But this will definitely limit your business because you want an agency that covers the territory well. You must ask yourself: is my agent, based in Vancouver, going to visit the customers in Sudbury?
The frequency of travel is another contentious issue with salesreps. Many of them do not go on the road because it is a costly process. They would rather work out of their showrooms and at tradeshows. This incidentally, is how most of the business is done in western Canada. However, in Ontario and in all provinces east of it, boutique owners like to, and many will only write orders in their stores. This is a point that frustrate many western agencies when they try to do business out east. A very strong jewellery salesrep will cover the territory every 8 to 10 weeks with in store visits. The rest of the time would be done by “dialing for dollars”. There are some that only visit every 4-6 months. I tend to stay away from these, but some still do fairly well. It depends on how good your online or print catalogue is. During your agency selection process, ask how often they make their rounds. Get specific numbers and map things out. Spell it out.
Always get your agent’s travel and show schedule for 6 months in advance. Many experienced reps who know their territory well will have it 1 year in advance. You should plan your designs and collection release around their travel or important show and appoint dates. Bi-weekly emails is the minimum update requirement. If you’re not getting orders faxed in, ask why, right away. No jewellery salesrep wants to report to someone and spend more of their time doing administrative work, but it is your business to be on top of any changes either with trend or with your salesrep.
Also remember that as much as this is your livelihood, it is theirs, too. Designers loathe to hear that salesreps are not out promoting their line or taking time off for personal reasons, jewellery salesreps do not want to hear that the reason you do not have a new collection ready because your husband is in a funk or that your daughter is going away to university and you wanted to be there for her for her life-changing transition. Give professional courtesy, and demand it, too.