I’m pleased to publish an anonymous guest entry from a sales rep which was written in response to comments following Contract for a clothing sales rep (also pt.2). I’ll thank our benefactor in advance for you but feel free to chime in. Thanks B!
As a former director of sales, planning to open a contemporary showroom in NYC, I am a little taken aback with some of the comments in the first published entry. An independent sales rep is a highly professional individual who takes the same risks as any other entrepreneur (designer). We are the first ones out there who introduce a collection to our contacts, work the shows, travel to clients and push for orders, yet there is a profound feeling that sales people should be paid last and are too demanding.
In my biased opinion, a sales rep who has successfully sold an emerging collection for 3 years deserves to get a fair contract, including a raise in commission, a guarantee that 85% of her orders will be delivered and a three year contract. This sales rep has contributed to the success of the brand and most importantly, she did her job!
The comment with regards to the sales rep not having clearly defined responsibilities let me explain, a sales rep, sells! When we don’t sell we don’t get paid and every professional sales rep I know of likes to make money.
With regards to a draw, if the situation is invoicing, late paying clients (often orders have been delivered), invoices have been paid and the sales rep is kept waiting for their commission, it is because the designer doesn’t have it together or simply is not trustworthy. It is the responsibility of the designer to have adequate staff in place to take care of any financial issues. That is not a sales rep’s job. However we can and will assist gladly with all outstanding financial disputes so we can get paid and maintain an amicable relationship with the client.
About delivery guarantees: it has been my experience that too many designers have backed out, delayed, shortened orders and claimed the economy as an excuse. These orders were delivered by the sales rep months before only to have them canceled later on by the buyer for late delivery or the designer deciding to cancel them late in the season. That’s time spent and money lost that a sales rep will never recoup. When a sales rep sells the goods, the buyers expect it to be delivered or to be informed within a timely period so they can replace inventory. If the designer backs out of an order, the first person who needs to deal with the situation is the sales rep!
Naturally there are as many mediocre designers as there are mediocre sales reps. However many designers have lofty ideas of their design capabilities, a self inflated image and how the consumer needs to conceive their collection. At the same time, designers are clueless on market pricing and how the current market has evolved. With regards to mediocre or unprofessional sales reps, hiring a free intern (fresh out of college) through Craigslist as your sales rep, is seldom going to gain respect from the buyers nor get the collection in the right doors.
I have spend the last six months talking to designers and I’m amazed at the ignorance of most with regards to their financial status (order portfolio), market knowledge and sound long term business strategies. Almost every single designer I meet thinks that sales reps should be their personal coach, business consultant and PR person -with their only compensation being their usual commission pay.
In today’s market, a higher commission, fair compensation (a draw against an order portfolio) and a delivery guarantee is a huge motivator for a seasoned sales professional to spend extra time on an (emerging) designer. Buyers are looking for newness but they are highly discriminating of which collections or emerging designers they will spend more than their five precious minutes on. A well respected sales rep can open doors. A rep can have meaningful conversations about the designer’s product and possible store placement, market development and even write a useful report for the designer to take into consideration for their next season designs.
I love fashion and have immense respect for the truly creative designers but a larger dose of hands-on understanding of how challenging today’s market is for sales reps and buyers and a little insight in the end consumer’s spending behavior would help emerging designers tremendously.