The first entry of our series is written by Alan Macomber of Corky & Company, maker of children’s coats. We’ve only had two submissions so this won’t be much of a series if we don’t get more. Anyway, here’s Alan.
On a Memorial Day weekend back in 1994, Kim and I took a bag of hats to Cape Cod to see if we could start a business. While we sold out the hats and took orders for more, one store-owner suggested we should get a New England sales rep because we couldn’t do the selling, making and shipping and keep our sanity. Our reply simply was, “what’s a sales rep?” The store-owner politely explained and recommended we contact Dinah.
Kim diligently contacted Dinah and set-up an appointment. Kim, with our infant daughter, met Dinah to show her the hats and Dinah said something to the effect of “Honey, the hats are cute, but I can’t make enough commission to justify selling your hats. But, if you add a couple of coats I’d really be able to sell your line.” Kim left and as Dinah watch Kim wheeling the stroller away with our daughter, she made a mental note that she’d never see that person again.
Kim came home and asked what I thought. I said “what do you have to lose? Make a couple of coats.” The next week Kim called Dinah and said the coat samples were ready. Dinah was shocked, but true to her word she sold and sold our coats and that’s how Corky & Company began.
I’d like to share how I found sales people for Corky when we were a new manufacturer in 1994. Back then there wasn’t an Internet to do research, instant communication via email or jpegs that could be easily viewed by anybody. Being somewhat ANALytical, however, I set-up a data collection method and followed up with cold calls.
I collected a bunch of trade magazines like Earnshaws and Childrens Business (now defunct) and extracted all the sales reps listed in the manufacturers ads. Half the ads listed the sales persons name and phone number for a given territory while others only gave a phone number. I compiled this data by territory on a single sheet of paper to find out which sales person in a specific territory had the most companies advertising on their behalf. When an ad listed only a phone number, I simply matched the phone number with another ad that listed the phone number and a name.
This quickly yielded the biggest buying markets in the US as New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. So now what? I called the rep with the most ads in each territory under the premise that the best rep had the most advertisements. If I was negged, I’d call the number two sales rep and so on. In the end we had five new sales reps in our second year in addition to our first rep from Boston. That year we started with a Philly rep instead of a Los Angeles rep, but that’s a twist of fate that I’ll save for another post.
When Corky started 15 years ago this is how we found our reps. Over the years we outlasted some rep’s business tenure, made some changes or were sent packing from a showroom (only once.) However, 15 years old and three of the original seven sales reps are still with us!