Talk about being out of my element, this from my email:
I would like to become a sales rep for eco-clothing lines and artisan-made jewelry. I have my associates in fashion design and was designing and making custom women’s jackets for a few years. I know I would be great in this career and am wondering if you have any advice on how to enter this industry? I am willing and flexible to do what it takes and thought I would start by asking you.
This isn’t something I know anything about but maybe somebody out there does. There’s one previous entry I wrote called Sales rep training but I doubt that’s the complete solution. Naturally, I recommend reading or in your case, rereading textbooks from your school days. You’ll have to brush up on your retail math.
I subscribe to a magazine called Agency Sales from MANA (Manufacturer’s Agents National Assoc.). It’s not free but you don’t have to be a member to subscribe. I think I pay $50-$70 a year for it. Alternatively you could join the organization ($229) and the sub comes with it. The organization is geared for sales reps of manufacturers but I think the magazine is nicely balanced in representing issues from the perspective of manufacturers too. Here’s an impressive index to past articles in the magazine. I’d think something like this would be required reading if you wanted to become a sales rep (or even if you wanted to improve your relationships with sales people). They’ll send a sample issue upon request.
As far as further reading material goes, I have tons of books here but since I don’t have a background in sales and marketing, I don’t know which are any good. I always like the English books (Blackwell Science and Batsford). I have one I favor (caveat noted), a textbook edited by Mike Easey called Fashion Marketing. Although the publishing date of my copy is 1995, I’m very impressed that the issue of eco-products is discussed at length. There’s a 2001 edition on Amazon US (8 used copies) and 23 copies on Amazon UK. I note a 2008 edition is slated for publication next July.
Other than my sketching reading referrals, the first idea off the top of my head is to get a job working with an existing sales rep or agency and learn it from the inside. Also, plenty of designers are hungry for reps, just try getting hired. Still, there are other issues to consider.
- Do you have any relationships with stores or buyers?
- Do you have a background in retail marketing?
- How do you plan to sell?
- Can you travel? If you can’t be a road rep (which is what most people want), do you envision leasing a showroom?
Do you all have any advice on becoming a sales rep? What qualifications do you look for in a candidate? Would you consider someone totally green and if so, under what conditions? Which marketing books do you like?