TDmonthly Magazine wondered what sales reps must do to stay on top of their “game” in the competitive toy industry. Ron Dukes, an independent sales rep with 30 years’ experience, and Frank Martin, president, owner and salesman for the sales rep group Frank Martin Toys and Games, shared some pointers:
1. Know Your Products. With some toys, “it’s self-evident what it is and what it does,” said Martin. But with other products, such as games, reps should take the time to learn how to play them. Dukes pointed out that it pays to know the strengths and weaknesses within a single line, as well as which demographic each product matches.
2. Imagine the Sale. “Product development people often spend a lot of time with us explaining new concepts and how they came to develop a particular item,” explained Dukes. “If you’re attentive … you can visualize which accounts this product will be most effective for … right there at the meeting.”
3. Know Your Stores. It takes “about a year” to anticipate what a particular retailer needs, Dukes told TDmonthly. After you spend time with a retailer in her store and become familiar with her product line, “it becomes fairly easy to see the demographic she’s drawing from.”
4. Keep Your Accounts Informed. “Some stores you need to call once a month, some every three months,” noted Martin. Dukes sends out weekly and even several-times-weekly e-mail updates on product lines. “[Retailers] learn to depend on that flow of information to keep themselves current,” he said.
5. Use Your Influence. Even smaller retailers who don’t place large orders may qualify for discounts or specials, Martin informed TDmonthly. “Before a trade show, reps approach factories and ask for a 5 percent discount on orders placed at the show. Or a baker’s dozen: Buy one, get one free.” They’ll also sometimes chip in free products for play dates, release parties and demos.
6. Build Trust. “Most of our business is built on trust gained by performing well for our accounts,” concluded Dukes. He noted that becoming a good sales rep takes time, patience and knowledge. “It’s miles on the road,” he summed up.
To read what retailers and manufacturers have to say about sales reps — both those they trust and those they don’t — please click here: The Good and the Bad.