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Commentary: The Business

Attention Manufacturer Reps: Your Role Must Evolve

It’s time to stop selling and start consulting, says Abe Sherman.

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TRADITIONAL SELLING IS dead. The men and women who represent jewelry brands will be bringing an entirely new level of sophistication to their jobs. Not only will they need to be able to train the store’s sales teams on the features and benefits of their merchandise, but also be able to analyze their customers’ businesses. Selling, therefore, must become consultative.

Sales consultants will play a far more important role than that of the sales representative. They not only have to represent the brands they carry, but also be advocates for the retailers with whom they work. That doesn’t mean they must take the retailer’s side over their employer’s, but they should advocate for the success of both parties — creating the win-win that we’ve all been hearing about for decades, yet rarely exists.

Technology is now in place to adopt the required changes to the selling process. Zoom sessions have become accepted ways of teaching, learning, visiting and meeting — this technology will replace many in-person events while still allowing for “face-to-face” meetings.

We are all going to need to do more with less: less inventory, fewer retailers, fewer suppliers, but more collaboration and cooperation between all stakeholders in the industry.

The retail jeweler is the customer as far as manufacturers are concerned. Brands have thought that once they sold their merchandise to the retailer, their job was finished. But this can no longer be the case. Both parties have to understand that until the merchandise is sold to the end consumer, both manufacturer and retailer are tied to the merchandise. Billions of dollars’ worth of inventory is sitting in jewelry stores, and a new level of cooperation is called for.

Retailers and suppliers will be required to participate in seeing that their inventories are sold down, whether via the store that bought it or by moving that inventory back into the pipeline so that another retail store sells it. By optimizing all of the inventory in the system, cash will flow faster, inventory will replenish faster and opportunities to introduce new collections will accelerate.

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What’s needed now is an evolution of the manufacturer-to-retailer selling process. But simply visiting with retailers isn’t going to be good enough. Sales consultants have to be more than a salesperson; they have to be consultants armed with data, advice and guidance.

Abe Sherman is the CEO of BIG - Buyers Intelligence Group. BIG designs solutions for the merchandising challenges facing retail jewelers and manufacturers. BIG utilizes a data analysis tool, Balance to Buy, to help consult with clients and customize their individual experiences and results.

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