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Commentary: The Business

Daniela Balzano: Retailer, Sales Rep … Let’s Start Over!

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What’s often missing from the relationship is clear and open communication.


Being a sales rep on the road is nothing to write home about. Clothes get washed in hotel laundry rooms, meals are ordered over drive-thru intercoms, and meetings are held via Bluetooth, while trying to navigate unknown highways and quirky GPS directions. We reach our destinations after 5 a.m. starts and 500-mile drives, and need to present ourselves professionally and make fabulous first impressions. For many road warriors, the pleasure of our business far exceeds any of these inconveniences, and that is why we continue trucking’.

The job’s biggest challenge, in fact, is not the laborious lifestyle; it is how to deal with prospective clients, who can sometimes be less than welcoming.

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Ray Grennon, owner of Grennon’s of Newport in Rhode Island, is able to see the full picture, thanks to his previous experience of working as a rep.

“What both sides need to do is try to understand what the other person is going through. For example, I’ve had reps get upset because a store owner wouldn’t give them five minutes of their time. What the rep doesn’t know is that he or she is the fourth rep to come in that day, and the last rep who said it would take five minutes ended up taking an hour!

“Since I was a rep myself, I try to be more compassionate and at least listen to each rep for a little while. The problem is, I’ve had days when I’ve done this and then didn’t get any other work done.”

As reps, it is important that we listen to the customer’s needs. This is the basis of solution sales. Asking questions about the store’s history, and gaining an understanding of the demographics and economy of the towns that we service can help us make informed choices and give our customers helpful suggestions, but understanding each store’s buying schedules and routines helps us find the correct approach. Every store operates in its own unique way, every buyer comes from a distinctive background, and buying approaches vary.

And buyers, communication is key. If you are being cold-called at inopportune times, let your visitor know if there is a time that better suits your schedule, and be open to receiving material on a product that you have yet to carry. Allowing reps with whom you have relationships to know your buying schedule and giving them information on your needs cuts down on guessing games. Reps should appreciate that you shared this information, and in turn, work hard to provide you with exclusivity, exposure, and the tools you need to sell their product with success. You may also rely on us to share trends in the market and tips on what is selling successfully in your community.

After all, your objectives are not so unlike those of your reps, and ultimately, if their product works for your store, the time that you take for communication will be well worth the it.

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Daniela Balzano is the East Coast executive representative for Kabana. Contact her at [email protected]bana.net.

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