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Welcome to the New Age of the Jewelry Sales Rep

Reps must become specialized inventory, sales and marketing consultants.

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I ALWAYS JOKE that being in the jewelry business is like being in the mafia. Once you get in you can never get out! I was brought up in the business: My family had a jewelry store, and my father actually started at the age of 20 as a jewelry sales rep on the road. Through the decades, our industry has seen many changes, but one side of the business that has not evolved is the role of the road rep — the salesman or woman on the road for manufacturers or brands. The way my dad sold 40 years ago is still how many salesman sell today. Show up to a retail store, show your product, write an order and move to the next store. I believe the COVID-19 outbreak will force road reps to change. They’ll need to reinvent themselves if they want to continue and succeed. Sales reps can no longer sell the way they used to. In order to be successful, they must transition to become specialized inventory, sales and marketing consultants. As retailers begin to reopen, they must be stricter than ever to make sure they have the right product, vendors and turn. Here are some ways sales reps will evolve:

Product Focus: Data, Data, Data

I personally love data and run it all day long. Data never lies! For sales reps to make recommendations on what product the retailer should purchase, they have to know the data. What are the top sellers? What have jewelers sold and not replenished? What has the retailer special ordered but never stocked? Data brings a new level of sophistication to the selling process. The days are over when retailers are open to looking at only what is new for the season. They want to know how well your product turns, what has proven to sell across the U.S., the age of the current inventory.

Product Focus: Training

Sales reps need to tell retailers what’s special about their products. The job isn’t over once you write the order. Without a story or a reason to sell, why would a sales associate show your product over another vendor’s? The two ways I recommend streamlining this to the sales teams are to either set up a Zoom sales training session or have the brand’s marketing department develop a training program that can be emailed to the retailer. If retailers don’t see a good turn on the products you sold them, it is 100 times harder to sell the retailers on why they should keep the products rather than return them. Remember the next time you write an order that the store’s sales team needs information and training to sell.

Product Focus: Remote Communication

I think we’ve all been surprised at how productive online meetings can be on platforms such as Zoom. We all know, especially for sales reps with larger territories, that you can connect with more retailers than ever by using Zoom or another meeting platform. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was very hard to see retailers multiple times in a year. But now you can make up for this lack of visits with online meetings. They don’t have to be long to be productive. A quick 30-minute Zoom session can include information on topics such as marketing tools, product performance data and on-hand reports. Another productive medium of remote communication is via SMS messaging. According to Mgage, the average response rate for a text message is 45% versus an email response rate of 6%. Text messages could consist of videos showing new products, a simple “Hey, how are you?” or even no business, just a funny image to brighten the day.

We have seen retailers compete with online ecommerce sites by transitioning to virtual sales calls. My hope is that we see manufacturer reps adapt to this new way of doing business. It will result in better sales for all.

Megan Crabtree is the founder and CEO of Crabtree Consulting. Before founding Crabtree Consulting, Megan had a successful professional career in the jewelry industry, which culminated with high-level positions at several of the top leading firms in the retail and manufacturing sectors. Reach her at [email protected]

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