Using A Retail Agent-Part 1

I have to admit, I am anxious about this post….however I must do it for the educational purpose of teaching the etiquette to entrepreneurs who want to get their products into mass retailers using an agent. I do not want to tick someone off, however, I need to put this out there.

I have experienced some frustrating situations with clients that really made me aware of an epidemic with entrepreneurs who do not understand the retail product placement process.

I realize now, after having and in-depth conversation today with my sales reps that most….and I mean 75% of entrepreneurs, do not understand the process of getting their product in front of and accepted by the big boys. Most, therefore cut their noses off to spite their own face. I also realize that this is not fully their fault. They have no one willing to give them the facts, and guidance in this area. That is what I will attempt to do here. With a little education, entrepreneurs will know what to expect and how to act when dealing with agents.

I want you to be informed of the right, and wrong, way to approach an agent for retail.

The Right Way!

The right way is to seek an experienced agent in that industry to help represent your line. Do not approach god old uncle Joe, who spent 30 years in lingeire, for guidance in the doog food industry.

Most agents are found by word-of mouth, referrals, at trade shows, other vendors, or through business acquaintances. The best is by totally networking!

Why: Well-connected reps have relationships with buyers in retail chains, that most can not make on their own. The reps have been working with that the industry buyers for probably years, if not decades, and have gained the buyers trust in supplying good products, from good companies.

Why: Because buyers are inundated with new products/reorders, bosses, phone calls, and quotas etc. They have very little time to scratch their own bums, let alone deal with sometimes irrational, frantic or inexperienced inventors/entrepreneurs. They rely on an agent to be able to present multiple products for a review from several different comanies, so as to optimize time in the meetings. The buyer also wants to be assured that if they reject a product, they can do so with confidence that they will not be handing out a Kleenex to an out of control company owner, or will not be subject to a tongue lashing. All of which buyer tries to avoid like the plague.

Giving as many samples as it takes! I am going to do an entire Blog on just this topic later. For now, just remember, buyers need to see your product samples to make decisions. If you do not have them, they can not see it therefore buy!

Here is what to expect from an agent:

An exclusive sales contract between 8-15% commission on the wholesale cost (depending on retailer and product line)-

Why-Because agnts, like everyone, needs to make sufficient commission to make it worth their wild to represent a line. Agents usually take on all financial liability when they agree to carry a line. For example, good agents will see to it that they present the lines in the best and most impressive way possible. They spend countless time preparing for this by making sure the marketing materials are in prestine condition, and the different companies samples are clearly defined from one another. We place all of our presenting samples in inividual bags for each buyer so that they do not have to fumble with finding the right materials for the right product. This is going a step above what others reps do, becasue we care about the retail buyer and the product, and it shows.

A stated territory for a period of time-

Why– agents want time to take a product to the retailers for acceptance. They want to avoid the buyer seeing several different reps walking in with the same product, with different pricing perhaps…..can you imagine the confusion that would cause, not to mention how that makes the rep look!

A typical contract is for 12-24 months. My agency offers 180 day placement contracts. This way if we do not perform (which NEVER HAPPENS) your not locked in into an exclusive contract. Win-Win…..

Let’s talk exclusives….exclusive contracts are good and bad. Good ones allow you to lock in a well connected rep to get your lines in as many distribution channels as possible( ones that fit your line of course.) Bad ones lock you up with possibly the agent from HELL who does not perform. I tend to be very leary of exclusives…be very diligent on the terms and understand what you are getting into. The most important thing is to make sure the rep is who they say they are, and have a good reputation.

Don’t be a back stabber- and try to get information from an agent, to turn around and use that contact yourself. This is trickery an just bad behavior and kharrmically not right……I have had this happen several times in my career and it is shameful. Not to mention the product went nowhere, ever!

I  do not want to overwhelm here …… stay tuned for part 2..3..4 and so on.




Kim Babjak

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