Employing An Agent
Most small and medium sized publishers rely on sales agents for their sales to the independent retail trade. Agents are independent, self-employed individuals who represent a number of different card or giftware companies in an established UK territory. This is a general guide to employing an agent.
- The Agent works on a commission basis - therefore no order no overhead
- The principal has no responsibility for the agents's expenses eg. Telephone or travel
- It is the only way to distribute your products across the UK without employing a sales representative (and all the overheads that entails), a distribution company or doing the footwork yourself.
- The Agent is self employed and therefore difficult to control, discipline or motivate
- The agent works his/her own area which might not fit with your requirements
- Your products have little control over the agents sales presentation
- The agent will have other lines that they wish to sell, there is no guarentee that yours will be given priority
What you should be able to expect from an agent
- That your product range will be presented with enthusiasm by a professional sales person in all those retail outlets in the designated area where your products should be sold and distributed.
- That you be kept advised of any suggested improvements in your product or service.
- That you be kept advised of your competitors activities.
- That you receive any orders taken on your behalf on an immediate basis and in a legible form to ensure rapid turn around and speedy delivery.
- That you receive a short monthly report. The best way to ensure this is that you prepare a one page form and make it a condition of employment at the outset.
The report should contain the following points:
Name, month and date
The Range: Strong selling points, suggested improvements criticisms
New Lines: Customers' reactions, suggested improvements
Merchandising/Sales Aids: Suggestions, reactions, further improvements
Number of calls made in the month: Personal calls, telephone calls
New Accounts: Number of new accounts, value of new account business.
Any other observations
What support should an agent expect?
- To be given detailed product training, background knowledge of the company and the personnel within it.
- To know who to report to. They must be kept in touch with on a regular basis, preferably by phone. It pays dividends to develop a good relationship with your agent.
- To be kept informed of new product introductions, price changes, customers who do not pay and any changes within the company.
There is no point keeping an agent in the dark!
The agent must be supplied with:
- A comprehensive range of samples.
- Up to date price lists.
- A professional sales presenter.
The best results can be obtained by keeping in touch with your agents and always remembering to pay the commission in full and on time (Usually this will be on the last day of the month following date of invoice).
Failure to do this will prove to be a great de-motivator and will do nothing for you your company or your sales.