Reps come in all sizes, colors, personalities, sexes and they all have one mindset. They want to sell you their products. Because that’s their job. How they go about it pretty much covers every angle from soft sell to hard, from ‘you’re lucky if I let you have my line’ to ‘please buy from me’.
Most retailers have a ‘relationship’ with most of the sales reps that call on them. It’s warm and fuzzy and they (the retailers) never want to see their friend the rep leave without an order. The reps rely on that friendship angle. And that is really a problem.
The rep is only a conduit from their factory to your store. They show you what’s available and encourage you to order. Everything a rep offers you (they feel) is a top seller and something you must have or will miss out. But is it really?
They want to help you merchandise your store as they have been in many other stores and can tell you what others are doing (especially with their products) to improve their business. And many of the tips they offer are valuable. Anything that makes you think about improving your business is valuable. One thing retailers never want to do is to “stand still”.
But can a rep really help you merchandise your store? Who knows your customer better than you and your staff? Who knows what they need better than you and your staff? Your reps are not working on your sales floor, they are only guessing as to your needs. So, if you’re guessing as to your needs as well, then you are more likely to depend on the rep and then you’re really in trouble.
Guessing is one element that you must take out of your buying. You need to know how many dollars of merchandise you need to receive in each of your departments each month for the next 12-month. And this knowledge must be based on what you expect to sell (in dollars) and the rate at which you want to turn over (those dollars). So, to eliminate guessing, you need open to buy planning, which will give you the knowledge to insure proper buying. And with that planning comes limits and limits force better item selection.
Once you are operating with an open to buy plan, your relationship with reps will be much less reliant on their input than selecting what will best serve you from their factory’s output.