Retailers have got a nerve!

Back in our October issue, we gave KBB retailers the chance to sound off against visiting sales reps. Here we turn the tables and allow one of those who was criticised to hit back…

I rarely find the need or even the time to respond to articles in trade magazines. However, after reading the piece on sales reps [kbbreview, October, pgs 92-96], I felt I needed to reply to it on behalf of my fellow reps.

I actually find it incredible that some retailers have the nerve to tell us how to act, respond and dress.

I would venture that most sales reps are the kind of people that get up off of their backsides, are self-motivated, have learnt their trade and made their own path in life. Some, no doubt, go on to bigger and better things, and well done to them. No showroom or business passed down from daddy for them!

I’m not saying that we are all wonderful at everything we do, but I would suggest that most try, and the ones that do not, usually get found out sooner or later.

I guess the thing that really got to me was the assumption that the retailer is the professional and the reps are at best a tolerable necessity.

Sorry, but in my opinion that is rubbish. How can this group of Richard Bransons tell us to “wear a tie if you want to be taken seriously”. Really? The captains of industry pictured in the article didn’t have a tie between them… not one! Or was that because they are all so wise and all-knowing that they don’t need one?

Make an appointment, they tell us. People seem to assume that we are ‘working from home’ for half the time. But we’re not all teeing off at 2pm, we actually have work to do that often takes us way past standard working hours. This includes making a ‘journey plan’. We don’t just wake up on Monday morning and think: “Where shall I go today?”

Let’s say that, for what could be numerous reasons, we decide that we need to visit Anytown on Monday. We have six clients in the area and a couple of prospects that we would like to see, if we get a chance. We then call you and agree an appointment for the Monday. Then we call the next client to arrange a time on Monday, but he’s off sick and so it isn’t going to be convenient and can I call next time? So we call the next client, but he is going on holiday. “Please don’t bother calling in, as I may not be able to see you.” So we call the next client and he says: “Sorry, busy all day on quotes, best leave it this time.” And so on.

So I am now going to drive for two-and-a-half hours to see someone. The emphasis being on one. And guess what? After I’ve got up at the crack of, or even before, dawn, battled my way along motorways with traffic jams, accidents and diversions, got to your town, found somewhere to park half-a-mile away, collected my samples and boxes of brochures from the boot and ducked in and out of doorways trying to miss as much rain as possible, I fall into the showroom, only to be told: “Oh, he said he’s not going to come in today.”

But do we scruffy, unprofessional, coffee-drinking, football-chatting, customer-dodging bunch of halfwits complain?

We know that all retailers are not like this. But please remember that not all sales reps are as described in your article either… Just saying.

Grandmothers and eggs?

Our long-suffering rep responds to some of the main jibes made by retailers in our original article

    • Make an appointment: I’d love to… but see above.


    • Do your research: I would suggest that most reps have done as much research as is practicable. What we don’t know, we will ask you. This will then be recorded on our files. The things we both discuss will also be recorded on that file. When did you last do that?


    • Smarten up: Ask yourselves this. When is the last time you ever saw a rep not wearing a suit? When did you last wear a suit?


    • Keep it brief: Believe it or not, we also have other things to do in the course of a day.


    • Be available: Well, I can assure you that I have a mobile phone. And it takes voice mail. My e-mail address is on my business card. And if, for some inexplicable reason, I do not get back to you, feel free to call my boss. The office number is also on my card.
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