Tales from a Road Warrior: Independent Rep Laurel Hathaway
Check out the next chapter in our series Tales from Road Warrior, highlighting the tips, tools and tricks of traveling wholesale sales reps. This time we hear from Laurel Hathaway, an independent rep from the equestrian and riding apparel industry!
Sales Tips from a Traveling Rep: An Interview with Laurel Hathaway
HS: What do you sell and who do you sell to?
LH:For the past 33 years I have been in the equestrian equipment and riding apparel business calling on retailers who own tack and feed stores. I am an independent rep and at the present time I represent five companies who manufacture and distribute products worldwide.
HS: What territory/region do you cover? In what cycle?
LH: I cover southern CA and just recently added Las Vegas. My visits vary depending on the needs of my customers. One particular customer I visit every Friday, others I may see once a month, and yet others every quarter. My business is a bit seasonal as well so different times of the year I am busier than others.
HS: What is your biggest challenge as a field sales person?
LH: My biggest challenge, especially in the past few years is getting my customers to reply to my emails and return phone calls. Another challenge is getting the full attention of my buyer when I am at their store. There are so many distractions these days and many of my buyers are also the store owner and working the cash register as well. Sometimes putting the iPad in their hands and letting them be in control of the ordering helps keeps them focused. One of my buyers always says, “Let me do that!”
HS: What’s a typical day like for you on the road?
LH: I usually schedule about 2-3 weeks out for appointments with my A & B accounts. Often I just stop by my smaller accounts when I am in the area. Depending on which stores I am seeing that day, it is usually at least two and sometimes as many as four. It really depends on how many of my lines the accounts are buying and the size of their store. When I need to take inventory it takes me much longer. Traveling in southern CA can be a challenge as traffic is usually heavy and unpredictable. I’ve often joked that I drive for a living and moonlight as a salesperson.
HS: How does a mobile order writing solution make your job easier?
LH: As an independent rep with five companies my briefcase can get pretty heavy with all the literature, catalogs and paperwork needed to get the job done. I was looking for a new way to present my products, keep important info on hand and streamline my order taking. So I bought myself an iPad.
I learned quickly though that there were a lot of sales apps out there that didn’t work for me. When I stumbled upon Handshake I immediately saw that it was different than the others. It made order processing easy and fun for me AND my customers. I found that with everything right at hand it is easy to view product images and details, write orders and even switch back and forth between companies with ease. A few of the features I really like about the app is that I have a running total as I am writing the order, I can easily email an order to my customer for review or have them print it out on their printer if needed. I like the ability to look up past orders I’ve written and absolutely love that I can have different types of customers and orders categories. The best feature of all though, is when the order is finished I can submit it to my company on the spot in a neat and orderly fashion. Much less homework at the end of the day!
One of my companies took on Handshake last year and we had our first trade show writing orders with the bar code scanner. Instead of looking up stock numbers and writing down lengthy numbers as we had done in the past, we just followed our customers around the booth and scanned the barcode on any of the handbags and wallets that they wanted to order. That is about as cool as order writing can get! We brought along a wireless printer and our customers left our booth with printed copies of their orders with PICTURES! The buyers loved this, and so did we! In another booth a sales rep and I wrote orders on Handshake for riding gloves. It was fast and easy using the tap method. Each style comes in many colors and sizes and we could write the order as fast as any of our buyers could shout it out. We loved having a running total during the show so that we could gauge our success. Since we have used Handshake for several seasons now we could run on the spot reports for each show day and see how our sales compared to the past years.
HS: People can buy from others – why do they buy from YOU?
LH: I’d like to say it is my bubbly personality and exceptional sales skills, but I really think a big part of selling is just showing up, knowing your product, and getting the job done in a professional manner. It’s really not that hard if you do those three things. I am so fortunate to be representing companies with integrity and quality products. Lucky me, lucky them.
HS: What’s the funniest/weirdest thing that has ever happened to you at a sales appointment?
LH: After 33 years I have a few stories to tell but the most bizarre and unforgettable one was when I met a man shopping in a tack store who was literally turning himself into a donkey. He had undergone several surgeries including having furry donkey ears permanently attached. Bizarre, right? I wonder what ever happened to him.
HS: Any tips or best practices you can offer to other Road Warriors?
LH: Always be prepared, get all your ducks in a row. And never rest on your Laurels, that’s the exact moment your competition will swoop in and steal your business.
Thanks for sharing, Laurel! Check out our last sales rep feature, and stay tuned for our next Road Warrior profile. In the mean time, good luck on the road!