verbal croquis


Posted in opinions by verbalcroquis on September 11, 2006

I don’t know everything. Faaaaaaaaaaaaar from it. My purpose as a blogger is not really to educate anyone, but to show people the life of a not-famous designer, and bring up topics that designers think about.

I touched on the topic of the role of salespeople for an apparel manufacturer earlier and you readers expressed interest in reading more about what I had to say on the matter, and I do try to live up to my promises to you readers, one at a time. Here the deal: the more I thought about it, the angrier I got at my own salesguys. Wow, they really don’t do much of anything.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve been spoiled. At the previous company I worked for, we showed in a very large showroom, filled with much bigger labels than ours. Our sales team also repped Diane von Furstenberg, Joie, Theory, and Robert Rodriguez, among others. We sent them a line of samples, printed out lookbooks and linesheets and sent them a bunch of copies. When I say “sent”, I mean I walked them over across the street. We had to put up with a sales rep who was always calling with her two cents about how the next collection should look, but all in all, it was pretty painless.

Question: do all sales reps think they should design? All the sales guys I’ve ever worked with are constantly telling us to design this and do this color and whatnot. This is not to be confused with letting us know the pieces that are garnering the most attention and dollars. If I hear one of my sales guys harping on doing red leather jackets one more time, I’m gonna lose it. He keeps telling me that he sees it everywhere, but I don’t. I try to be polite, saying the labels he’s citing is not in line with our customer base and brand. He apparently doesn’t want to hear it.

In my own (perhaps naive) mind, the sales guys do the selling and customer service. They set up meetings, collect orders, explain to them the terms of sale, do the necessary follow-up. The apparel manufacturer creates and supplies the necessary tools to sell–samples, lookbooks, linesheets, order forms, organization of tradeshows. We get copies of the orders, we fulfill them. Next round. Right? No?

I’m honestly wondering if this is how it’s supposed to be, or if my opinion on this matter is skewed because in one case, I was “spoiled” and in the other, I’m the one hoofin’ it to make the sale.

I’d love to have at least one sales guy who has a great enthusiasm for the brand, leading him to work hard at securing meetings at good stores, someone who understands our customer, understands who our true competitors are, and doesn’t find traveling a huge chore he can’t be bothered with half the time I ask him to.

This is an odd, meandering post. Basically, it’s just a bunch of my ideas on the matter tossed onto one post. I’d really like to hear what everyone has to say about this.


4 Responses to 'sales?'

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  1. Linmayu said,

    Question: do all sales reps think they should design?

    I wonder how many apparel sales reps are people who wanted to be designers and for whatever reason didn’t make it. I wonder this because I’m educated in design but thinking of entering other areas of the business instead. In my case, it’s because I’m not knowledgeable enough to find a market for the things I want to design, and don’t have enough love of the process itself to design things that aren’t in line with my aesthetic. Certainly, knowing what sells well is important for anyone who wants to design, and no one would know that better than the people actually doing the selling.

    I’d love to have at least one sales guy who has a great enthusiasm for the brand, leading him to work hard at securing meetings at good stores, someone who understands our customer, understands who our true competitors are, and doesn’t find traveling a huge chore he can’t be bothered with half the time I ask him to.

    Wow, I thought the whole point of having sales guys is that they’re willing to travel to make the sale ’cause they aren’t tied up in the office or factory. But maybe that’s just me being clueless. And yeah, what you said sounds like what I would expect a good sales rep to do. Makes me wonder, if your reps aren’t doing that, what *do* they do? I didn’t realize there was a segment of the apparel industry in which a person could get away with not doing their job!

  2. Simon said,

    The apparel sales field is not like other industries in so many ways. It lacks structure. It lacks some elements of professionalism that other industries require and demand. Even when brands are at their peak of popularity, I doubt whether the company has set a definitive sales target, choosing instead to sell as much as the market will bear, and that includes “overloading or overselling some doors. Clothing companies know that they will have peaks and valleys. Most who go into the valley, never ever get back ontop with the brand. Thats the nature of the apparel industry.
    Companies that reinvent themselves to remain profitable are rare. Kudos to those that do. You are at the mercy of the elements out of your control, I’m afraid.
    I think the largest reason sales people want to “design” is that some are viewed as the conduit between the designer and the public, and since sales people are the ones who get the first NO’s, they feel entitled to chime in on how to reduce those NO’s.

    I am almost certain that sales people in the apparel field coming from other industries are more successful than those without any formal sales training or record of achievements in areas. You have more discipline in other industries. More structure.

  3. Both of you make some very interesting points that I want to address in a new post. Thanks for the food for thought! I’ll tackle this post this weekend.

  4. katie said,

    welcome to the wonderful world of everyone hates their rep! i had a reps in LA, Dallas, and Atlanta where I had to be present for all markets so I could show my line-while paying them rent & commission! After I fired them all (since the only sales I got were the ones I was present for)- I was accused of being disloyal! My new reps QUADRUPLED my business-WITHOUT ME HAVING TO BE THERE. The other reps still are bitter and think I am disloyal (their words). Ok, so I should just go out of business or travel constantly just to be a “loyal” person? Please! That is not to say my new reps are all that…customer follow up is not their strong point….Anyways, I am good friends with alot of manufaturers and NOBODY likes their reps. Sometimes it feels like I’m working for them. Case in point: Last SF market my LA reps called at 3pm on the day they were leaving for market to request 100 color linesheets. My husband was out of town & I had to leave at 3:30 to relieve my nanny. I asked them if they could send them somewhere to have it done and I would pay for it. (Since I was all alone and had to leave early.) There were 4-5 people working at the showroom and they flat out refused. I just told them to not show the line then-I was furious!

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