Confessions Of A REP
The relationship between skate reps and retailers is dynamic, reciprocal and rewarding. It’s dynamic because products are darting at us and buyers from every direction. Picking the right one requires a pretty accurate crystal ball and using it with Stephen Hawking-like pinpoint accuracy. It’s reciprocal because we’re both involved with mutual goals (buy more, sell more). The reward extends beyond blowing out inventory or expanding to meet your growing demand. The real reward is the industry we work in, the products we ride and sell and the people we talk to and meet on a daily basis.
However, below this delicious beefy gravy I just spread over our sweet jobs are pockets of overly spiced mis-shipments or mistakes because of the rep or his company, or miscommunication between the rep and his retail contact. As a rep, I have to pass on bad news sometimes; or conversely, sometimes I receive the bad news. A buyer might call me and say, “I didn’t order this model as a deck because we only sell our longboards as completes.” When this happens, I have one big rule I adhere to: Follow a negative statement with positive actions. If you absolutely have to pass on bad news, always make your best effort to follow it with good news. Always. After verifying the rest of the order is on point, I might respond with, “I do see that you were invoiced for a complete. I can credit you back the price for the components, but can you hold onto that deck (the negative) until next order when I can ship you the components at a discount? If it sells as a deck (the positive), then you know there’s another way to bring in and move this product.” It’s these positive actions that transcend business relationships, going beyond products that work and ones that don’t. It has a ripple effect that affects the people you work with.
It’s not about giving the perception that retailers are coming out on top, it’s really about actually turning a wrong into a right with the tools that you’re given. Simply shooting over a Return Authorization number isn’t always the answer. Also, I’ve never had a buyer ask for more than what he originally ordered as compensation.
I’m not trying to preach “The Secret” or be a motivational speaker. I never read the book, and I don’t lecture. I do know from experience that this works for me with retailers, and it works for retailers with their customers. Follow a negative with a positive and watch things flow a little easier around the shop: “I don’t have those trucks you were looking for, but I do have these trucks with a reversible hanger and higher-grade bushings. In my opinion this truck is more bang for your buck. That’s why I carry them!” It may sound like a kooky statement (be positive, smile, etc.), but it works. It’s subliminally contagious.
If I have to bring bad news to the table, handling it quickly is the first priority. Avoiding or denying the “elephant in the room” is the worst step to take. I think I can safely say that more than 75% percent of the action-sports demographic has an email or a cell phone with email capability. I believe that statistic is higher if you run a business. Use this tool as often as possible with your reps. Communicate, ask questions, and respond quickly with a rep you are ordering from. Make suggestions, because we are your direct contact with our boss. These are times to be creative, and just as you listen to your customers, we listen to you.
Having said this, if something is askew with an order, I want to know as soon as possible, not four months down the line. It makes it a little tougher when I have to go to battle. I’m on your side, period, and a shiny new sword is much cooler-looking than a rusted one. When all is said and done, I have tremendous respect for shop owners and their buyers (along with the rest of their shop family). They have to pretty much predict the future – what’s hot and what’s not, what will be hot and what will not. They make most of their decisions based on experience and listening to their customers. When I say that a rep’s relationship to a retailer is dynamic, reciprocal and rewarding … it is, and much more. We have a lot of products, and they have even more choices. As we bounce ideas back and forth and solve problems together, we stay progressive and roll over complacency.