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Check out this thread:

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/showthread.php?p=26449#post26449

There are companies that provide this service, but most retailers are used to dealing with a regular sales rep, and that’s what I would suggest.

Also, most companies that I have seen want to do actual marketing for you and other “services”. So they will charge a premium for these services, and want to get paid before you see any results. I would stay away from companies.

The good thing about sales reps is that they don’t get paid until after they have made the sale. And most times not until after the retailer has actually paid you. So there is no up front money out of your pocket.

Check out the thread, and if you have more questions that weren’t discussed there, let us know.

I know Lawaughn and Lou have retail experience and might be able to add a few things.
 

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LucyRoberts said:
hey Nate,
personaly i think it's a good idea for you to get out there and pound the sidewalk some and try selling to retailers yourself as a test maket and to get a feel for what you are up against.
I would have to disagree. This can be accomplished without doing what you suggest. Normally, I am of the mind that the most you can do yourself, do so. But, this is an area, I think an expert would serve you much better. It is good to know your limitations, and be able to focus on what you are good at. Remember the end goal is to be successful at your business. And one has to figure out the best way to go about that.

I have pounded the pavement myself, and know that it is much easier if left to a professional sales rep.

There are certain things that they know, that it would take years for someone with absolutely no experience to learn.

Another upside is that most reps already have relationships with retailers because they sell other lines. From the retailers point of view, they would much rather deal with a sales rep that has experience, know what they are doing, is familiar with the terms and lingo used, and know exactly how things work.

The right sales rep can have you in a few stores in no time. The same stores that might tell you know, can tell your sales rep yes, just because of their relationship.

I think it's well worth it. Especially since there's no money out of your pocket up front.

Also, many use their sales reps to teach them how the business of selling to retailers works.

So I think given all of those pluses, finding a hiring a great sales rep is leaps and bounds better than figuring out all of that stuff yourself.
 

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No need to apologize. But with all due respect, you just made my case even stronger!

If Nate had no clue about the situation you just mentioned, this is all the more reason to hire a GOOD sales rep. Going it alone could have very well put an inexperienced person in this predicament. And this is just one example.

As I said before, hire a GOOD sales rep. A good rep would know how to avoid this situation and many other ones. They will also be able to advise on how to be successful.

If one doesn't know about net30, shrinkage, buybacks, benchmarking, etc. than can get taken advantage of in a hurry! Before you know it you have no merchandise and no money. All because you wanted to do it yourself, when you could have had the use of an expert.

I just think it's very wise, especially given that it's so cheap, but yet so important.

I'm not just saying hire the first sales rep that comes along. Like anything else in your business, you have to do your homework. But that homework is much simply than that of trying learn everything a retailer knows about selling to them.

So I say do your homework. Find successful sales reps. Get references and check them. Get a rep with experience selling your market. If done right, hiring a sales rep will be 10,000 times easier than trying it yourself. And your end goal of being in a retail store will be met with fewer complications.
 

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What stores do they sell to?

Are the stores in your market?

Do they take on new lines?

How successful have they been in getting new lines in stores?

How much volume do they sell?

Are they willing to work with you if you only have a small volume to sell?

Are they willing to stay with you when you start to get a large volume?

How much experience do they have?

What other lines do they sell?

Do they have any kind of reputation? Is it good or bad? Who says it’s good? Who says it’s bad? Talk with representatives of the other lines they represent. Talk with the buyers of the stores they sell to.

Obviously, I don’t suggest just picking one out of the hat. Even though sales reps are independent agents, they still represent your company.

I suggest hiring one the same way you would hire a lawyer if you were an innocent person accused of murder! Make sure you get the right one!
 

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The case that using a sales rep is light years better than trying to get your stuff in retail shops on your own.

If you have no experience you can and most likely will get taken advantage of. It is much easier to find a good rep, than it is to avoid getting taken to the cleaners by a retailer.

I don't think hiring a sales rep is getting out of the business end at all. Quite the contrary. It's just that if you get big enough, you can't do everything. And if you are small enough, you just don't know some things. There is nothing wrong with hiring someone to do something you have no clue about.
 

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You make it sound so simple. It seems that way, but it's not.

There can be many stores that like your designs, but WILL NOT deal with you because they know that you don't know what you're doing.

There are also retailers that will buy your stuff, and try to take advantage of you because they know you don't have a clue what you're doing. There's just to much involved, in my opinion to risk it with valuable merchandise.

It's not as simple as they like your stuff and you sell them merchandise at wholesale prices. They are not the retail customer. They will expect you to know certain things.
 

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I'm glad that's working for you. And you are correct, there is no "one way" to sell t-shirts.

My only point is that if you want to be successful in getting in good retail shops, your best option is to hire someone with experience. This also comes from experience.

In my search to find a quality rep, I've had numerous retail owners and buyers tell me how they easily turn away people with GREAT designs because it's just too much of a hassle to deal with them. They say that GREAT designs come along all the time, and that they don't have time to teach a newb the retail business. From their perspective, they are wasting their time dealing with this 1 person (small t-shirt guy with no experience) that is selling this 1 brand of shirt, when they can deal with another person that's selling them 4 or 5 brands and they don't have to take the time to explain to them how payments work!

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Are you going to be able to find some retailers that like your stuff and will put it in their stores? Probably. But you also have to weigh how likely that same retailer will take advantage of you because you don't know anything about how selling to retailers works.

The funny thing about getting taken advantage of is that you don't that you're getting taken advantage of!

I'm only speaking to the fact that the "best" way is to hire a GREAT rep. You pay 15% commision. You only pay when they sell. In the meanwhile, they can teach you what you need to know about selling to retailers.

That's invaluable for 15%!
 

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Good points, Josh.

Adding something else...there have also been instances where the relationship is so strong between sales rep and retailer that a retailer will buy additional lines (shirts from the small-time guy that happened to hire the right rep!) as a favor to the sales rep.

So in a case where they definitely would not have taken your merchandise in their store, they did, and the only reason was because of the rep. The end game is what's important. Getting in the store.
 

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That's the beauty of having sales reps! You don't pay them until the retailer pays you!

Let's say you find a great rep that gets you into a good store. They order 100 shirts from you that you are selling to them for $10/shirt. That's $1,000 gross from the sale to this retailer.

Well, when you get your $1,000 from the retailer you pay the rep their 15%, which is $150.

There is not really anything to afford. You pay for their services after you get paid. They know that's the way it works. If they sell, you should be able to pay them 15% from the sale of the goods.

If someone can't afford to pay 15% from the money they are getting from the retailer, theyhave some serious problems, the least of which is trying to sell to them yourself!
 

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I agree that both methods can work and be successful. And it depends on the situation.

Small shops can be great. Selling to them yourself can be great. But one point I really want to stress is don't go into the situation without education, because it leaves you very vulnerable.

There are a myriad of things that can go wrong with selling to retailers, even small shops, and if you don't know your stuff going in, they will know it.

Don't leave yourself open for someone to take advantage of you.

Educate yourself.

People keep saying that you can get in stores without sales reps, or you can be successful without using sales reps (getting into Wal-Mart). This is very true, and I never said anything contrary to this. But, I would like to point out that just because a store tells you "yes, I like your stuff" and they put your shirts in their shop, doesn't mean that you got a good deal. They could be robbing you blind! (and I wont start on Wal-Mart!)

That's why I'm an advocate of sales reps. You can learn the process from an experienced person, while being successful at getting your products in shops. They can teach you how the process works. What a good deal is. The terms that are used and what they mean. How to actually make a sale.

So, in closing, just because someone like your shirts, doesn't mean they want the hassle of buying them "from you!"

And just because you were successful in getting in a store, doesn't mean you were treated fairly, or will be treated fairly when a problem arises.
 
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