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13 Outstanding Qualities of Field Merchandising and Sales Reps

Merchandising has been a high-turnover space for years. Field reps come and go, but you want to hang on to "the good ones" (or if you're a merchandiser, you want to be the "good one" they hold on to!)  So what makes a successful sales and/or merchandising rep? Here are 13 qualities that can make someone a perfect rep for your merchandising services team.

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  • Location...a top consideration is where your rep is based. You typically want to find reps with the best proximity to the most stores..but they also have to be suitable for the doors they'll be covering. Working with apparel is much different than groceries, so your field worker should "fit the mold" before you send her into your stores. You can afford a bit more travel time if your rep is awesome while on site.

As a rep: you can't do anything about where you live now, but next time you move you want to consider your proximity to the types of stores you want to work. If possible, choose a location central to the largest number of them as possible -- which will save you time, and your employer(s) money.

  • Time management...can a rep make every store perfect in the time allotted for each store? You want to find reps that manage their time efficiently but also effectively. You want to avoid people who provide excuses for not getting the job done on time. Hiring someone filled with excuses will erode your retailers' confidence in your merchandising service organization. When he's on the floor, can he swiftly handle routine tasks AND manage issues in a timely fashion?

As a rep: first impressions matter! Respond to initial emails and phone calls quickly! Show up on time for phone / skype / face-to-face interviews. Be prepared, and if doing an online interview, test out your computer, phone, camera, etc. with a friend. Remember the saying that if you're early you're "on time," if your "on time, you're late," and if you're late, "your're fired!"

  • Skill set...this is obviously a big one. Does a rep have the organizational skills, the problem-solving skills, the communication skills, and the time-management skills to get the job done perfectly? You want a field rep that has the skills to work with minimal direction. Some skills will be inborn, they just know how to do the job right. Others can be taught during training. But don't bring someone in who lacks the basic merchandise servicing skills just for the sake of head count.

As a rep: subscribe to this blog, and go back and read as many of the over 400 articles as possible. Make learning the business a top mission in you're life, and always be working on being better organized, problem solving, communications and time-management skills. Find a way to work these habits into the conversation during your interview.

  • Work/life perspective...these days, workers are more demanding about the balance between work and life. While that's great for the person, it may not be great for a field rep. If a rep feels that the job isn't giving her the balance she's looking for, you'll probably be training a new rep shortly. You want a retail field worker to be motivated to work as much as he can. Which ties into quality #5...time commitment.

As a rep: by following the suggestions above, you're already a long way towards a good balance. Live close to stores, become an expert, manage your time, and become efficient at getting and keeping Every Store Perfect. In these ways you've done all you can to ensure you have time with your family. And as a great asset to your employer, you have a better leg to stand on when saying 'no' to constant overtime.

  • Time commitment/availability...while reps may enjoy the flexibility and autonomy of field merchandising, you also want them to be able to handle as many stores as possible. Here's where you've got to do your best to uncover any issues early. You want to find reps that will maximize their available time by handling as many doors as possible, but to also manage visits, projects, and tasks in a way to make every store they visit PERFECT. Your first team should be filled with workers who can commit to full-time activity. Then you can add in part-time and per diem workers into your backup teams.

As a rep: obviously the more available you are, the more valuable you are. Additionally the faster you are at getting and keeping Every Store Perfect, the more valuable you are. Strive to find and publish availablity to work while always trying to be faster at store service without compromising quality and you'll have a much easier time getting and keeping a job.

Can manage a planogram... you want a field service rep who knows how to maximize shelf space, but doesn't overcrowd displays, end caps, or clip strips. Reps should be able to understand how many facings are allocated to SKUs and where a missing shelf tag should be reattached, among other things. She should also have a good eye for customer behavior and be able to explain why introducing a new product to the planogram could yield more sales.

As a rep: make it your life's mission to understand setting up and maintaining a selling floor. When you're able to teach others (and even retailers) how to better position (and move) product you will have learned.

  • Integrity....you're putting a lot of faith into a remote worker – the face of your MSO or product company. So you've got to do a great job at finding the honest ones. Granted, it's not always easy to spot a dishonest worker...until it's too late...but in your hiring and interviewing process, you must look for some way to spot red flags. This industry has been full of less-than-scrupulous field workers, so the quicker you can weed them out, the better for you.

As a rep: ensure that you are always 100% honest in terms of what comes out of your mouth, the times and store conditions you report -- and avoiding the temptation to blow off a store, round times or mileage up,etc. And/or simply look for a tool like ESP's Focus app which records all types of gps, time stamps, lat/long stamps on pictures, as well as automatically capturing drive-time and location. Such an app leaves zero room to cheat and as such documents 100% of your always-honest activity -- leaving nothing to question.

  • Visual merchandising talent...can she make products look good? Is she able to put herself in the shopper's shoes and have a critical eye for details? You want to find someone who understands how lighting, spacing, colors, stacking, and other visual elements affects buyer behavior. You want your reps to know what works and what doesn't, and be able to make a convincing recommendation about displays, fixtures, etc. that will make a difference at checkout.

As a rep: read this blog, and also develop an eye for visual merchandising. You're out in stores all the time for work, pleasure, and grocery shopping chores. Don't just go through the motion with blinders. Become a virtual merchandising critic and notice what works and what doesn't.

  • Confidence...she must act confidently during a visit. You want your reps to show your clients that partnering with your company is a good idea. Besides actually making every visit perfect, there's no better quality than a sense of confidence someone has in their work to help build great relationships with your retailers. Your reps should have a sense of pride in their individual performance, but also have pride in making your entire organization better. You should be able to discover his confidence early in the hiring process.

As a rep: confidence comes from predictably great experiences. If you're not having great experiences, ask for help; read this blog; search out mentors, and get the training you need.

  • Attitude...your front line should be filled with reps who have a "job well done" attitude, a desire to complete projects the right way. She should have a positive attitude when managing issues under pressure. (Part of that comes from having an awesome set of mobile tools!) If a store manager approaches with a complaint about a stock-out or missing tags, will she respond with a positive remark and a commitment to fixing the issue DURING THAT VISIT? And of course, following up next time to make sure that the problem is/got/stayed fixed?

As a rep: decide that if a product, shelf, set, store doesn't do well that it's your fault. Determine to make it your responsibility to ensure that everything in that store that is related to your company is made and kept perfect. Be passionate about this and not only will it come easy -- it will infect others to help you get and keep Every Store Perfect.

  • Tech savvy..he has to be able to understand and use retail execution apps like ESP. The digital tools available will help him do his job more efficiently. Most people are comfortable with their mobile devices and have interacted with software and apps for years. But you still want to confirm that he will be able to master the ESP workflows before you send him to the store.

As a rep: by the time this post was written in 2017 there is NO excuse for not having and knowing how to use a smart phone. Apps are easy to learn and use, and there's NO excuse for not using them. If you don't have a smart phone, you can buy a used Android on-line for under $100. You're a professional. Act like it. Take responsibility for yourself and your career. Buy a smart phone and learn how to use it.

  • A people person...while in the store, your reps need to be able to handle – I mean "support" – store personnel and shoppers effectively. Not every situation will be a comfortable one when it comes to interacting with people on the job. Make sure she can respond positively and politely to any circumstance.

As a rep: at the end of the day, all businesses are people businesses. Make it your life's mission to help people. Help manufacturers get sell-thru. Help stores get velocity, and to increase traffic, basket size, and margin. Help consumers get what they way. And help your teamates to do a better job.

  • Product knowledgeable...we wrap up our list with this one because you should leave this post focused on training your reps to be masters at product knowledge. In order for your reps to be successful, they should be able to answer most questions about the products they are handling. What are the features and uses? How many per package? If a rep falls short in product knowledge, she can't look for upsell or cross-sell opportunities...and she can't help your retailers get the most out of their shelf space.

As a rep: don't wait for your company to spoon feed you product knowledge. Google your products and those of direct competitors and become an expert in what you sell. On-line sales are winning a larger share of retail all the time and one of the reasons is that consumers simply do the research I just told you to do, themselves. Beat them to it, meet them in the aisles, and have a list of reasons to buy your products.

So before you hire your next merchandising rep, keep these qualities in mind. Although not every person will excel at ALL of these qualities, if you can find a rep who has the most important ones, you can hopefully nurture her to bring out the rest out of them.

As a field manager: get the ESP software to manage helping reps to implement all of the suggestions above. It's your job to nurture and grow your people, and there's no better way to do that than by implementing the ESP software solution.

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Topics: Field Rep Greatness Field Manager Greatness