Relationships within a store are monumental not only to successful merchandising but they also act as a catalyst to drive sales. Unlike the communication you have with a salaried or top level store manager, associations with a department manager should be thought of more like an alliance; a teammate if you will.
Both Field Reps and Department Managers have very similar jobs and end goals in mind. Most days, managers, particularly department managers, are handed a specific and usually long list of tasks that must be completed by the end of the day. On top of the regular routine, there tends to be added work from previous shifts that almost always involve some sort of cleanup. One of the most common examples is left over freight on the sales floor that never got stocked nor completely taken through processing in the backrooms.
Not only are they responsible for customer service and guiding employees and associates, department managers also have obligations including the overall appearance of their area. Things like dirty shelves or spills on the floor must be taken care of immediately and following closely behind are replacing missing or damaged shelf tags and prices and straightening merchandise to company standards. A multitude of theses tasks must be completed all while still maintaining and driving new, higher sales each and every day.
With a commonly overfull plate, it's easy to see how some presentations and merchandising can become less than perfect. This presents an opportunity where field reps can really help department mangers shine and help achieve greatness for the department and the store as a whole. It also gives a unique opportunity to really know the store, it's customers, and management which provides a channel to gaining more freedom and the potential to gain some prime real estate on store shelves.
But you already know most of above. What you might not know is what the managers think pushes a rep into 'star performer' territory.
We asked a number of retail department mangers for a 'top 3 list' what reps can do to make retail department managers' lives easier and/or better -- above and beyond the basic blocking and tackling they already expect. The list may or may not surprise you -- because it's asking you to care about the *store* more than your *brands.* Here is their answer:
1. Help customers with questions and/or items in the department, not just the specific items you're representing.
Result: Gain trust with customers and establish further relationships. Think about it: do you want to shop at a store where you're pushed onto one brand, or where you've given all information available and allowed to make your own selection? (Not saying you shouldn't have good information about why yours is awesome...just make sure that when you're presenting your brand in the best light, you are also armed with knowledge about the strengths of your competitors and presenting them in a fair light as well.)
2.If time permits, face items next to and surrounding your display.
Result: Creates a clean, organized atmosphere that draws customers in. Who wants to shop in a mess? Did you know that car dealerships locate next to each other because the 'rising tide' of car shoppers coming to a certain section of town 'rises all boats' -- meaning that all dealerships benefit from presenting an easy and convenient shopping experience? Leave the *entire* section looking great and watch your sales increase.
3. Compare plan-o-grams with needs of department and store.
Result: Increases communication with manager and adds more local, customer-based knowledge. Don't shove assortments down the throat of any manager even if you can, and just because you can. Think about the store and its customers -- what would most please them? Yes, your company may be pushing to get that new product everywhere -- but don't push it where it won't sell.