As a retailer of religious goods, you rely heavily on your suppliers to ensure you get the products you need - and products that will sell. Building a strong relationship with your suppliers and their salesforce is a critical part of your success.

Have you ever asked yourself if your salesperson has your best interests in mind or are they just trying to land a big order?

It’s no secret that most of these sales representatives work on commission. As in most industries, it’s assumed that when a customer accepts an appointment the rep will get an order. This is a reasonable assumption especially when travel costs run in excess of $300 per day.

Prior to toll-free numbers and online ordering, customers often bought enough inventory to last four months or more at a time. Reps were happy with these orders because they translated to larger commissions. Naturally, things have changed and innovations have improved the purchasing experience.

Now, retailers have more options than ever to place an order that makes sense for their business. Some stores may want to stock up when face-to-face with their rep to and not have to worry about placing orders all the time. Other stores may opt to place smaller, more frequent orders that allow them to pick up new items and maintain routine fill-ins.  

Sales Rep

How to Spot a Bully Rep

To some salespeople, a small order is unsatisfactory. The reasons may vary but usually involve one or more of the following reasons:

  • They’re afraid there will be no reorders
  • They’re concerned another rep will come in and try to load your store up
  • They may receive a smaller commission on reorders
  • They think they won’t look as valuable to their company
  • They’re hard-wired to pursue large orders
  • Their management is pushing them for big orders

As a result, aggressive selling practices are implemented to maximize your orders. In all of these cases, the needs and best interests of the customer are completely overlooked. Very often this causes overstocks or worse - unsaleable goods.

Another thing to be on the lookout for is the practice of padding. Padding is when a rep submits larger quantities than ordered or even adds items that weren’t requested. With large orders, it’s often difficult to remember the amount received vs. what was actually planned.

The bad behaviors of a bully rep may take other forms as well:
  • The Guilt Trip: “I came all the way to see you,” “Your business is way down,” “Why are you giving business to someone else?”
  • The Hyperbole: “Everyone else is buying it,” “It’s flying off the shelf” 

While there are superstar products that should be recommended, be wary of a rep that says everything is a great seller. In some cases, suppliers are just trying to unload their slowest moving inventory.

Bully sales rep

How to Handle a Bully Rep

Spotting a bully rep is not difficult to do, but what do you do when you cross paths with one? Here are six steps we recommend:

#1. Establish expectations with your rep. Assure them that they will only be welcome back if they adhere to certain rules. It’s in every sales rep’s nature to provide recommendations, but there’s a line between trusted advisor and aggressive order taker.

#2. Find out if their commission is the same for in-person orders and reorders. The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to understand their motives.

#3. Take stock of the things they say and don’t say. Do they ever advise against buying something or is everything a must-have? Any rep worth their salt knows products that work for one religious retailer may not work for another.

#4. Determine if they advocate on your behalf. No supplier or salesperson likes returns, but it’s a part of the business. Your rep should do their best to resolve your problem - even if that means losing the sale.

#5. Ask yourself would I trust this person to refill my displays and shelves without checking on them? If you can’t, you might want to rethink the relationship.

#6. Make sure you're making the best use of your time. McVan always has new products to show, but many retailers may see reps who never have new product. In these cases, don't be afraid to turn them away and choose to place your order over the phone or online. 

Many of our religious retailers and their customers go back several generations. Without fail, we’ve learned that the best client/sales relationships are based on mutual trust and respect (a win-win)!