I have a background in sales and I admire a great salesperson: it is a deceptively hard job, requiring many more skills than is first apparent. I was keen to talk to our long-standing and very successful, UK sales agent, Hilary Power of the Power Agency, to learn more about her role. I very much admire Hilary and she is a great example of an independent business women, in a week of International Women’s Day.
Hilary manages the South West territory as a freelance sales rep. She represents 15 brands, including Talking Tables. I can see she is successful for both us as a brand, but also by how hard she works and how she is now able to treat herself and her family to some of the nicer luxuries in life. Go Girls!
Hilary kindly agreed to have a business chat with me. I am calling it a ‘Talking Topic’.
I led with “how long have you been a sales agent and how did you start”?
Hilary told me that she has been an independent sales agent, on the road, for 25 years. She had previously been managing a greeting card company on a salaried basis and from the other side saw how successful agents could be and decided to give it a go. She went to Top Drawer, with her young son in tow, and picked up some greeting card brands, including Rachel Ellen who she still represents. In 2005 she saw Talking Tables sparklers in a small store in Bristol and approached me for an agency in the South West – the start of a great partnership.
I asked Hilary the secret of her success.
She immediately knew the answer: being very organised. She has come to realise that she has a great memory for lots of information, be that product information, the names of a customer’s pets or what delivery is needed when.
Other attributes that help her include:
Commitment to being on the road and supporting her customers face to face in their stores
Her honesty with customers
Her likeability and professionalism with everyone
And we both agreed, her sheer hard work and road miles. I can attest her customer orders come from all parts of Cornwall, Wales, Wiltshire…
What does the role of being a road rep involve?
Making appointments with customers and driving to meet them in their towns, with typically two hours per customer, being patient as they may take interruptions from shoppers when huddled in a tiny office or around the till.
Offering advice on new stock and items that will work well in their particular store. Pulling out brochures and samples to show the shop owner.
Hilary will immediately send the resulting customer order to Talking Tables via PIXSELL with the customer receiving a copy and all the new barcode details etc.
I asked Hilary how she was finding the mood of independent retailers at the start of 2022:
“brilliant” was her quick reply.
Her customers are feeling buoyant after a strong Christmas and in need of fresh stock for spring.
Shoppers felt more comfortable buying locally during the pandemic and are still staying loyal to their independent retailers. In turn the shopkeepers feel grateful to the shoppers, leading to a nice circle of loyalty and goodwill.
How do you see the future of agents within the UK?
Hilary is optimistic that by staying on the road, meeting face to face, that she is able to continue to offer a valuable service to the small retailer. Showing samples and sharing views cannot be mirrored on a website – factors such as scale, texture, quality are all better conveyed by touch and through the trust of a face to face relationship. We both observed, however, that not many younger people are entering into agency sales, perhaps through ignorance of it as a role; perhaps due to the onward march of technology…
However, Hilary is now working with another remarkable woman, her daughter Cheryl, who is also on the road selling in the Power Agency brands. Hilary says that Cheryl is bringing in new processes and keeping her on track with reports and ExCel. Remarkably Cheryl combines her power sales with being a mum to three young children.
We wish both Hilary and Cheryl continued good luck out on the road and thank them for their continued support to Talking Tables.
Hilary with TT's Sales Manager Sophie