I realized at a young age, that I like talking to people and that I seemed to have a knack for selling. John and I have had a series of businesses including a commercial Screen Printing & Graphics business, a Yacht outfitting business, a Solar Electric installation business and Yacht brokerage. I did Sales for a corporation also. I worked my way up from a cubicle to a corner glass office to Director of International Sales for a public company in a few short years.
Between the learn-in –the-trenches survival sales as a young entrepreneur and the philosophic process sales of corporate life I collected enough skills to know my strengths and my areas of interest. I vehemently dislike managing people, as a sales manager. But let me help companies expand their business internationally or nurture a budding entrepreneur along to profitability and I start having FUN.
In 2002 I could see the writing on the wall that the global company that I been the Director of International Business for five years was going down in flames along with many other dotcom firms. My position was doomed and I needed to chart a new course.
My first step was to take an inventory of my strengths, interests and skills.
We all have strengths, interests and skills BUT it is a normal tendency to underestimate the market value of our skills.
My skills were not remarkable. They looked something like this:
- I knew how to sell.
- I had a database of international contacts that knew me.
- I had decent business skills like listening, etiquette, follow-up and how to close a deal.
- I knew basic contract and negotiating strategies.
So I decided I would call some people I knew in the industry and open some discussions. These were to be brainstorming discussions only, not calls to look for work. I asked each of them, “What if I helped expand your company’s sales internationally?” Across the board all the companies I spoke with were interested.
So I started up Blue Moon Ventures, Inc. and approached 10 publishing companies to represent their products internationally. All 10 companies signed agreements and I was off to the races.
My story is not to suggest that you have to sell anything internationally. Instead, it is to illustrate that despite my narrow focus of selling internationally it didn’t get in my way of approaching companies to represent their product and sell for them. If you are willing to sell anywhere you have a broader opportunity.
Companies, even with sales staff in house, often are open to a freelance sales person representing their product. If you are willing to master an understanding of your client’s product and present it in a professional way to new prospects, then the relationship is a WIN-WIN- WIN. Your client wins with a new customer, you win with compensation and your customer wins with a product they didn’t know about before you brought it to them.
I always prefer to structure my sales on a commission basis. The client doesn’t pay until I sell their product. This takes performance pressure off me, and makes me the hero when I do sell something.
If you have knowledge in a specific area, there are sales tied to that area, no matter what it is. You could want to represent Wine, Medical equipment or Doll houses and there is going to be a deficit of good sales representatives for that product with some company.
To get started this is what you need:
- Identify some companies or products that you think you’d like to sell, and approach those companies. If you already have some background in the area it will be even easier, but if you are just passionate about a certain product your enthusiasm can make a huge difference!
- You’ll need to demonstrate that you can develop prospects to introduce this product to.
- Create a Sales Process that you can describe to the Companies you want to represent. Here are some examples:
- Three times a year I will promote your product at Trade Shows where I set up a booth.
- Every month I will be doing email campaigns about your product line and my list will be expanding based on efforts I will be making to grow it.
- I will make 50 calls a week to prospect about your products.
- I am going to Demo your product through a video on a special website that I build to promote your product. I will be an online Expert about your product.
If your agreement includes a monthly base pay, this has Pros and Cons. You are more accountable to these companies on committing monthly effort to them, but it does give you some guaranteed income. You need to decide if you are serious or casual about the relationship going in. Most of our agreements have a monthly base pay component to offset our operating costs, but the real money is in the commissions.
Track your own sales and issue a monthly invoice for what is owed to you. You are running a business, so treat it like one.
In the eleven years I have been doing this I’ve represented dozens of publishers around the world, made 1000’s of new clients for the companies I represent and brought in millions in sales that these companies never would have seen. I make a good living, and all I need is a computer, a cell phone and an air card to have internet connection. If you set up from home, the setup costs and monthly overhead can be very low. I choose to do the majority of my sales through email or phone but about once a year I end up getting on an airplane to go see one of our clients or some of our customers in a new country. The trips are all a tax right-off and I make sure we have some fun along the way.
I’ve worked from an apartment in Bondi Beach, Australia, our boat in Catalina Island, a Castle in Ireland, our RV traveling in the US and a little guest house on Easter Island in the South Pacific.
If you are looking for a true professional business that you own outright, setting up a Sales Specialist Business is an overlooked no-brainer that is under cultivated.
I know I get new client requests all the time. Tomorrow morning I am signing up a new German company that sought us out. How’d they even know we existed? When I asked this question, he said. “You are the only company we know that does this and you have a wonderful reputation.” I never get tired of hearing that!