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!
This is a very cool site and of course this blog post is what caught my attention, since these are the years we worked together. I saw you evolve your life during this transition from the corporate world to your own “venture” and watched you find happiness from day 1 – no looking back!
I look forward to promoting this site and participating when time allows. As always – when in Seattle…
Thank you so much Ed. We are absolutely delighted to have you participate in the Caravan. After all you were the one that inspired us to buy the Trawler and work towards the Charter Boat industry. You’ve done so much we look forward to your contributions and input along the way. You said it “No Looking Back” just forward with excitement as we fuel each others excitement along the way.
This was an educating and inspiring write-up, Suzanne! Thanks for sharing your experienced thoughts!
Thank you for joining the Caravan Pallavi. We look forward to your suggestions of interesting people, places and activities as inspiration strikes you. Delighted to have you part of the new community of curious nomads.
I found your blog subject to be very interesting, and I too have a sales background. I was a realtor for 16 yrs. and worked for a nice gallery, now I am working for my second boutique winery in the Rocky Mtns. I wonder how I figure out what to sell so I can travel/live internationally and make money that way? Any ideas or tips would be appreciated!
Welcome Jayne! Thank you for writing in. I am excited that you are exploring ways to follow your dreams. You are already fortunate that your background is in Sales as it is mobile and diverse by nature. I would suggest you make a short list of what you don’t want in your future life. Perhaps you are willing to work set hours, but on a seasonable basis. Or you don’t want any set hours. Try to identify the type of freedom you really want. Are you willing to see clients face to face or prefer phone and email sales so you are required to be physically present. Determine your overhead expenses so you know what your financial needs are. We recognized some years ago that we wanted a totally mobile business. We took an inventory of our skills and interests. What do you really like or love? That helps you to zero in on what you might enjoy promoting. Consider if you want to sell a product or a service. Do you want a steady income or flexible, part time or even seasonal? Understanding what you are comfortable with, will help you steer towards appropriate directions. One resource is popular,eLance.com It’s a online marketplace for Freelancers. Another tact is to contact companies that have products that in your area of interest, call their Director of Sales and tell them that you are interested in being a independent Rep for their product. We use several models when representing a company. Some companies we get a retainer to cover our phone, internet etc that is our monthly base pay and then the rest is commission. This model seems agreeable to most of our clients. We also sometimes work on straight commission if the product has a following and we don’t have to educate every prospect about it. I prefer this when possible as I feel less pressure from the vendor. We’ve also done a lot of work in the past at Trade Shows tending booths. The same vendor will often send you to all their shows and pay your expenses and you earn commissions on your sales in the booth. There are lots of opportunities for this. Another resource is http://www.work-for-rvers-and-campers.com/ Although it targets RVers that wish to work, it has some interesting opportunities on it. You can sign up for free. One gal I know is a sales rep for a boutique wine company and travels all over doing wine tastings for that company. We’ve had several friends that have sold Timeshares in international places like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and made excellent money, for years. Your background in real estate would serve you well in that type of work. I welcome any questions or thoughts you might have. Please keep us posted on your plans. We can all learn from your journey and celebrate in your success.