Where and how do you find a sales rep?
Contrary to popular belief, it's not likely that a manufacturer's rep will just contact you out of the blue (though that has been known to happen). For the most part, you will need to hunt down the rep (or rep company) that will be mutually beneficial for your business. There are several resources you can utilize in finding the best rep for your business. These include publications, organizations, trade shows, and various other sources.
What about advertising for a sales rep? How is that done?
You can do this by placing an ad in the back of a trade magazine. One magazine that has a section for advertising for reps is Lapidary Journal [now called Jewelry Artist). There is a thorough classified section in the back of this magazine in which you can place an ad for a rep. It is suggested that you run your ad more than once for optimal results.
Are there any organizations that can help with this as well?
One of the best organizations for finding a rep is an organization consisting of just that - manufacturers' reps. The United Association Manufacturers' Representatives (UAMR) is a 36 year old national association for manufacturers and manufacturers' representatives created to bring these two groups together. The UAMR can assist you in locating a rep as well as other services. You do have to pay for these services, but this is probably the most comprehensive outlet for finding reps to handle your jewelry line.
What about shows? Do those help you get leads?
Attending gift shows for the trade is one of the best ways to find a rep. After all, the majority of people exhibiting at the show are reps. These gift shows are held in most major cities and are generally held twice a year. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, New York, Boston, Vancouver and Alberta are some of the cities that have gift shows. George Little Management produces gift shows in the U.S. and Canada. The Crafts Report is also a good source for finding gift shows such as the California Gift Show.
These shows are for the trade only, and you will need to show various credentials to obtain entry to the show. You can walk through the booth sections selling jewelry and locate the reps that sell several jewelry lines (some companies just have reps that sell their own line exclusively). From there, you'll want to pick up business cards and other information for when you contact the rep at a later date. The trade show is NOT the time to interview the rep. They are at the show to sell their lines, not solicit new business.
What about other sources?
There are other sources in which you can locate a rep. Some of these sources are marts (where reps have their showrooms), jewelry or bead societies, and referrals from other artists. There are also numerous resources on the Internet. A good rep is not easy to find. However, finding good sales reps is sort of like finding a great pair of pliers. If well cared for, they will be instrumental in bringing you lots of future business.