When I tell people about working out in the retail field, they are immediately enthralled about the exciting life I have. They see the endless travel opportunities to different places, visiting stores and being at different places compared to the rest of the 8-5 corporate world. Yes, this is true on the surface but it isn’t the fairy tale it seems to be.
To a Field Service Representative, Merchandise Coordinator, National Sales Rep or whatever the company has chosen the title to be, it entails a lot more logistical work and communication than an outsider can see. Sometimes as a rep, you feel like you are braving the world on your own…on your own island trying to make a difference. That is the goal of being a field representative - making a difference.
Making a difference is a lot harder than it looks. Let me tell you few things that make my life exciting yet challenging.
Dealing with multiple retailers
Since many field reps are responsible for more than just one large retailer. Not every retailer is alike. Yes, they may operate in a similar manner, but each one has its own culture, its own nuances, … its own personality. A rep needs to be able to tap into this culture and understand it, and this isn’t something that can be learned overnight. It consists of multiple visits, many sales team and manager conversations, and many questions asked to understand process and procedures. This task, in itself, is exhausting…it is like learning another language. Now imagine learning 3+ languages at the same time and needing to be fluent as quickly as possible.
Once the “language barriers” are eliminated, there are many more items on the rep checklist. Travel is a luxury in moderation, but when it becomes your morning commute the tone changes. At first, it is exciting to be getting on a plane or packing up the car to set off in the horizon. Let me tell you, it is exciting to set up that mileage plus account and dream about the thousands of points you will be building up to use on your personal time. However, once the first major flight delay happens or you get in that fender bender…the “honeymoon” is over.
The mundane days
Now, I may be a little dramatic, but most people imagine a grandiose job when travel becomes part of the picture. Not every day is like that, sometimes things fall apart, and you become the master problem solver. There are days where you are spending a full day just getting reporting done, following up with stores, on phone calls/meetings, booking travel arrangements and communicating with co-workers. Then there are other days where that are spent in that mad dash of store visits and travel. Each day is varied and is structured by yourself.
Self-motivation- harder than it sounds!
There isn’t someone with you everyday saying you need to book this flight, or this is when you are leaving, and what needs to be done next. There are missions and objectives to accomplish, and it is up to the you, the rep, to figure out how to get from “point A to point B” – making a difference. It can be a job where you do feel like you are alone. You are pushing yourself to stay motivated and coordinated with the rest of your team that you rarely see in person.
But don’t get me wrong, it is tremendously rewarding when you visit a store and the whole team knows about your brand and product, and the department manager has your table looking like the Taj Mahal, and “tah-dah” they had an amazing event. It is thrilling when your boss approves a store visit in Hawaii and you can make it a personal trip as well. All of those positive moments eclipse those times in which the day didn’t go your way or you felt like you weren’t making headway. Rep life is challenging and if you are ready for it it can be quite an adventure…just need to be ready to make a difference.
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