Bill Quinn, CEO and founder of ModMart, a startup online wholesaler, is quite clear about how he plans to grow his fledgling online business: by connecting with a lot of outside sales reps.
“We want to assist the reps any way we can,” Quinn says, adding: “Right now, we have nine sales rep agencies nationwide signed up, and our goal is to have 40 to 50 agencies. And a good sales agency will have 10 to 40 road reps.”
That could amount to hundreds or even thousands of manufacturer’s reps taking customer orders in person for the same products Quinn sells on ModMart.com.
‘People buy from people’—then also go online
Why would a business built for self-service ecommerce throw so much business to sales reps? “People buy from people,” Quinn said in a phone interview last week from the floor of a gifts products trade show, where legions of manufacturers’ sales rep agencies mingled with thousands of buyers and suppliers. “I believe firmly that having relationships with sales agencies is a strategic decision that will help ModMart grow in the long term.”
As a former gifts retailer himself, Quinn says he saw an opportunity to launch a B2B ecommerce site that would let “retailers transact with brands at 10 o’clock on a Friday night,” but then also realized he could set his B2B site apart by blending it with leads from sales reps. “When I saw the opportunity to build a B2B ecommerce site, I figured there was no B2B ecommerce play out there that included the sales agencies.”
Under agreements ModMart signs with sales rep agencies, the wholesaler works with its suppliers to forward new client retailers to the agencies for additional sales. But the relationships ModMart develops with the agencies are also leading to new business for the online wholesaler as well as for the brands and retailers, Quinn says. “We’re a synergistic link between brands, retailers and the sales agencies,” he says.
To be sure, ModMart has ambitious plans to grow its online sales. Launched in November 2019, the wholesale site runs on an OroCommerce ecommerce platform integrated with an Oracle NetSuite enterprise resource planning system, a technology set-up that has positioned ModMart to manage a growing number of online orders and related customer and inventory records, Quinn says.
Although it’s too soon to comment on sales volume or number of client retailers, Quinn said ModMart represents 40 brands and expects to soon add 300 more.
ModMart.com makes category experts available to help retailers “find products that sell.” It also offers multiple payment options, including Net-60 payment terms that let buyers pay invoices over a 2-month period; credit cards; and a 1% purchase price discount for purchases made through bank transfers via the automated clearinghouse network. “Retailers deserve an easy-to-use, seamless online shopping experience,” ModMart says on its website.
Quinn adds that it may also offer additional third-party payment services such as PayPal. “In digital commerce, it’s better not to sit still,” he says.
Drop-shipping seasonal gifts
When retailers come to ModMart.com in search of seasonal gifts, home décor or related products, they can complete their purchase on the site; ModMart forwards the order to the product supplier, who then drop-ships it to the retailer.
But ModMart then typically recommends to the supplier to pass the customer’s contact information onto its sales reps, whether the reps are in-house or based at an outside agency.
ModMart may not get any additional direct revenue by having an online customer forwarded to sales reps, Quinn admits. “If we didn’t work with sales agencies, we could make more money in the beginning, but over the long term, it’s a strategy that will pay off,” he says.
“It’s a synergistic model,” he adds. “We’re trying to lift all boats.”
He notes that if a new retailer client purchases, say, $100 in goods from ModMart.com, a good sales rep working afterward with the same retailer will likely drum up another several hundred dollars in sales.
Reaching small-town retailers
But that increased sales activity often finds its way back to ModMart.com, Quinn adds, as its growing network of sales rep agencies refer their customers to it for orders the reps aren’t equipped to handle—such as for unusual items the reps may not have in their catalogs. ModMart pays the agencies a referral fee based on sales performance.
In other cases, traveling reps may not be able to justify the cost of getting to retailers located in small towns. “A road rep covering north-central Texas can only cover so many doors in a year, and if a rep can’t earn enough to get to a start-up retailer in a small town, ModMart can,” he says.
Going forward, Quinn says he expects to build stronger relationships with ModMart’s network of sales agencies by sharing CRM and market demand information. “These road reps can walk into a retailer and predict how much this product will sell—they know how to sell,” he says.
And as ModMart shares market demand information from its website activity, Quinn figures that will help reps drive up more sales and more referrals back to ModMart.
“We expect exponential growth through word of mouth,” Quinn says. “Other companies want to exclude sales reps; we want to work with reps.”
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