Selling your unique creations to retail store buyers is not as overwhelming as it seems – especially if you are prepared! A bad first impression is difficult to overcome! Not only do you look unprofessional, but a poorly planned process may cost you more money than the sale is worth!
I would like to share a few tips to help prepare for and understand the most effective way to work with wholesale buyers (Also, check out my Resource site on the topic: Selling to Retailers).
1. Retail store buyers are busy people. Buyers often wear several hats, beyond managing inventory, so don’t waste their time with ill prepared sales pitches or materials. Leave the flowery brochures for your retail consumers and prepare wholesale sales materials that contain ONLY the necessary information.
Good wholesale sales material should answer all of the following questions:
- What IS the product?
- What does it look like – packaging, size, etc? (Good photo essential!)
- How much does it cost per unit/per case?
- What is the minimum order?
- What are your terms?
- How do I re-order?
If your wholesale sheets answer all those questions completely, you are in good shape!
2. Having said that, spend some time developing a relationship with the buyer and their store. Familiarize yourself with the store layout and products, before the presentation. See what types of products they sell and whether your items fit the motif, or store “personality”. Exhibit your genuine concern about what the buyer tells you and the important issues they are facing. Listening will often give you an opportunity to help them solve a problem with a product you are selling!
3. You, as the seller, control the situation when you are presenting your products. In other words, your terms, minimum order, shipping methods, etc. all need to be well worked out ahead of time. Do not let yourself be open to negotiations on what payment terms you accept, whether the buyer will pay shipping or not (typically, that is paid by the store), or any other necessary logistics to close the sale. Often a buyer will raise an objection to something (e.g. shipping) to see if you waiver. If you are a pushover, you will leave a lot of money on the table. Know your costs and your system. If a buyer draws a line in the sand, it’s usually best to move on… this is a sign of more problems to come.
PS You should offer some kind of “first order” incentive to reduce the initial risk to the store! This GREATLY enhances your conversion rate.
During the sales presentation, keep the buyer’s interest and focus by asking open-ended choice questions, such as “Would you prefer the red ones or the blue ones?”. Assume the buyer wants to buy products which will improve store profits, but needs help with the final decision on WHICH ONES to buy! Keeping control of the process, and presenting your wares as a profitable solution, makes it easier for the buyer to buy – and for you to take home a nice check, figuratively speaking.
4. On the other hand, the store buyer is in control once your products are purchased. Despite typical mark up of 100% (margin of 50%) on the cost of the product, stores can retail your products at whatever price they want. Most retailers have a pre-set formula for calculating the final retail price, despite what you suggest as the best retail pricing. If you wish to make suggestions on pricing or display of your items, you should discuss that during the sales presentation. Once the deal is done, it’s really out of your hands. And if you can offer displays matched to your products – whether free-with-order or for a small fee – be sure to emphasize the opportunity to increase their sales.
5. Like I mentioned in #1, buyers are busy people. Sometimes, they get distracted and forget to place an original order, don’t re-order when inventory is low, or even “forget” to pay your invoice in a timely manner. Persistence is the key when dealing with buyers! There may be a limit to how many times you may contact a buyer without annoying them, but emailing (IF they are regularly online) is less intrusive and may be done systematically if necessary! But emails are also easier to ignore than a phone call, or in-person “courtesy call”. Whatever the focus of your contacts, always be pleasant and friendly. Understanding and friendliness go a long way in creating solutions and getting your products on store shelves.
Hopefully, this has taken some of the mystique out of selling wholesale. Really, there are only 4 things to remember:
• Be prepared
• Be friendly
• Be considerate
• Be persistent
In the end, it’s really all about the relationship. Keep your ducks in a row, don’t waste their time, and show an interest, personally and professionally. You will do well!