One of the biggest successes you can have as an entrepreneur is to get your products in retail stores across the country. Imagine walking into your local fashion boutique and seeing your products on its shelves. Feels good, right?

As you probably know, it takes some work to see your products on retailers’ shelves. Most of the time retailers will not find you – you have to find them!

Here are some tips to help you get retailers’ attention.

1. Do your research

Like most things in business, finding new wholesale customers starts with research. Thankfully the Internet makes this a breeze.

Start with your competitors’ websites, looking specifically at their “where to shop” or “Store locator”. You don’t need to approach all of the same stores, but it is a simple way to get ideas about which types of retailers might be interested in your product.

2. Make a list, check it twice

If you’re not yet using CRM (customer relationship management) software use a spreadsheet program like Excel, or Google Docs Spreadsheet to track your research.

Create columns for store name, address, owner or buyer name and contact info, store type and leave one more column for notes. In this column, note anything that makes this retailer a particularly good place for your product, like location, clientele or theme.

3. Know your own business

If you’re like most of us, your business is your baby and you think you know everything about it – but do you?

Being able to answer a potential retailer’s questions without rattling through your notes help build your credibility, so before you meet with or call a retailer, practice, practice, practice.

Make sure you can answer questions about your minimum order quantity; return to vendor policies; bill pay terms; shipping time, costs and specs; and wholesale and retail prices without looking. If any of those terms are new to you, look them up.

Here are some other questions you should be able to answer without blinking:

  • Why do people buy your product? Know the value your product provides and your unique competitive edge. Is your product a band- aid (solves a problem) or a vitamin (prevents a problem)? Is it your selection, price or craftsmanship that makes customer choose you?
  • Which retailers carry your product and what are their metrics? Not only will retailers what you know who else carries your product, but they’ll want to know how many unit they’ve sold.
  • What promotional items do you offer? This can mean point of purchase displays, posters and other items that will drive customers to choose your product. Remember, the less effort a retailer has to spend selling your product, the more they’ll want it.

4. Be prepared

Now that you’ve completed your homework, it’s almost time to make contact. Before you do, there’s just one more thing to check.

Not all retailers will request sample products, but at least one will, so be prepared.

Have samples products, both in and out of packaging, and all the supplies you need to ship them. While you’re checking your supplies, make sure you have your most up-to-date one sheet, order forms and catalogs ready to go too.

5. Connect

Many store owners are busy entrepreneurs, just like you, so have respect for their time.

Do: Introduce yourself in a succinct email.
Tell the retailer why they want to carry your product. Be as specific as possible.
Ask for the opportunity to speak in person or on the phone.

Don’t: Call or visit the store unannounced.
Send too huge email attachments or many physical documents. These are likely to land in the trash.

6. Follow up

Follow up with the store one week to 10 days after your initial contact. If you still don’t hear back, follow up again about a week later. Like I said, retailers are busy, and sometimes it will take a few tries to catch their attention.

Bonus tip: Before you make contact, know how much product you can reasonably offer a retailer, and how many units they’re likely to sell in each quarter.

I say reasonably above because while you can send your entire stock off to a big retailer, you shouldn’t.

Offering a retailer too many units can leave you scrambling to fill orders, and providing more than the retailer can sell can leave your product sitting on the shelf, making it look difficult to sell.

7. Repeat

This process should be a part of your monthly (or even weekly) wholesale marketing plan. If you have to build your wholesale client base, you’ll have to reach out to new stores on a regular basis, so don’t stop after just a few stores.

If you follow the steps above your products will end up on retailers’ shelves in no time!

I’d love to hear about your experience getting your products into more stores. Tell us all about it in the comments section.

{Featured image via The Drake Hotel General Store}