Reader tips: How to sell your products to stores

January 12, 2013

Every week we reach out to our community of entrepreneurs and ask you to share your marketing tips and strategies for success. This week you shared with us your best tips for selling your products to stores. Here they are:

  • It’s a fact that people do not like to be sold to but if you provide them with information to help grow/manage their business or lives, they will consider you a valuable resource and will, most likely, share your information with their colleagues. By helping them, they help you by providing you with new contacts to reach out to and, perhaps, become customers of your products as well in the long run. – Christine from Scandle Body Candle
  • Our best tip for selling product wholesale is to start off with a trade show that’s specific to your market. For us that was the Halloween & Party Expo in Houston, TX. We went into the show with 1 retailer and by the end of that first show, we have over 100 new retailers (and growing thanks to word of mouth within the industry). – Morgan Simpson from Mullet On The Go
  • The best thing you can do to sell your products is to first create a product that is unique enough that people will want to buy from you.  Step two, promote the heck out of it via your cool website, social media, SEO, and doing lots of PR.  You will often find that word of mouth and getting people talking about you and doing stories about you will be far more powerful than advertising.  Key is you have to create a good story about your product.  We make rubber ducks, a product that was invented in America and then all manufacturing went overseas.  We just returned the whole industry to America where we are now the only ones making them here once again…now that’s a story!….you get the idea.  – Craig Wolf from CelebriDucks
  • Do as much research as you can! You might not be able to find the buyer’s contact information right away but if you call the company’s corporate office they’ll be able to further assist you. If you’re not experienced in selling, another great tip will be to find a sales rep. Look for someone who works on commission. If they have been in the business for a while then they have a lot of contacts under their belt. – Sarine Marie from Sarine Marie
  • Be passionate about what you’re selling and be able to explain to buyers, in a concise manner, what they gain by carrying your product. For example, when pitching to Hallmark, we offered an affordable line of eco-luxury candles manufactured in the USA. Buyers are always looking for something new and fresh that will increase their product offering and value for their customers. – Elana Joelle Hendler from EJH Brand
  • First find out if they have any products like your products.  If the product fits their category and the product has a unique factor to it, they will be more willing to listen to you.  If you don’t have existing relationships with retailers, it may take quite a bit of follow-up, but tactful persistence will pay off, whether with that retailer or with another one.  Not all retailers are the same, some will be open minded and others will not be, which is why one rejection from a retailer should not be viewed as the end of the story. – Tina Chan from Powbab
  • I think the best thing anyone can do to get their product picked up wholesale is to not sell the product.  You need to sell the story behind it and the reactions that you’ve received from your current customers!  The tactic that best works for me, is attending conventions.  My product is The Sex Bucket List – Adult Activity Book and given the name you can imagine that the conventions that I go to are A LOT of FUN! I tend to spend a good part of the day approaching the booths of other vendors and I sell them four things: The Idea; The Story behind The Sex Bucket List; The Reactions from Fans and Customers; And finally – The Product. Every event that I’ve been to I have been lucky enough to be face to face with the decision makers or someone with enough influence with the decision makers, which has allowed The Sex Bucket List to be picked up wholesale at each event that I’ve been at!  So I guess the only thing I have left to do is go to more events! – Michael Lucente from Sextivities
  • While there is no magic solution for getting wholesale accounts, a structured approach can help ensure accounts are closed:
    • First, figure out where you want your products sold. 
    • Next, understand what their buying strategy is and the timing of purchases/commitments. Larger stores, such as Whole Foods, may have a city, regional, or country buying strategy compared to a single store which may make purchasing decisions immediately.
    • If the store is nearby, schedule a meeting with the buyer. For larger chains, each store may have a buyer or there could be a buyer for a city. Identify the best person with whom to meet.
    • Often overlooked, but critical to closing the account:
    • Be extremely professional. Promptly respond to all communications, be on time, and use professionally generated line sheets and invoices. Have quantity pricing prepared before meeting with a buyer.
    • Know how to get paid. Credit cards can be expensive for payment due to fees. Be prepared to accept checks or know how to conduct a wire transfer with your bank.
    • Price fairly. A wholesale buyer should never feel or see a potential conflict with how they will price the product and a small business’ retail price. Here, perception matters far more than the actual number of units that would be affected. – Brandon Levey from Stitch Labs
  • A business looking to sell products wholesale should create a well-designed, search-friendly website and have a strong social media presence that will help retailers find your product/company and help you establish credibility. You can also email small retailers direct and suggest your product. Also, the wholesale price should be reasonable, allowing the retailer to have an attractive margin. Most importantly, retailers are looking for unique and innovative products to sell. The goal is to help them find your product/business. – Claudia A. Hoexter from Alexa Brands
  • (1.) Know your retailer.  Find out what items your target retailer sells, how they merchandise it, how they price it, etc.  Find out who their consumers are.  Compare your item to what they already carry.  Make sure that your item has a benefit to both the retailer and the retailer’s consumer, which they don’t get from existing items (better margin, healthier, lower price, better quality, etc.).  Be prepared to prove your benefit via objective data or samples.Data based selling- Some retailers want to be leaders and first to market with items.  You can focus on these retailers.  Most retailers are risk averse and don’t want to pioneer items.  If you can compile data that shows how well your items sell at other retailers, then this goes a long way with most outlets.  Understand that data from more respected retailers can be more meaningful. (2.)It isn’t only your product.  Many retailers aren’t only looking for a good item, but for an item complete with a marketing/promotional support package that will help to ensure the item selling through.  Different retailers have different pet support items that they prefer.  Understand what they like and show them that you are a committed partner who wants to make sure that the retailer is successful with your item. – Dave Hirschkop from Dave’s Gourmet
  • Budget for and attend the largest national (not regional) annual trade show in your industry. – Tobi Kosanke from Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products I’ve found the best way to sell your products to retailers is by actually approaching stores in person. Meeting with managers face to face can give you a feel for what they are looking for. It also helps to see the store where you products might be displayed. – Cindy Hardy from Joa Bath and Body
  • Make that personal connection with the business owner. Build the relationship with them and demonstrate that not only do you have a quality product, but you intend to have excellent customer service and response to their needs. Once they know that you have their best interests in mind, they will want to work with you. Show them that you will go above and beyond.The second piece of advice is to make sure you have a clear strategy when discussing price/cost of your items and understand where your product pricing strategy is relevant to the industry. Price your items for wholesale first, then establish your selling price(MSRP). Some owners are interested in percentages, while others are worried about margin. Make sure your prices are consistent across all of your selling channels(I.e. Website, Etsy). – Kim Bennett and Michael Wuest from The Polished Trinket
  • Trade shows are good, but they can be costly.  We’ve had success at end-user trade shows that are less costly than buyer trade shows.  At the end-user trade shows, we were able to sell our Fraimz at retail price (which increased our profit), but we also met retail buyers at these shows.  When you work a show, the owner should walk the floor looking for partnerships and contacts while someone else mans the booth.  By doing so, you’re able to sell and cover costs of the show while reaching buyers that can make bulk purchases in the future. – Valarie Moody from Fodeo
  • Customizing your proposal to your prospect rather than sending a generic email works best. Look up who you are selling to, check out their product lines, see which of your products will best suit the client and then contact them highlighting those specific products and how they would be a great fit for their existing market. Clients appreciate that you took the time to cater to their needs rather than send them a common email where they have to go to your website and figure out what they want. They are already busy people and probably get a few such query emails a day so finding one that stands out from the clutter helps! – Ruksana Hussain from Ideas Are Us
  • Engage and connect with the buyer in your story behind the product. Be enthusiastic every time you speak about your product. Make 3 attempts to connect with the buyer. ie postcard mailer, cold calling, email marketing. Always keep buyers informed of new products, new press, etc. – Brea and Halle Holmes from Sweet Dream Girlz
  • The best tip:
    • Believe in yourself first
    • Be connected – build your brand through social media and non social media events
    • Know your prospects – earn loyalty through genuine interest
    • Give value – differentiate yourself, give retailers a reason to give you shelf space
    • Customer service – respond to customer’s inquiry immediate and take complaints seriously, not personally. – Elizabeth Attie from The Vintage Soap Factory
  • Tips for selling to retailers (and I have over 350 wholesale accounts)…be as accommodating as possible. When I initially contact new places, I first let them know of my product, in as concise and simple a way as possible (as I’m sure they are as busy as I am!). I let them know of my best sellers list and $50 and under list (both of which are popular with retailers). I also have the policy, that I let the retailers know, that I’ll exchange anything that doesn’t sell…people love hearing this, and assuages their fears of not being able to move the product. Lastly, I don’t take no for an answer! When I send out my e-newsletter to prospective accounts, and the ones who actually write back and say they’re not interested, I always try to find out why…usually it’s not about my jewelry. Sometimes it’s about their budget (I let them know about my $50 and under list), or they think they have similar designs (which I tell them I have over 1,300 designs, many of which they won’t see anywhere else, as my designs are now copyrighted) and I have many totally unique and original designs. I let them know of my best sellers list, designs that are proven to sell. I also make the offer to send samples so they can see them up close, and offer to send them pick boxes, a sampling of stuff that they can try to sell, and only pay for what sells and send the rest back. Lastly I remind them of my exchange policy. I highlight all these things because, even though I have mentioned this already in my letter, I’ve found that many people don’t bother to read alot of what I send. I’ve actually turned around more than a few places this way, and a few of them are now big accounts who order alot every year. Again, trying to be as accommodating as possible, because me helping them just helps me in the end, and we both profit from the relationship. – Bonnie Riconda from Calico Juno Designs
  • Best tips are patience, finding the right trade show, and finding the right sales people to promote your items.  If you are trying to sell to catalogs finding a rep who already has a good relationship with numerous outlets is well worth the 10% commission.  In addition, find a trade show and go for more than  one year.  Credibility in the marketplace is significant so year one may not yield the hoped for results…..that’s where the patience comes in. JoAnnTilghman from Granny Jo Products
  • Probably the best advice to offer businesses whom sell to retailers would be offer a wide selection and not limit the amount of products available.  It’s much harder to be a true “wholesaler” without a complete line of product offering.  Many times you will hear the retailer ask “Do you carry XYZ items?  I have customers asking for this periodically or all the time”.  Missing out on these types of opportunities will certainly inhibit the growth of a wholesaler and how your company is viewed as a viable supplier by the retailers. So, listen to your customers needs and round out your line to support their business.  More products, more sales. – Dan Dillon from Clean It Supply
  • Find a reliable supplier who is consistent with their quality and prices. Retailers will pay a little more for brand recognition. If you can show that your product has the same quality as a popular brand in your niche for a cheaper price, you will find business. What has worked best for our wholesale business is having quality product for a good value, and hiring independent experienced sales representatives to sell it. Experienced reps tend to have good relationships with retailers which means they can often present new products to them which means new business for you. – Ebon Sean Glenn from RDG Concessions
  • The very best way we found to get new products into retailers is to just pick up the phone and call the buyer direct. Use a service like to find out who the buyer is for your category at any given retailer. If you can’t find his/her name using Jigsaw then just call the receptionist, explain who you are, what you are selling, and ask to be directed to the proper buyer or department.Once you get the buyer on the phone just be direct with them. Don’t pitch them on the phone. Just tell them who you are, what you are selling, and ask them what process do they use to evaluate new items. Most retailers have a very defined new item evaluation process and want to see new products! So don’t be afraid. Just pick up the phone and call! – Todd Ruehs from Four Clowns Game & Toy Co
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Find stores where your product fits, and find out the buyer and if you know it’s a perfect fit then don’t take no for an answer!  Also, be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned, be flexible with things – price point, shipping costs, etc.  And don’t forget to have fun, if you’re having fun buyers have fun! – Betsy Johnson from SwimZip
  • To generate new wholesalers, you have to prove that their is demand for your product. We take time to do trade shows and visit retail accounts in new markets where EG products are not being sold. Therefore, the retailer is asking the wholesaler for a product that they don’t carry in their portfolio. By demonstrating pull in the marketplace, EG is able to prove that there is demand for the product already in the market. – Luke Bowen from Evil Genius Beer
  • Listen. I was pursuing one wholesale avenue that took me into dead-end after dead-end (Gift Shops). I wondered how many more times I could hear “no” and keep moving forward.I was approached at a networking group by an individual who felt my book would be valuable to his business. He was a Realtor. He asked if he could tailor the book to be a branded gift he could provide at closing to homeowners. I found I could tailor easily tailor the books and set up a wholesale program for Realtors. Today I have Realtors contacting me to join the program. Each realtor pays a small up-front fee to create their own tailored edition and they buy books in blocks at varied discounted rates depending on the quantity. So many people give you advice about the direction you should take your business. When I had someone with a suggestion, ready to buy, I knew this was a market opportunity worth pursuing.  – Kay Bransford  from MemoryBanc
  • Before setting your wholesale price work out the cost of your product and then make sure that your margin is good. Be aware, however, that retailers will mark your product up by 100-400% so make sure the retail price remains competitive too. – Nadine Rubin Nathan from Pelluceo 
  • I don’t sell them to retailers, there are advantages of selling to retailers in that they can personally sell them to their customers. I sell exclusively on line –  no retailer.
    • The retail mark-up isn’t in my price point, which is 225% – that is a huge cost advantage that I  have in my product.
    • I can reach a worldwide market on the web – the trick is standing out and getting search engines to recognize you in this large market.
    • I have done this by getting others to endorse the product – I have approached large bloggers that write about topics where as my product fits. For me this is lifestyle and interior bloggers.
    • These individuals have larger loyal followings. These bloggers are mini – Oprah’s if you will.
    • I also have a lot of time working other media – it has a large fall out, but occasionally I get some press – for example, my company was selected as an essential by Men’s Journal as an essential for men in the March 2012 Essentials Issue.
    • I also do a fair amount of blogging my self – the search engines have noticed this and today I am on the 1st page with some of my keywords on Google search results. – Steve Caradano from Vero Linens

3 Comments. Leave new

very informative..will try some ideas listed above..looking forward to the weekly newsletter

Lots of ideas. Loved your two videos. Looking forward for your posts.

I agree, Luke. Very important to create the demand first. Nobody likes to be the first to take a product. But everybody likes to jump on something when it’s popular.