A little while ago we reached out to you, our Launch Grow Joy readers, and asked you to share with us your best tips on how to sell to retail stores and selling your products wholesale. So many of you answered (THANK YOU!), so we decided to create a list of your best tips on how to sell to retail stores.
Whether you decide to sell to small independent or local boutiques or to large national retailers, you'll find some great tips here. And if you have a tip that you'd like to share, make sure to leave a comment below to let us know.
How to Sell to Retail Stores – Your Best Tips
1. Go after the big retailers
This is a particularly good strategy if they have a supplier diversity program that you qualify for. Although a lot of variables come into play when it comes to a buyer making a decision about including your product in their assortment, at the end of the day, it really boils down to whether they like your product or not. The buyer that happens to love your product could work for Walmart, or a local mom and pop, so I recommend going after big and small retailers simultaneously. Usually, it takes a bit longer to secure the buyer appointment with the larger retailers, so while you are waiting for that appointment, you build your sales history with the individually owned and operated retailers where you can get your product in a lot faster. – Thanks to Jennifer Zachery from The Bead Barrette
2. Exhibit at trade shows
Our wholesale business has grown the most by exhibiting at select trade shows that deliver high volume qualified traffic, and then engaging prospective wholesale customers with a passionate enthusiasm for our product. – Thanks to Julie Buzby of Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips for Dogs
3. Niche marketing, PR and social media
We took our product offering and tailored items to different kinds of people. We had things like The Wizard of Oz, Popeye, and Betty Boop which hit children, but was also retro to hit adults. We did a whole food-themed line to interest people who love chocolate, people who love wine, BBQ, Cupcakes, Coffee, etc. We added KISS for the rocker group and even religious ones. Now we returned the rubber duck industry to America where it all began and are the only ones making them here again….once again…great niche and great PR opportunities! – Thanks to Craig Wolfe of CelebriDucks
One must call on established and new accounts via direct mail, email and phone on a regular ongoing basis. Use the buddy system! I have a colleague in Los Angeles, she and I stage a “contest” to motivate one other to call on new accounts (cold calls). We are not really competing although we challenge each other to see how many accounts we can call in an hour by staging the so-called contest. – Thanks to Joy Light of Joy Hand Painted Silk
5. Develop a distribution network for your products
Depending on your product and its use, your distribution network may be retail establishments and or retail service providers that may use your product in their business. By establishing a distribution network you will expand your products footprint and develop a sales force for your products without having to directly pay for the sales. Offering a multi-tiered distribution program that rewards a distributor with lower wholesale prices based on the amount of product sold, can help to create incentives for the distributors to use products. – Thanks to Brian Smith Omni Containment Systems
6. Think Outside of the Box!
Because I have a very niche product, fashion accessories for medical walking boots, I can't go any of the “traditional routes” of selling wholesale. Instead, I went to LinkedIn and found the companies that already sell the boots to the orthopedic offices and pharmacies. The products go hand-in-hand so it's a win-win. It gets me directly to the people who sell the boots and it gets the sales reps into their existing accounts or potential new accounts with a new product.- Thanks to Christina Daves of CastMedic Designs
7. Understand your retail buyer
At the most basic level, you need to understand the type of buyer who will benefit from carrying your products and focus your efforts toward that group when you sell to retail stores. What industry are you truly in – are you apparel or souvenir resort wear for example? Are you looking to sell to independent stores or larger corporate buyers? These can be entirely different strategies. Industry trade shows are still perhaps the best way to get in front of store buyers, even though this can be very expensive. There are also “online sales reps” for many industries that will sell your product for a commission. Many of the wholesale accounts we have obtained have become excellent, long term buyers. Many small and independent stores like to shop this way because they can order from many merchants at one time and each merchant gets a separate PO. – Thanks to Jon Kurtz of Dog is Good
8. Find the right contact info
To sell to retail stores, you should get the name of someone at the company you wish to sell to. Sending blind letters, samples or emails rarely if ever, gets your product into the right hands. It doesn't have to be the right person. If you ask politely, often someone will tell you who the right person is. You can even use that “wrong” person as a reference. For instance, “John in accounting told me I should speak to you”. You can look online or just call and ask who you should contact. Social media such as LinkedIn & Twitter are also great resources. Once you've found the right contact, don't just contact them once and forget about them. Without being a pest, follow up periodically. – Thanks to Gary Castelle of Magnum Plastics Inc
9. Offer online ordering
The most effective strategy to sell to retail stores we have had is offering an online application to potential wholesale buyers and then providing they are approved they are given login information to our site which allows them to view their wholesale pricing in real-time on our online shopping cart and to purchase online. We also allow companies to purchase on credit providing they are eligible after filling out our credit application. Many large companies (who would purchase in wholesale quantities) require the ability to purchase on terms for their accounting so by allowing this you are opening up your company for sales to these large corporations or government agencies. – Thanks to Nathan McBride of Absolute Automation
10. Follow up with trade show attendees
Our best tip to sell to retail stores if you don’t have the funds to travel around to every trade show (which most startups do not) is to find the trade show that makes the most sense for your products and types of buyers you are looking for and attend so you can not only gain orders right away but you will hopefully leave with several warm leads. You can also get a buyer attendee list that you can begin following up on as soon as you arrive back home. Trade shows are also a great way to network with other manufacturers and share resources. Aside from trade shows (because not all may be worth your time and money) we make spreadsheets with all of the retailers we would like to target, we then start going down the list reaching out. Don’t get frustrated – this process can be deflating at times – but persistence does pay off! – Thanks to Lyssa Surface of LillyBit
11. Embrace networking
My best tip for selling my product wholesale is networking new vendors who own boutiques at Events. I have networked with many new vendors who love my product and wanted to sell to their customers. This has been one of my best ways to meet and make money, along with meeting and networking my name to others I would not have met. Its a great way to get my name out and people to visit my website. – Thanks to Carleen Swingler of SwingBagz, LLC
12. Contact buyers directly
It is much easier to sell my baked goods when I can speak to the buyer directly and tell them why my Biscotti is so unique, and give them a sample on the spot. Being able to touch, feel, smell or taste anything makes it much more appealing. And if I don't make a sale, the person I am speaking with is usually very willing to refer me to another person or company who may be. – Thanks to Katy Kassian of Buffalo Gals Bakery
13. Develop relationships with the buyers.
Give them small samples of something you think might do well at their store/dept. and ask for their feedback in scent choice etc. No one knows their customers as they do. – Thanks to Roberta Perry of Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc.
14. Introduce your products to store-level managers
If you can first succeed at getting an individual store to take a look at your product and then commit to spending the time and effort demoing your product, you will likely be granted the opportunity to present your products to the state or region. Sometimes, larger chains only deal through their corporate/regional headquarters and in that case, do your best to gather support from the local stores. Try to get a number of local stores to say that they would be interested in carrying your product and take those comments to the regional buyer. Doing this will save the regional buyer a lot of work because you have already proved that there is potential support for your product at the store level. – Thanks to Mike Schultz of Sedulous Foods
15. Start blogging and sponsor product giveaways
Blogging has been a large factor in our company getting noticed on search engines. We have also found that testimonials of our product are a huge contributor. As a result, we sponsor product giveaways from time to time on large lifestyle blog sites. The owners of these sites have large loyal followings and their followers take their advice. So when a blogger tells their readership that they have reviewed the product and that it is a value, they listen. The blog writer also likes the giveaway as it is a way to give back to their devoted followers and gives them something to write about. – Thanks to Steve C of Vero Linens
16. Get a referral
The most effective way on how to sell to retail stores and get into a buyer's office is through a referral or an existing relationship. It is so important for the entrepreneur to put themselves in the buyer's shoes. They are usually inundated with new products, new companies. Do you have something that is going to make the buyer “look good?” Does it fit with the buyers' business model, is it retail ready (good packaging and pop) is it in the right price range, etc. Do some research on the potential customer. – Thanks to Gail Sanders-Luckman of Kumfy Tailz
17. Secure appointments at trade shows
The most effective and efficient way for our company to sell our products wholesale is to be an exhibitor at one of the top trade shows in the country for our industry. The one we have been attending is called SuperZoo in Las Vegas. This is a trade show closed to only retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and groomers. So instead of us approaching retailers individually and spending a lot of time and money, retailers come to our booth. Big box buyers who are usually very difficult to get hold of are there at the trade show too. So we managed to secure an appointment with one of them during the trade show which later turned into many ongoing purchase orders from them. We are not supplying to the TJX Corporation of companies which consists of TJMaxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Winners Canada and Homesense Canada. – Thanks to Athena Yap of Jackboy's Dog Bakery
18. Ask your customers to refer you
We have been doing a grass-root sales effort ourselves in order to sell to retail stores. Our best leads come from our current customers. We ask them to mention us to their colleagues or for their suggestions of other stores they think we should call on. Something else that goes along with this is that we look at our most successful stores and the lines they carry. We then will do research on other stores that carry the same lines and either call them or email them. These strategies seem to be the most effective for us. – Thanks to AnnDee Beckerman of Infinity Headbands
19. Try cold calling
One of the best ways I've found to sell to retail stores is through cold calling. It's also free. My biggest mistake was spending tens of thousands of dollars on trade shows before I even learned how to sell my product. If you actually pick up the phone and connect with a live person you will quickly understand what their needs are and if they're even looking for a product like yours. Sometimes, even if they like the product, the timing is wrong or they already have too many products in your category. – Thanks to Julie Austin of HydroSport
Do you have a great tip on how to sell to retail stores? If so, please leave a comment below and share your best tip on how to sell to retail stores.