We recently ran a survey based around how store owners using our plugins find new wholesale customers for their stores.
I have to confess that I was a bit surprised actually. Every single respondent said that it’s just organic, people tend to just find their registration form all on their own.
To me this says one thing: you’re missing out on a HUGE opportunity to rapidly expand your businesses by being more proactive in attracting wholesale customers.
In light of this I thought now would be a great time to cover a few methods you can use to find new wholesale customers.
Even if you employ just 1 or 2 of these in your business you’re going to be sitting pretty when those new wholesale orders come rolling in.
Method #1: Look At What You Already Have
One of the easiest and most untapped resources for finding new wholesale customers is to look within your own customer base.
Here’s how to narrow down what you’re looking for and find the best fits for converting to a wholesale customer:
- Export your full customer list (in WooCommerce try Order/Customer CSV Export).
- Separate the business customers from the consumers. This can usually just be done by looking for the ones that supplied a company name.
- To narrow down even further look for those customers who have ordered more than once (repeat orders).
- Reach out to them manually. Ideally, this means picking up the phone and talking to them (if you have the contact details or are able to easily find contact details), but since customers, in general, have to provide an email address you should at least be able to email them. Phone is definitely more effective though!
Method #2: PPC
A lot of e-commerce stores use PPC very effectively to attract regular customers so why not try using it for wholesale customers as well? The skills, knowledge, and research required are all transferrable to campaigns for wholesale customers as well. Leverage baby!
Try targeting keywords surrounding your niche with a +wholesale. The broad match identifier is very handy for this in Google Adwords (the most popular PPC platform).
You can also try cross targeting a Facebook campaign for the keywords you’re after with big business groups/pages or industry group pages to try and narrow down to people who run the types of businesses you want to attract.
If you’re going the PPC route, then it’s worth setting up a really good landing page for potential wholesale customers when they get to your website.
Give them a quick breakdown of why they should consider becoming a wholesale customer with you – a list of what they get and why this is important.
Go into much detail as you like, then hit them with the wholesale registration form.
Method #3: Cold calling
- Make a geographic target area. You can expand this later on, but its probably easier to start locally than to go global or even countrywide from the get-go. Try just targeting people in your region/state or even just your city. You’ll be surprised how many companies will still be on your list!
- Narrow the target further by estimating the size/revenue of the business and only accept people onto your list that meet that threshold.
There are also some tricks to getting in touch with the right person:
- Ask lower level staff for recommendations of who to speak to but don’t actually request to speak to them, just get the name for now.
- Call between 8 and 9 am or after 5 pm to get past secretaries and get straight to the decision makers
- If you do run into a secretary or admin staff, try using a familiar sounding voice to request a transfer to the person you need.”Hi Jill, can you please put me through to Bob? It’s just regarding a purchase…”This is likely to get you through a lot of the time, but if not, you can also try the sympathy technique:”Hi Jill, can you please put me through to Bob in purchasing?”
“Sure, can you please let me know your name and what it’s regarding first?”
“Actually I was wondering if you could help me… (asking for help can aid in disarming people when you encounter a defensive response)… you see I’m a small business and we’re looking to reach out to some people like Bob to see if he’d be interested in a wholesale account but I really have no idea how to get through. I’d only take a couple of minutes of his time just to introduce myself and send him some samples if he’s willing, are you able to help me? It would mean so much to me if you could.”
“Oh ok, well normally we don’t do that, but he doesn’t look too busy right at the moment so just this one time … good luck!”
There are loads of books around on how to cold call properly, but one of the best short guides I’ve found is in Tim Ferris’s book 4 Hour Work Week.
He provides a really good chapter on how to approach cold calling and it’s geared to first-timers just getting started.
One final piece of advice regarding cold contact… don’t email! Pick up the phone and talk to people. Email just isn’t as effective.
Method #4: Industry tradeshows
A great way to enhance the effectiveness of your tradeshow booth is to give away lots of samples.
Setup a big red “FREE SAMPLES” sign to attract attention and be proactive in standing out the front of your booth and pulling people in to take a look at your products.
This all aimed at making your stall more popular than others, foot traffic is everything.
The second thing you can do is to walk around the tradeshow yourself and speak to other stall holders with related (but non-competing) products. Be upfront about what you’re trying to do and ask for contact numbers and referrals.
If you spend a bit of time getting to know other business people at the event – and I mean really genuinely getting to know them – you’ll not only make some industry friends but you might walk away with a Rolodex full of great leads to follow up with.
Being able to lead into a conversation with “Mary from Some Other Business told me to get in touch with you for a chat” is so much better than just raw cold calling and immediately breaks down their apprehension about dealing with you.
Method #5: Send out samples
Sending product samples via the post is one of the most commonly used methods that manufacturing companies use to create leads with new companies to purchase their products. Direct mail is definitely not dead!
There’s no reason why you can’t do it as well as a wholesaler of goods.
The key to unlocking the most leads with samples is to do two things:
- Commit to sending out a certain number of samples each week; AND
- Ensure you follow up with a phone call in the following week after they received their sample
Samples can be an amazing way to create these opportunities to talk with decision makers because bulky looking packages that are directly addressed to the person will generally get past secretaries and admin staff most of the time. This means that the person opening your package is the person who makes the decision.
Have some fun with it too, try sending odd items to get their attention and create talking points when you follow up.
I’ve heard of people sending weird stuff along like little novelty desk trash cans, alarm clocks, measuring tapes and egg timers. Get creative and you’ll get their attention.
Try to narrow your target companies by using suggestions in the cold calling method above and you will quickly see that direct mail is still an effective method of recruiting wholesale customers.
Find What Works & Execute Hard
You might start with a spray and pray type methodology to find new leads, but when you find something that works, stick with it and execute on it hard.
I’m a fan of scalable methods but you need to find what method is scalable or easiest to execute for you and gives you the most return for your time investment.
Don’t be scared to interact, get out there and start recruiting. Your bottom line will thank you for it!