How To Approach Retail Stores To Sell Your Product (2020 Updated)

How To Approach Retail Stores To Sell Your Product

Learning how to approach retail stores to sell your product is a great skill for wholesale distributors to have in their toolbelt. In 2020, it’s even more important to know the right strategies for doing this.

Whether you sell your products primarily online or if you just want to expand your reach, selling to retailers is a fantastic way to boost revenue, create brand awareness and build the kind of network connections that you need to be successful growing a wholesale distribution business.

Getting your products into the retail sector via traditional retailers can be a fantastic growth strategy.

It can also do wonders for your product, your business processes and also for the health of your business as a whole.

  • Selling to retail stores forces you to get more serious about packaging
  • It highlights how important it is to have proper profit margins on your products
  • It means your shipping and logistics processes needs to be rock solid
  • And you must have a plan to handle extremely large volumes if required

How To Approach Retail Stores To Sell Your Product

Like anything in business, you have to start from somewhere and that’s what this article is all about. In this massive guide below we’ll be digging into the nitty-gritty details so you will know exactly how to approach retail stores to effectively sell your product.

Let’s get stuck into it…

Selling Wholesale To Retailers

There are a number of key differences between retailers and other non-retail wholesale customers:

  1. Retails stores have bigger overheads due to costs like rent, sales staff, fixtures, signage, furnishings, and more
  2. The cost to start a retail store is at least 5-10x higher than online-only retailers
  3. Retail stores generally hold more stock on hand
  4. The larger the retail chain the more organized their procurement will be
  5. Product appearance is very important
  6. The margins are thinner
  7. Foot traffic and profit per square meter are important figures to monitor in retail stores

So how do these factors affect how to sell your wholesale goods to these businesses?

By looking at their differences you begin to understand how selling to retailers can be a whole different ball-game than selling to other businesses with lower overheads and complexity.

The retail model, while it looks simple on paper, is full of hidden costs that affect how much they can afford to pay for goods and what kinds of markups they’re looking for in a retail situation.

What Do Retail Stores Focus On?

The main focus for retail stores is maximizing their foot traffic, aka bringing customers in the door.

They do this primarily by:

  • Store positioning (which is why choosing a good location is so important)
  • Running sales
  • Stocking desirable product lines
  • Reward programs

When a retail store succeeds in bringing enough foot traffic in the door, the profit usually follows.

How Do I Sell Wholesale To Retailers?

Selling wholesale to retailers is a little bit different from selling direct to consumers. Retailers have different needs and they will want to examine your product to see if it is a good fit before stocking it or making a large order.

There are 3 primary ways to approach retailers:

  1. In-person – you take your wholesale products and show them in-person so the retailer can see what they’re like
  2. Head office meetings – you take your wholesale products to the head office of a conglomerate or major buyer to be considered
  3. Direct mail – you directly contact the retailers to ask if they will stock your products
Selling Wholesale To Retailers

We recently published an update to our huge guide on wholesale marketing strategies for 2020 that wholesale distributors can use to attract customers, get orders and increase sales.

In our previous guide, we recommended starting to market to retailers by creating a list of your top 100 ideal retailers that you’d like to be stocked in. These would be the stores that you’d just love to get your product into.

Based on experience, I can tell you that the first 20 on your list will be easy to come up with, but getting the next 80 on the list will be a challenge. You’ll need to enter research mode to find the retail stores that will fit the criteria that you’re after.

However, if you want to sell wholesale to retailers you need to learn how to approach them and that starts with making a list and making contact one by one. There is not automated shortcut here, so stop looking for one.

1. In-Person: Demonstrate & Sell

If you want to be a hands-on business owner you definitely need to consider actually visiting the retail stores that you are trying to recruit as customers.

In-person visits have a number of benefits:

  • You can demonstrate the product
  • They can feel the product and use it
  • People find it harder to say no when you’re standing right there

Being able to demonstrate your product to a store owner means they get to feel the product, see it in action, hear about how it can help them and their customers and you can answer any questions and objections straight away.

Later I’ll discuss exactly how to pitch your product to a store, step by step.

2. Head Office: The Top-Down Approach

For large groups of retail stores or retail chains, you will need to approach the head office of the group directly. Often these chains will have group procurement, so it’s a matter of finding out how their internal structure is set up and who you would need to talk to.

Getting in touch with the right people might be tricky, but you can often start at the store level by talking to a store manager and asking lots of questions. 9 times out of 10, you will get the details you need directly from them.

If it’s proving tricky, you can use LinkedIn as a tool for locating the exact person you should be speaking to.

Simply go to the LinkedIn homepage and search for the company group by name and you can click on the People tab in the search results:
LinkedIn Search For People At A Company

If you’re not sure what the group company is called they often list it in the footer on the retail store’s website. You can then plug that company name into LinkedIn and find the connections you need.

Conducting research like this is really important because you need to be sure are talking to the decision-makers.

Schedule appointments ahead of time and make sure you are well prepared for the meeting. Take along products for demonstration and free samples and give them everything they need to know to make a decision.

If you’re having trouble closing the deal you can try a “puppy dog close”. A puppy dog close is named after the method some pet stores use for selling dogs,  “Just take it home with you for the weekend and see what you think!”.

Adapt the puppy dog close and propose a trial with a few stores to see how it goes. You can even offer free shipping or extra units to make it as risk-free as possible.

3. Direct Mail: Write An Introduction Letter To Retail Buyers

Using direct mail is a scalable way you can attract retail stores as wholesale customers.

If you write an introduction letter to retail buyers along with sending them a sample of your product, you are sure to get their attention.

It’s a process often called “Lumpy Mail” – the theory is that if you send the right person something that looks odd-shaped in the mail, and if that parcel is personally addressed, it will be more likely to be opened and considered.

Manufacturers have used the free sample approach to distributors for years and you can adapt it to your level as well. By sending a free sample you are giving them something tactile that they can feel and use which is better than just looking at pictures and videos.

When accompanied by a written introduction letter to retail buyers that is personalized to them, it can be a very powerful way to generate leads at scale.

To make direct mail successful for your business follow these three rules:

  1. Research & personalize – direct mail works best when you personalize it to the recipient
  2. Send daily – consistency is key if you want a good lead flow
  3. Follow-up – always follow up with a phone call a few days after you know the parcel was delivered

Sample Letter To Retail Buyer

If you are going to write an introduction letter to retail buyers it might help to start with a sample letter.

I thought I’d give you a sample letter to a retail buyer that you can actually use right away. Just print it off on your letterhead and include it with a sample of your product and a product sales sheet (more on that in a moment).

In this short introduction letter, we get straight to the point of introducing who we are and what we do, then tell them why we’re writing to them.

It’s important that you be succinct and clear about this – as with any marketing activity you only have a few seconds to grab and hold their attention.

[SUBJECT LINE]
Suggestions:
– ARE YOU THE RIGHT PERSON TO SPEAK WITH?
– I FOUND YOU THROUGH [NAME]
– REGARDING [X] PRODUCTS

Hi [PROSPECT NAME],

I’m [YOUR NAME] a co-founder at [YOUR COMPANY], we’re in the [NICHE] space. We make [XYZ PRODUCTS].

Just wanted to send you a free sample so you could get to know our product, [SPECIFIC PRODUCT] and see if [PROSPECT COMPANY] might be interested in stocking it.

I’ve also included a product sales sheet containing some more information about the product and our company for your review.

You can also see a video of it in action here: [SHORTENED URL] (optional line)

Is this something your customers would be interested in?

You can reach me directly at [MOBILE PHONE NUMBER] or [EMAIL ADDRESS].

Regards,

[YOUR NAME]
[YOUR COMPANY]

What are the techniques of selling?

Unless you’re an experienced sales rep, knowing exactly how to pitch your product to a store might seem a bit daunting. And, to be honest, it’s probably going to be something you learn on the job.

Knowing the right way to pitch your product to a store will give you a leg up if you don’t know how to do face to face sales, and if you do know how to sell, the following will serve as a refresher and help you formulate your plan.

1. Get in the door

The first step is actually getting in the door.

We detailed above how to approach retail stores and if you are pitching your product with face to face sales then the result of that process should be you scheduling times to go and visit them.

Here are a few extra tips that will help you schedule more meetings:

  • Be proactive and suggest 2-3 potential dates and times eliminating needless back and forth – “I’ll be visiting over your way soon – does [X] at [Y] time or [A] at [B] time work for you? If not let me know your schedule for next week.”
  • Use a calendar scheduling app such as Calendly
  • Tell them you’re in the area (even if you’re not)

2. Know your product and conduct a great product demonstration

Demonstrating a product is incredibly powerful. Inc.com put together a great article on how to give a great product demo.

I recommend you read the full article but here are the important highlights:

  1. Customize your demonstration to them – every customer is different so do your research
  2. Tell a story – people relate better if you involve the product in a story
  3. Rehearse – good sales reps prepare and rehearse the delivery multiple times
  4. Test everything beforehand – if your product has the possibility of breaking down, make sure you test it’s all working before you walk in the door
  5. Close the deal – asking is something a lot of people forget to do, the best time to ask for the sale is right after the demo

3. Use a product sell sheet and leave that with them when you leave

What is a product sell sheet? It’s a single piece of paper that tells your customer the key benefits of the product along with details on how to order.

A product sell sheet should clearly and concisely explain your product and its purpose.

Keep It Benefits Focused

I recommend you keep your sell sheet “benefits-focused”, which just means tell the person what benefits your products give customers rather than just listing the facts and features of your product.

The heading of your product sell sheet should likewise focus on the key benefit, eg. if you had a cream that treats plantar warts your headline could be: “Scientifically proven to get rid of plantar warts in 3 weeks or less”.

Break Up The Text

The temptation is to just write as much as you can to fit into your sell sheet.

Instead, I recommend you use bullet points, shorter paragraphs, subheads, customer quotes and call out sections to break up the text and give some life to your design.

Call To Action

Now is your time to ask for the sale – don’t be shy.

Above-average salespeople always ask for the sale. If you aren’t specifically asking people to order your product you’ll be missing your opportunity. This is exactly what your product sell sheet is for.

Make a special callout box just for your call to action. It should draw the eye immediately. Make it another color, bold the text, give it space, whatever you have to do to draw the eye.

4. What if you can’t secure a meeting and need to sell over email, letter or video conference call?

As I mentioned briefly earlier, if your product is physical then demonstrating is a very wise move. Doing it remotely might even be impossible.

You can send samples and literature but closing the sale via in-person demonstration is always going to be more effective.

Products such as software, however, lend themselves to remote demonstrations quite easily. It’s definitely worth exploring, especially if your customers are spread across large geographic locations.

Once you are more established and you have retailers coming to you instead of the other way around, you might be able to reduce the number of in-person meetings you need to do and/or hire someone to focus on them for you.

Can A Business Be Both A Wholesaler And A Retailer?

You definitely can run your business as both a wholesaler and a retailer. This just means that you sell to both consumers and other retail businesses.

It’s a very smart thing to do as it expands your reach in the market further than if you were just a retailer yourself.

Think of it as creating a team of people to expand the reach of your products.

We built our Wholesale Suite extensions around this very premise. It enables businesses who are traditionally only selling to retail customers to expand their business into wholesale sales by adding those features to their existing WooCommerce store.

How Much Should I Pay Retailers For Selling My Product?

How you price your products for wholesale sales is entirely up to you but there are a number of formulas you can use such as cost-based pricing or value-based pricing.

You can read more about pricing wholesale products for retailers here where we’ve discussed the topic in depth.

Putting It All Together

Knowing how to approach retail stores to sell your product is very important for your wholesale distribution efforts, especially in the beginning.

Selling wholesale to retail customers can be very rewarding because you can see your product in real stores and real customers can come and try it and interact with it.

It can generate great brand exposure and give you access to local audiences you might never have been able to reach. Think of it like having a team of people selling your products into markets you would normally never have been able to reach.

Becoming a wholesaler and a retailer is a smart business strategy and one that can help your business grow.

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36 thoughts on “How To Approach Retail Stores To Sell Your Product (2020 Updated)

  1. Hi,
    I need to know how to approach business people by clothing product through telephone. Please help me with step by step it will be very helpful for me.

    1. What if they don’t give us their outlets for keeping our product? Even after it’s a well known product . And we pitched it really well!

    1. If you can make appointments that definitely helps, Jan! Doing the extra research to make sure your products are a good fit is time well spent too.

  2. Hi Josh, that post is really useful , I never seen so good advises on short statement: your site is the basic for everyone who start to sell new product. If it possible, can you please give some tip for to be NOT shy? My product is good, very attractive and useful in interior design business but the retailers are a bit retard (sorry…:o)) I will follow your posts, you are really helpful guy, thank you…:o)) Marta Brash The Nest Home Stager & Interior Design consultant (but now product-maker as well)

    1. Thanks for the comment Marta, glad you found it helpful :)

      Shyness is just something you have to set aside if you want to grow your business. I’m naturally introverted so I understand the situation.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Than you for this info I well definitely put this to use ,I love talking to people and trying to be that sales man, but I will push myself to the edge and jump if I have to get my brand out there. I will look up where they hold the trade shows and star approaching them also. again thank you for this if you don’t try you don’t know .

  4. Thanks for the great read! I never knew that starting a physical retail store is more expensive than starting an online retail store. If I were to expand my retail store, getting my friends and family spreading the word my store would help me get more customers. Also joining business organizations will be a plus as I can learn and teach tips and tricks to and from other business owners.

  5. Hi.. good day.. ur site is very informative.. btw, would also like to to ask how much would be my mark up for my rtw clothings and empanada bread.. thanks

  6. Aloha! Great information thank you kindly. My concerns are that I need to just send a one sentence email and wait for reply to submit my product kinda difficult for one sentence info to me any suggestions please

    1. No reason you have to do just one sentence on your intro email. The shorter the better, but include what you have to so that it makes sense to the person. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi, I opened a natural and organic skincare company a year ago. My website is Lkinsskincare.com I reach out to small local nature stores frequently to introduce my products by making an appointment. The store owner seems receptive to purchasing my products at first however I find when I call them back there not interested. I am getting great feedback from customers who have already purchased them but new customers seem to not want to purchase them because they are unfamiliar with the name. Any tips? I didn’t expect the marketing aspect to be easy but I am confident that I have premium products. Thanks Eileen

    1. Hi Eileen,

      Great work on your business thus far, you’re ahead of the pack. I know a few people who have built companies in the space and its always a hard slog in the beginning, hitting up little boutiques until you get a couple of big breaks into larger stores. Hang in there, you’re doing the process right and if you are getting some traction, try and find out what made that interaction successful and replicate.

      I took a look at your products and while you said its positioned as a premium product, the prices are not in the premium bracket. I would consider raising your retail prices so you have more margin to afford more outreach. See here for a guide on pricing that might help.

      Of course, please take this feedback with a grain of salt, I’m an armchair observer and you know your business best because you’re living it every day and know what your customers are saying. But from a consumer perspective, it doesn’t scream premium to me due to the pricing. Your packaging is nice and looks the part, and while your site could use a little more design work to bring that premium feeling home, but I wouldn’t invest any more there until you’re seeing some numbers.

      Hope this helps in some way!

  8. Hi,
    Thank you for the information. I have online store http://www.woodbrimhats.com. My products are premium and custom made. I want to target high end vendors. I started out doing one offs but now Im shifting to more bulk orders. I’ve made sales with good feedback but would like scale up. I would like to hire a sell rep to pitch my product to stores and boutiques. Do you have any advice for contacting sales rep or buyers?

  9. Hello,
    Thank you for this wonderful article! If I am thinking of pitching to a national retailer to do a pop up just for the holidays, how many pieces would you suggest I offer? I have a limited edition bow tie and pocket square line for the urban peacock: http://www.ruthnathans.com. Not sure if offering my entire collection is the best idea or just a couple of pieces and then offer to do a special designed line for them if they would like exclusivity. Thanks :-)

  10. Thank you for the information! if someone wants to open a shop to experience their product, not for sale, so can you suggest any ideas or retailers who is doing like this. Thanks

  11. Hi,
    I would like some advice please.
    After selling at a fair, I have been approached by two interior design shops to stock my art prints.
    I now want to approach other similar shops with my work. However, I am aware the nature of lifestyle/home interior shops want unusual pieces that aren’t found everywhere. Whilst I can do some exclusives for shops, I want to roll out my main prints but don’t want to put anyone off knowing it’s sold elsewhere.
    What do wholesalers do? Should I use a mile radius, so I could say you will be the only stockists in say 20 miles Etc?
    Any advice would be much appreciated,
    Thank you.

    1. Hey Mel, with this kind of thing, I would say its only a problem when it becomes a problem. Most people just simply don’t care enough and the volumes probably won’t be high enough to cause an issue. But yes you could filter applications by geography and that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do (and also a great way for you to build up your leads list!).

  12. Hi Josh,
    First of all, thank you so much for the useful tips. I also would like to get your opinion on Chain Store Guide websites. There are many websites offers a service to provide most up to date buyers list. These lists are very costly and I am questioning if I really need them, or if I can trust these lists. Seems like each retail stores have their own Supplier application process on their website. Not sure if my application will get lost between thousands of other suppliers.
    What is your opinion?

  13. This wos like on ur mark,get set,goooo.loved it,explanation wos like abc.learnt alot.get more information that I’ve bargain for.thanks alot.ur the best thing happen in 2020 thanks again.

  14. Hi Josh,

    This was a great read and has me strongly reconsidering the dropshipping business model for my company. I’m in the process of launching an online boutique and I’ve been debating on whether to dropship, private label, or pitch to retail stores to carry my product.

    Do you have any recommended resources on the process for distributing product to retailers after closing an agreement? I’m not a wholesaler myself; I order my products from other wholesalers and customize them.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Zanea! How you distribute the products will vary greatly depending on the size of the retailer and how much you are sending them. I would suggest it would be a matter of outlining an ordering process with them and setting expectations about delivery. Hope this might help!

  15. Alll the points are looking effective. It just the matter of time, once your product get in rotation and in demand retailers will automatically starts calling you for the supply. Yes but a proper start is a must. Thanks for the tips.

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