How To Approach Retail Stores To Sell Your Product (2018 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.

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 To Retailers: What You Need To Know

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 organised 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 maximising 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.

Selling Wholesale To Retailers

As mentioned, selling wholesale to retailers is a great way to bring brand awareness and skyrocket your growth. Learning how to approach retail stores to sell your product is an important step to doing that.

We recently published a huge guide on wholesale marketing strategies wholesale distributors can use to attract customers, get orders and increase sales.

When selling wholesale to retailers the principles are the same, but I’m going to go through a few interesting techniques with you that are specifically tailored for talking with retail stores.

There are 3 primary ways to approach a retail store:

  1. In-person
  2. Head office meetings
  3. Direct mail

Selling Wholesale To Retailers

Attracting customers always starts with making a list.

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

The first 20 will be easy to come up with, but after getting the next 80 into your list will be a challenge and you’ll need to enter research mode to find the retail stores that will fit the criteria that you’re after.

Once you have your list, it’s time to execute.

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 personalised 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 & personalise – direct mail works best when you personalise it to the recipient
  2. Send daily – consistency is key if you want 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 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]

How To Pitch Your Product To A Store

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 or Doodle
  • Tell them you’re in the area (even if you’re not)

2. 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. Customise 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

What is a product sell sheet? It’s a single piece of paper that tells your customer 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 call out box just for your call to action. It should draw the eye immediately. Make it another colour, bold the text, give it space, whatever you have to do to draw the eye.

4. In-person or not?

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 demonstration 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.

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.

Here’s a recap to put it all together:

There are 3 primary ways to approach retail stores:

Selling Wholesale To Retailers

The process always starts with you making a list of prospects.

In-person is great for demonstrating physical products, don’t be shy to go and visit your prospects. You never know what an in-person meeting might lead to.

Head office meetings are essential for breaking into large retail groups, but make sure you do your research to ensure you are speaking to the right person.

Finally, direct mail is great for when you scale up – you can use it as a lead into in-person meetings too.

When you are in a meeting pitching your product to a store make sure you are prepared, you conduct a great product demonstration following the tips given above, and you ask for the sale.

A product sell sheet is also hugely beneficial as it gives additional information and a final call to action.

Comments & Questions

  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. 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

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