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How To Build A Lasting Wholesale Partnership

wholesale partnership

A strong wholesale partnership starts by ensuring that the relationship is beneficial to both the distributor (supplier) and the buyer. It’s a two-way street and to have a good relationship, whether you are the supplier or whether you are the customer, there has to be a level of compatibility.

This is why, for you as a distributor, identifying the right customers is really important. If you find the right customers in the first place, it can mean that you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle dealing with the wrong people later down the track.

Focus on buyer-supplier relationship building

There are many benefits to focusing on buyer-supplier relationship building. It lets you, as a supplier of goods, create lasting bonds with the people that are actually selling your product when you have a focus on buyer-supplier relationships. Also, if you are focused on making them as strong as they can be, it will benefit many other areas in your business as well.

It can improve things like your overall customer support. It can also force you to focus on things like efficient shipping and ordering processes. This means that your wholesale customers will be more likely to want to deal with you and order more as a result.

This article is going to teach you exactly how to build a lasting wholesale partnership with your customer so that you can both benefit.

There are three steps to building strong wholesale partnerships:
  1. Create a wholesale recruitment funnel
  2. Offer assistance in unexpected ways
  3. Make every customer feel special

Building a lasting wholesale partnership is not rocket science and most of it is common sense. There are many benefits of building a strong buyer-supplier relationship because it can turn into more orders, larger orders and professional friendships.

1. Create a wholesale recruitment process

As mentioned in the introduction identifying the right customers is really important. If you find the right customers that actually want to do business with you, you’re likely to sell more to them with less resistance.

The key to this is creating a wholesale recruitment process that filters out the bad customers from the good. If you filter out the people that you don’t want to do business with, the ones that are less compatible with your business, you’re safe. Not only that, you will find that the customers you do attract will be more loyal and willing to make larger orders.

To create a wholesale recruitment process you need to design a funnel. A funnel is a way for you to pre-qualify people and businesses and make sure that they are the right people you want to be talking to.

The two main ways that new wholesale customers will find you:
  • Organically – meaning that the customers find you on their own either via searching or by browsing your website and getting in touch
  • Outreach – this can be by using paid advertising or cold contact (such as cold calling or cold email and even direct mail).

We covered outreach quite thoroughly in our guide on wholesale marketing strategies so if you want to learn more about outreach I suggest that you read that article.

I’m going to define the process assuming that you already have somebody coming to your website based on one of the above methods. Here is what a typical wholesale recruitment process looks like:

Step 1 – The Wholesale Landing Page

Your wholesale landing page probably the most important page in your wholesale WooCommerce wholesale site. It’s your opportunity to introduce potential wholesale customers to your business and tell them exactly why they should become a wholesale partner.

The key to a good wholesale landing page is to make it all about the benefits to the wholesale partner. If they can clearly see the benefits of joining your program and buying products from you rather than your competitors, it will make it easier to capture their details.

The other task of the wholesale landing page is to act as a gateway so that you can start eliminating the wrong kinds of customers.

For example:
  • You can give hints about the size of the company’s you’re looking to partner with
  • Talk about the types of companies you wish to work with (eg. retail shops)
  • You can eliminate people based on geographic location
  • And any other precondition

What you’re looking to do is narrow the field and only have the people that you’re interested in getting in contact with you.

At this stage, it is not even worth considering the actual conversion rate of the landing page. What you would need to figure out first is if the landing page is doing the job of eliminating the wrong people. Once you know that it is, then you can work on optimizing the process to boost the conversion rate of the page itself.

So to sum up, a good landing page will:
  1. Be benefits focused
  2. Eliminate the wrong kinds of customers
  3. And get the right kind of customer to contact you

Step 2 – Approvals System

Ideally, the output of your wholesale landing page is going to be customers registering or contacting you to join your wholesale program. Instead of having your customers automatically gain access, it’s often desired to have an approval system. This is so you can moderate who is accepted and who is not. An approval system will let you do this.

We have built a similar technique directly into the WooCommerce wholesale lead capture plugin. It handles all of the approvals for you.

When you customize submissions on your registration form, it should put that person into a holding pattern. It helps you judge based on the information that was submitted whether they’re eligible to be part of your wholesale program or not.

If they are eligible, then you would move on to the next step which would be introducing yourself and getting them to sign a wholesale partnership agreement.

If they’re not eligible, this is the point where you cut ties and don’t allow them into your program. I think it’s important that you don’t stuff people around. If you lead somebody on knowing full well that they are not a good fit for your business it is just a waste of everybody’s time.

Step 3 – Onboarding

The last step in your recruitment process is onboarding. It’s really important that you have a process in place for onboarding a new wholesale customer so that they can quickly get up to speed with how you do things.

The onboarding process can be as simple as an introductory email or a PDF. If you want to get really fancy with that, you can set up a special area on your website that is only visible to wholesale customers and gives them all the information they need to get started. Ensuring that your customers have an abundance of information is better than not having anything at all.

Things that you can put into your onboarding sequence can be:
  • A how to order guide
  • A guide on how to present your products to their customers
  • A best practices checklist
  • Information about returns and refunds
  • Details about shipping and the types of couriers that you use
  • Reminders about the minimum order requirements

2. Offer Assistance in Unexpected Ways

It’s your job as a supplier to offer as much help to your customers as you can. When they win you win. It’s surprising how many companies will do a great job of recruiting wholesale customers but once they’re on board tend to neglect them.

“[..] acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one” – Harvard Business Review

The same holds for wholesale customers. If you can build a stronger relationship with your existing customers, with the view to increasing orders, it’s much cheaper than acquiring brand new customers. Sometimes all it takes to build a good relationship is to offer assistance in unexpected ways.

If you take a genuine interest in how your wholesale partners are selling your products and provide them with advice on how they can sell it better then they will thank you for it. So how can you do that? We’ve put together a list of a few ways that you can help your customers sell more of your product

Send Them Samples

A huge missed opportunity is that many companies only send samples to potential new customers. If you send samples of products to your existing customers, you can encourage them to order products they wouldn’t have normally ordered. This is great if you have a large catalog.

Wholesale Partnership

Schedule A Catch-up Meeting

After you’ve on-boarded your customer and they placed a few orders, make a time to catch up with them either informally or formally. You can do a site visit, as in actually go and see them or you can do this over Skype all Google Hangouts.

The purpose of this meeting is to find out more about how they are presenting your products. Also what they are struggling with, and what they need to succeed in order to sell more.

Review Their Account Annually

You can ask to review every wholesaler account on an annual basis. This is to make sure that they’re meeting their minimums and that they are still a good fit for your company.

Conducting a review of all of your wholesale customers can let you identify which customers are performing and which customers are struggling.

For the former, you could allocate more resources so they can do even better next year. For the latter, you might like to schedule another catch-up meeting to see what is holding them back and how you might be able to assist. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of extra care to get them back on track.

Joint Promotions

If you have a large wholesale customer it might make sense to conduct a joint venture. This can take many forms but the most common in this kind of relationship is a joint marketing effort. If your customer has visibility to an audience that you don’t, it can be a great way to expand your influence while also lining their pockets.

3. Make Every Customer Feel Special

A sure-fire way to keep your wholesale partners happy is if you make them feel special. This is all about surprising and delighting your wholesale customers with something unique to them and their needs. It shows that you care about their business and the relationship that you have.

There’s a number of ways you can make a customer feel special. I have created a few tactics below that you can apply in your business right now, try them on your next order.

A Surprise Coupon

A surprise coupon is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a coupon that they aren’t expecting that is completely personalized to them. The key is that it’s personalized and it’s not an offer that you’re giving to everybody.

What kind of discount should you get? This depends entirely up to you. The things that work well are a percentage off, a discount off a new product range, buy one get one offers, a discount or some other incentive if they hit a certain order threshold for the month, and any other offer that you could generate with a coupon.

Unexpected Free Shipping

Free shipping is a tricky one because it depends on the size of your product and how expensive it is to ship. If you can afford to give free shipping it’s a great incentive.

It can give your wholesale partners the motivation to make extra orders or larger orders beyond what they would normally do.

If free shipping is expensive for you to offer then perhaps you can tie it in with a minimum order amount to make it worth your while.

Free Products

To a wholesale partner, there’s nothing quite like receiving free units. This can take the form of samples of new products. Another option is perhaps throw in some extra units in their next order along with a note.

You can even use it to introduce them to other products in your range, things that they wouldn’t normally order.

Hot tip: You can automate this process with conditional coupons.

Establishing Good Relationships with Wholesale Partners

I think it’s important for wholesale distributors/suppliers to understand what to look for in their customers. It is another indicator that you can use to tell whether a potential wholesale partner is a good fit or not.

After a while, you’ll get a good feel for it:

  • They know about ordering minimums
  • They’ve done research on your product
  • They reach out for help if they need it
  • They’re in regular contact with you, but also don’t bother you with trivial things
  • They pay on time or ahead of time
  • They’re professional at all times

What you’re really looking for is a comfortable working relationship. One that you don’t have to stress about and worry whether they are going to order or not. At the end of the day it’s a two-way street and to have a good relationship there has to be a sense of mutual trust and respect.

author avatar
Josh Kohlbach CEO
Josh is the founder of Rymera Web Co, the makers of Wholesale Suite and many other plugins. He's a business marketing geek and chronic reader; you'll often find his nose buried in some obscure book.

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