Securing deals with retailers is often the most difficult task of all for small firms. Business owners will try anything to grasp buyers’ attention, from phoning, emailing, and using social media, to sending samples. Some even turn up in person, unannounced hoping a get the chance to chat to or demonstrate the product face-to-face. Those who manage to arrange a meeting in person are half way there, however the pitch is perhaps the most daunting stage for any entrepreneur.
Most important of all is a thorough understanding of your brand and who your target audience is. Once you’ve established that, you can determine the right retailers for your product. Grace Foder of the Jemma Kidd Make Up School insists that retailers are constantly looking for new, exciting and interesting products and brands, therefore it is paramount that you can demonstrate just what it is that makes your product stand out from the crowd. If you’re confident that you’ve got a great and innovative product, this should be fairly easy to convey, however it is essential you deliver a polished and well rehearsed presentation.
It’s fairly easy to find the names of the buyers for each retailer; a quick phone call to the head office or reception of the company should be enough to get the name and contact details you need. Many small businesses find that cold calls and emails are the only way to get in touch with buyers, so make sure your email or phone pitch has value. Research what the retailer already sells and then introduce your product by explaining how it would fit in, or add diversity, to their range.
Pitching to retailers
With regards to pitching, be sure to do your research. A thorough investigation into the shop you’re pitching to is fundamental, as well as a detailed study of your competitors in the market. There is nothing worse than being caught off guard by not knowing your facts and figures, so make sure you’re fully prepared.
Grace Foder highlights the importance of researching the products the retailer already stocks, and doing a product-by-product comparison, complementing what they have already with your new products. You need to show them how and where your brand will fit into their store and why they need it on their shelves.
The way you open your pitch is crucial. Mike Woods, founder of the Just Love Food Company, which creates nut-free cakes for allergy sufferers, suggests starting with an unknown and surprising fact or a quote from an established organisation that is independent from your business. This can be a great way to grab their attention and keep buyers interested, while communicating to them that you’ve done your research. Once you’ve caught their attention, explain clearly why consumers need your product, and back up your argument with facts or statistics.
Having introduced your product, the best way to entice buyers is to start demonstrating straight away, advises Neil Westwood from Magic Whiteboard. There can be no better sales tool than physically showing them innovative merchandise, but make sure you are honest. Exaggeration and embellishment is easily detected by buyers. They’ve seen it all before, so keep your pitch sincere and to the point.
If you’re struggling to make contact with buyers, trade shows can be a great way into the retail market. Booking a stall at a trade fair is fairly easy to do, however they can be quite expensive. Be sure to check all the costs properly before agreeing to a stall, because the price may exceed the overall benefits. That said, there are some very worthwhile trade shows, particularly food fairs and seasonal events.
Trade shows worth investigating for food products:
Many of the major supermarkets host special days where smaller suppliers can meet the buyers. Some of the larger chains have pledged to support more locally produced goods in recent years, and they often hold several events a year where they invite small suppliers to showcase their products.
Look out for: