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Congratulations, you’ve got a meeting with a buyer / reseller… now what?
Well done. You’ve accomplished one of the hardest things for a new business. You’ve gotten an appointment with the store manager/owner, retail buyer, or distributor / reseller who’s willing to listen to your product pitch. Now you need to be prepared.
Be mindful of who needs who
Recognizing who needs who more allows you to realize your bargaining position. Sometimes you need to simply face reality and know you might have to give up a little bit more to start the relationship. This may mean offering a larger discount percentage, being willing to split cases, or reducing your minimum order. It doesn’t hurt to be flexible. Just don’t give away the farm, and be ready to skip a bad deal - even if you really, really want or need it.
Know your costs. Know your prices. Know more.
When you walk into your meeting you should have a solid grasp on your cost per unit, what a case costs, what your minimum order amounts are, where your quantity discount points are, and your MSRP. Of course, these are all things you should already know clearly. But there’s more.
You should also know how your product’s price compares to other options (or similar products) in their store(s). If your product is more expensive, be prepared to justify why it deserves a higher price and why customers will pay more for it. Make sure you’re familiar with their store setup and be ready to recommend where and how your product will be displayed optimally.
Also take notice of how many items are stocked on shelves during display. This can give you an idea of how many each store will need on your opening order. They’ll usually stock double what’s displayed so they can replenish the shelf. So if six are displayed, there’s probably six in the back. If they have ten locations - this translates into a likely opening order of 120 units.
Be ready to discuss how you’re promoting your product and how it can help to create customers for them. Be ready with your current sales figures, major retailer clients, potential new clients, etc. It won’t necessarily come up - but if it does, you don’t want to be caught unaware.
Know how much you can make and how long it takes
Also know the maximum you can produce and ship. This may sound silly, but sometimes opening orders can be large – and that means you’ll need to outlay cash to produce the product and manage the time wisely. So know how much you can make and how long it takes. So if they ask, “when can I have 100,000 units,” you’ll have a reasonable answer.
If you’re dealing with a large chain or retailer you may be asked (or can ask) to participate in a “test order”. It’s an order, but it’s usually a smaller order to stock a dozen or more stores instead of all their locations. This can be a good thing if ramp-up costs are excessive, or the time frame is too aggressive. It allows you to get in the door and prove yourself. Be sure that the stores are good performers or a good mix. You don’t want to be tested in underperforming locations only, or you’re doomed. If you get a test order (or a full order), immediately start investigating what in-store or joint promotional activities are available (e.g., in store promotions, emails, circulars, etc.)
So what should you bring to your meeting?
We always suggest being over prepared rather than under. Have product sell sheets or spec sheets at the ready. Have any research or clinical studies handy too. But most of all, bring plenty of product samples. One of the best ways to convince someone is to allow them to try your product - and sometimes it’s the only way. Or perhaps who you’re meeting with isn’t the final say. So bring enough samples so your buyer can share with others - perhaps colleagues, perhaps a boss.
Notice we didn’t say bring your PowerPoint presentation. It doesn’t hurt to have one, but usually, you’ll be meeting with the buyer / reseller one-on-one and it’s easier to simply talk through your points than to waste time setting up a projector or asking them to hunch over your laptop or iPad. Of course if you need something to help you with your talking points - feel free to print out the PowerPoint presentation and use it as a guide - but concentrate more on building a rapport and looking at the buyer to gauge their body language and level of interest. The PowerPoint can be sent afterwards as reinforcement and a refresher on your product’s benefits and potential. So unless you’re presenting to a large group - keep the PowerPoint as a backup.
And by all means, yes, feel free to watch Shark Tank on TV. Folks always reference that show to us and while it’s not representative of a typical buyer / reseller meeting - it is helpful to learn from what the sharks ask of the presenters. And while you’re not looking for a direct investment from a reseller’s buyer, you are trying to convince them your product is worth the risk and the purchase.
Remember, the buyer will be taking a risk on you
It’s the job of the buyer to find products that sell well to their customers. If they make bad choices they’ll eventually be unemployed buyers. So they’re not generally cavalier with taking on new products or brands. It’s your job to convince them your product will sell and to assuage their fears. The more you can do this, and the more you can demonstrate there’s a demand for your product – and that “their” customers will buy – the better off you’ll be.
Follow Up and Don’t Give Up
If you leave your meeting – whether it was good or bad – don’t get lazy. If the meeting was good and an order is forthcoming, keep in touch and keep pushing for the order. You’ll find it’s a delicate balance between “eager” and “nuisance,” but you need to keep your product fresh in their minds. Their new product cycles might be only a few times a year - so you may have to wait. And during this time you don’t want them to lose sight of you. Send them updates on your product - how it’s selling elsewhere - what’s in the pipeline, etc. You want to keep them excited and gently prod them for their order.
If the meeting goes badly don’t be glum. You should still keep in contact with the buyer, sending them updates and news about your company and products. As you grow and expand their initial fears may fade. If you can demonstrate a customer base and growing demand, they’ll realize your product sells. You’d be surprised how many times an initial “no” turns into a “yes” after six to nine months, when you keep sending them positive news.
So good luck at your initial meeting. Be prepared. Be ready. And no matter how things turn out – don’t give up!
Oct 25, 2013
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