You’ve put in the work, and you managed to secure yourself a meeting with a larger retailer, you’ve celebrated this milestone, but now you’re not quite sure of what to do next.
Catherine from Future Retail and Therese from the Small Business Collaborative answers your most common questions from both the sale and the buying side so that you know what to expect during your meeting and what follow up to do afterwards.
T: Don’t unpack all the samples at once, you will lose control of the flow of the meeting, and the buyers will grab things that they find appealing, and you might miss your chance to present your bestsellers.
Do, ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers. I find meetings, where I lead the conversations by asking questions but do less of the talking, are more successful than if I waffle on about the products for too long.
C: Buyers have well-honed commercial instincts, and they are often very clear about what they do and don’t like. They see hundreds, if not thousands of products every week, so will very quickly be able to identify what they are interested in for their business.
Don’t spend a lot of time talking about your competitors or the market for your product – if you meet a notebook buyer, for example; they will know pretty much everything there is to know about notebooks, including who your competitors are and the marketplace.
Do not attempt to change their minds when they express an opinion about your product. Even if you are convinced it will sell in their stores, if they don’t agree then you will only alienate them by insisting that it sells everywhere else.
That said, they will look to you to understand how your product is selling in general and what your best sellers have been. They like to know what is new and exciting – like everyone else; they are looking for the next big thing.
Don’t be afraid to guide them through your range, but if they aren’t reacting to something, best to move on.
T: Most meetings are either 30 or 60 minutes, and they are not what you see in Dragons Den. They are much more casual, and generally, you will sit around a table and have a two-way conversation about your product range.
I begin with a few minutes of casual conversation before moving on to a few points about the brand; its story, key selling points and what sort of customers the brand appeal to before moving on to showing the product range.
I always plan out in advance the order I will be presenting in. Be intuitive and listen to the buyer, if they are not interested in a product move on to the next. Keep the meeting moving forward and ask for feedback throughout.
Ask if they have any questions and when they are likely to reach decisions. Make sure to thank them for their time and summarise if there are any samples you will be sending etc.
C: The meeting will typically take place in a conference room which could be any size from tiny to quite big, depending on what is free!
Don’t be alarmed if the buyer disappears off halfway through to grab someone else to come in and take a look; this is often a good sign. If they like your products, they may want to show them to a more senior buyer to get their buy-in.
The meeting will be informal, and possibly a little chaotic, so don’t let that throw you off! Relax, be yourself and who knows, it might even be fun!
T: Follow up within 1-2 days and thank the buyer for their time, including a summary of agreements during the meeting and any complementary information you promised. If there’s any information you will be provided later, provide a timeline and list what information you’re expecting from the buyer.
C: Being polite and proactive go a long way with buying teams.
As Therese has already outlined, if you’ve promised to send them something, make sure that you do and that you include all the information on one email, bullet-pointed. Make it as easy and as simple as possible for them.
T: If you hadn’t heard back when you were supposed to, send an email to chase, or phone the buyer. Selection meetings can be moved, so it’s not uncommon to not hear back right away. Be persistent, if you got this far you are too close to let it go just because it’s uncomfortable to send an email or pick up the phone.
C: Buyers receive hundreds of emails a day, so if you don’t get any response from your emails, it’s worth calling them.
Although there is every reason to believe that a positive meeting with a retailer could lead to an order, don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen on this occasion. The fact that you got as far as meeting with them is a massive vote of confidence in your products.
There are hundreds of reasons why a buyer might not place an order with you – from budget constraints to another department covering off a similar product, to the retailer deciding to change direction entirely.
If they do not decide to go ahead with you, there is nothing wrong with asking them for feedback.
Remain positive and stay in touch. Ask if you can come in again when you have your new season range of products and follow up.
Keep nurturing that relationship, and your chances of getting an order from them in the future will be substantially higher.
If you would like some more bespoke help to prepare for your meeting, or have you had a meeting and got the supplier manual and feel a little bit lost and need some help then both Therese and Catherine work with clients 1:1, you can find out more about working with Catherine here and Therese here.
Do come and join in the conversation over in the Small and Mighty Business Community and share your thoughts on wholesaling. Therese is also participating in a Facebook Live Q&A in the group on Wednesday 13th February at 7 pm GMT. It’s free to attend, you just need to RSVP and show up.
Catherine is the founder of Future Retail Consulting and is on a mission to help people create the life they want by growing successful product-based businesses. She helps them make money by developing a clear strategy focused on their product offering, their pricing, and their sales channels.
Catherine brings nearly twenty years of industry expertise and an inspiring passion for product businesses.