Getting your products onto retail store shelves is not as simple as going to a store and asking them to stock your products. Retail stores are your customers, and you need to convince them that your product is worth their space and money. If you have weighed your options and determined that selling to retail is the right direction for your business, let’s go through ways of actually making that happen:
Start off small
Getting your product into large retail chains right off the bat without any prior exposure is a tough endeavour. One thing you could do is to set yourself up online. Focus on building up an online sales reputation. This sales history will serve you well when competing with the various other vendors that retail stores do business with.
Another thing you could do is to start off local with smaller stores. Many start off selling their products at a farmer’s market or in local shops. Slowly build up a loyal customer base in your local community and expand from there. An existing customer base is a good selling point for your products.
Essentially, big retailers want to keep trustworthy products on their shelves. In order to create that sort of reputation for your products, you need to put that product to the test with positive results to show for it.
Research stores beforehand
Getting to know the stores that you are trying to sell to beforehand will help you in persuading them. Get to know their buying cycles, where the major decision makers network, and their buyer information. This information can be used to improve your pitch and personalise it specifically for the store you plan to pitch to.
Determine which products the stores stock. Are they similar to yours? Compare how they compare to your products on the basis of utility, design, quality etc. This information will help you to explain how your product fits in in that store or how it is better or different from existing products.
Know when to pitch and who to pitch to. A random staff worker is most likely not going to have the power to buy from you. Think about when stores may decide to stock new items or look for new products. These are generally the best times to pitch your product. Get information on the specific person you intend to pitch your product to. When are they most available for a pitch? What kinds of things may sway their opinion?
Make sure the packaging looks good on shelves
Make sure that the packaging for your product works in stores. The labelling and design needs to fit in with the other products in the store while still being unique and eye-catching enough to stand out. Your branding should sufficiently tie in with the retailers branding to an extent.
Store shelves have a limited amount of space. Your packaging should be, in a sense, efficient. Retailers do not want to stock products that take up more space than their margins would allow. You want the retailer to feel comfortable stocking your product. Can it be easily placed onto shelves? Can it handle the process? Does it fit the store aesthetic? These are questions you should consider when designing your product’s packaging.
Align your pitch in terms of how your product benefits the store
As with usual B2B sales, instead of extrapolating on what makes your product great, shift the focus onto how that product serves the retailer’s interests. Your product can be the best there is, but if a similar product already exists in their stores, you need to explain how your product could benefit this retailer.
When speaking about pricing, make sure that you keep their profit margins in mind. The point of buying your product is to make a profit off of it. If your product can’t offer a decent profit, it won’t be worth it in their eyes no matter how good the product is. Obviously, exception exist, but basing your plans on probably exceptions is generally not a smart thing to do.
You could also pitch your business alongside the product. In the B2B world, having trusted business partners is very important. If you can cement your business as one that is worth doing business with in the long-run, you might just be more likely to see your products on those shelves. Of course, prior evidence of some success trumps promises with nothing to actually back them up.
Make sure to get the important details down in your pitch
Apart from pitching just the product, you need to talk about the specifics and the nitty gritty details of your plans. Establish warranty rules, delivery expectations, and the terms of your relationship with the retail store. Disclose the unit cost of the product that takes into account the manufacturing, shipping, and packaging costs.
Discuss how you would like your product to be shown. After all, you are handing some of the selling responsibility to the retailer. It is important for the store to understand your brand identity to be able to showcase that to customers.
It will take time for your product to be accepted into the store or not. During that pending period, you should leave a sell sheet behind as a reminder and summary of the details mentioned in the pitch as well as ways to get in contact with you. If you can’t get in touch with someone, leaving sell sheet in the store may open up an opportunity to get in contact down the line. As an example, a sell sheet may include:
- A comparison of your product against competitors’
- A full layout of your pricing
- A specimen of your product and/or illustrations and photographs of it
- Patent documents for protecting your product idea
- Contact information
Overall, your sell sheet should be eye-catching and memorable while still including pertinent information.
In the beginning, it would benefit you to learn to take “No” for an answer. Not everybody will be receptive to your ideas, but letting it stop you will mean that you will never reach your goals. If people gave up that easily, we would not have gotten Harry Potter or AirBnB!
Look at how you failed the first few times and improve upon it. Perhaps you need to speak to different stores. Perhaps you product needs adjustment. Perhaps your pitch needs a rework. Learn from rejection and you may see your goals becoming a reality.