Getting a big retailer to pick up your product is tough. Take a walk through any big retailer, though, and you'll see small brands that have made their way onto the shelves next to mega brands.
How does a small business break into a big box store? Here are a few tips on convincing buyers your product is the one for them.
- Create a realistic price. Review the products that most closely compete with yours in the retailer you are targeting. This should give you a likely price point and help you see if your cost is realistic. These comparisons can only help. You won't be as easily dismissed if you're realistic.
- Know your product. Most retailers are well aware of the value of innovation, although some are more risk-averse than others. If you can express compelling reasons why this retailer would be successful with the innovations your product offers, you'll likely get a more positive reception. Having a clear understanding of the benefit or solution you are offering to the retailer's customer base will show that you really understand your product, its unique selling points and the retailer.
- Make it personal. Find a way to make a personal contact. Who you know will greatly increase your chances of making a sale. Even if your first contact is via LinkedIn, email or phone call, you will be more likely to succeed if you can say you were referred by someone the retailer knows.
- Pitch to the right person. It's also critical that you talk to the right person, because large companies have a lot of people with different roles and budgets. Focusing your attention on the right person will save you a lot of time. You might want to go into a local store and engage the store manager; making this initial connection will more likely give you a contact (see above) for the head office if you can demonstrate how your product will make an impact on the local community.
- Embrace the butterflies. Very, very few of us are born public speakers, and having to make a pitch when the pressure is on just makes it worse. But that's okay. Most people recognize enthusiasm when they see it and discount nervousness and sweaty palms. Don't fight it! What may happen is you'll fumble for a few minutes then start to feel a whole lot better once you warm to the task.
- Be optimistic. Never think a buyer won't want to be bothered by your little product. Remember all buyers really want great products, and they don't care if you are a small or mammoth business as long as you can deliver what they want, when they want it and in the quantities they want it.
- Get the numbers right. Retailers may look for turnover per facing, meaning that each product on the shelf should turn over a certain amount in a week or units per branch per week (a favorite of supermarkets). They will also focus on profit per unit, so if they make $1 gross profit per sale on your product but make 25 cents profit on a product already on the shelf, then they effectively have to sell four times as much of the other product. That's great for you. Getting these figures is not easy, and you may need friends in the industry to get all the insider info. Having figures will probably impress the buyer more than a flashy PowerPoint presentation, too.
- Impress them. From a buyer's perspective, two things must be very clear:
- What customer need you're meeting
- The commerciality of the product
Buyers are on constant high alert for products that will delight customers and be commercially successful. If you can strike that balance, you stand a much better chance of getting onto a buyer's list.
Follow up. A successful pitch is only the beginning of negotiations. Now come discussions of volume, pack sizes, distribution, delivery requirements and so forth. You may also have to provide audits or certification to prove you meet the companies green, ethical or other compliance standards.
Support is available from your local Small Business
& Technology Development Center to help you with marketing, sales and business management issues.
This story was featured in the September 2012 newsletter