3 Tips to Prepare for a Sales Calls

Most creative producers are challenged and even intimated with selling their products.  I understand the need to spend time working on your craft, but in order to succeed in your business, you need to learn to sell your products.

Sales is a learned skill — no matter how timid or how much you hate selling 3 Tips to Prepare for Sales Calls— you can learn the techniques successful sales people use.

Even with all my years of experience in sales, I still read books and articles from the experts on selling effectively.

One of my favorite blogs on the subject is Sales Gravy.  Following is an excerpt from an article written by Anthony Iannarino, President and Chief Sales officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing:

3 Keys For Designing an Effective Sales Call Plan

Value First – If you want to have a successful sales call, there isn’t a much better place to start than asking yourself what your prospective client needs from you at this stage of their process? What are they going to find most valuable? Listen, you are not successful unless your dream client believes that spending time with you was of greater benefit to them than spending that time with someone else, or working on something else.

Create a Preference – No one… wants to look at this issue, because it is a variable that isn’t easy to control or influence.You are supposed to  be creating a preference for you, your company, and your solution. You are supposed to sell in such a way that people would prefer to work with you over anyone else. You need to be known, liked, and trusted.  … Remember, you are vying for a position on your dream client’s team, and if they don’t choose you, there is a reason. Serving them where they are will give you a good start.

Control the Process – If you want to have an effective sales call, it has to do the work of creating enough value that you earn an absolute right to the next commitment. This means you need to know what commitment you need, and you have to help your dream client understand (the value your product is to their store) ……  trading the value necessary to move forward improves the odds of gaining the next commitment, and it ensures success.

If you are interested in more sales information, you can read the full article or access the many excellent articles posted on the Sales Gravy website.

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When is the Best Time to Approach Buyers?

Best time to approach buyers is when they are ready to buy!

I get asked this often, and they are numerous different answers to that question.

First let me list the time when you should NOT approach buyers:

  • Friday at 4:00 pm When is the Best Time to Approach Buyers?
  • After 6 other people have given their sales presentation before you
  • On a weekend
  • Before you have your sales material or full samples ready

But seriously, each store and each different area of the country can have a different time frame in which they buy products.

My Idaho Schedule

In Idaho, which is a very touristy state, I typically starting my sales routes in March, as soon as the roads were safe (and free from snow and ice) to travel on.  Typically, my buyers were not really in the mood to buy until it looked like winter was over.

On the other hand, in the Boise area, which is the largest population center in the state, I either visited or called customers in January/February as I knew their inventory would be low after the holiday season.

The Spring buying season lasted until around mid-May, so I made sure to contact every store before that date, knowing they needed to have product in their stores by the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May.

I continued to contact the high population and high tourist shops, checking inventory to make sure they did not sell out before the big 4th of July weekend.

After the 4th of July, sales, for me, slowed down some, while I retooled for holiday selling.  Then in late August, I was back on the road (or phone) presenting new holiday products and taking re-orders for gift boxes and other gift items.  The holiday buying season typically ended in early November after buyers had filled their open-to-buy for the after Thanksgiving holiday season.

I never visited buyers after Thanksgiving as most of them were way too busy with customers to talk to a sales rep.  Although, I did phone high-traffic stores to make sure they were not running out of inventory too early in the season.

Now, back to the question:  When is the Best Time to Approach Buyers?

Here are some suggestions from other experts:

  • Pitch buyers a 9-12 months ahead of the season (especially if they are a larger retailer)
  • Pitch your products during the time that the trade shows are promoting products
  • Ask your buyers when they will be open-to-buy and contact them early when they are ready to buy
  • Keep track of your buyer’s buying trends and pitch them during that time frame.

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Best Practices for Beginners to Selling Wholesale

Over the years, new producers have shared their stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly when working with their first wholesale buyers.

My heart goes out to these folks as I know their passion and determination – but I also see how their inexperience hurt their endeavors.

I still remember my first sales trip from northern Idaho down to the Boise area selling Lewis & Clark chocolate bars to gift shops along the way.  Although, I had no experience selling wholesale, I was fortunate to have years of experience in sales and manage to do well enough  – at least according to the low expectations I had at the time.

Over the years, I learned by trial and error what worked and what did not work when selling to retail buyers and became successful.

I have lots of resources, like the following, to help you set up the systems you need BEFORE you talk to your first buyer.  Check out the free report below:

Quick Start Guide for Setting Up Wholesale Systems

Best practices for beginners to selling wholesaleBest Practices for Beginners to Selling Wholesale

  1. Start small when first getting your feet wet in wholesaling. In other words, don’t try to get into Walmart your first time out.  Start with smaller independent stores where the buyer/owner is probably right on site to talk with you when you visit the store
  2. Be professional and confident about your product or line of products. Don’t give the buyer the impression that you don’t know what you are talking about or that you are desperate to make the sale.  Most buyers have a 6th sense and can spot a newbie within seconds of the meeting.
  3. If you worked through the systems listed in the document linked above, you should have a good standard wholesale price.  In order to conduct your business in a professional manner (and according to the guidelines in the Robinson Patman Act), your wholesale price is your wholesale price to every store you deal with.  If the buyer hints at wanting a discount or lower price, he/she is taking advantage of your inexperience.  Selling wholesale should not embrace a flea market mentality.  Your prices are your prices (unless the buyer wants a large opening order where you can extend a discount on XX items – as long as you adopt that policy for all your stores).
  4. Never over promise. If it is going to take several weeks to fill the order, tell them a bit longer than you think it will take. Then, if you get it done before the due date, the buyer will be pleasantly surprised and impressed when the order arrives early.  It is always better to under promise and over deliver.
  5. Be very careful about special or custom orders. Do them, if you want, but make sure you have a full commitment up front before proceeding.  We often ask for 50% down before starting a custom order.
  6. You are in charge! This is your line of products and if the first buyer you approach does not buy, there may be someone down the street that will!

Last, but not least, buyers are people just like you and I.  I got through some of those first sales calls by remembering …. store buyers are just friends you haven’t met yet!

 

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Why Won’t Buyers Buy?

There are over 101 reasons why buyers won’t buy your products.  As a former road sales rep, I think I have probably heard all 101 of them!!

As a sales rep, I was able to visit a store, see what type of products they Why Won't Buyers Buy?did carry, and pitch them on the lines I had that I thought would work in their store.  In other words, after a while, there was very few stores I visited that didn’t buy something I had.

With single producers, having a line of complimentary products — such as a line of earrings, necklaces and pendants — makes it necessary to be more focused on which stores or buyers you talk to.

Following is excerpt from an excellent article from Clare Yuille with Indie Retail Academy discussion some of the main reasons why buyers don’t buy.

“But what am I doing wrong?”

1. Your wholesale price or terms and conditions are off.

Your lovely thing might be too expensive – or too affordable – for the stores you’re approaching. If your work is on the pricey side compared to similar items, the reasons for that should be obvious…

Whatever it is, I should know why you charge more than your competitors within three seconds of opening your pitch.

The same goes if it’s less expensive. If you make a budget or no-frills item that still appeals to shoppers, that should be immediately clear.

Your terms of business might be another obstacle.

If, for example, your minimum order is $500 but your lovely thing has a wholesale price of $2.50, you’re expecting retailers to make a huge investment in an untested product (and find somewhere to store it all until we can fit it on our shelves.)…

2. You’re approaching the wrong stores.

If you’re doing everything right when you pitch to retailers and you’re still not getting anywhere, those are the wrong damn retailers…..

But part of that process is selling to stores who match where you are right now. And if you’re just starting out, that might look very different to what’s in your head.

The bottom line is that if you’re not getting any traction with the retailers you’re pitching to, it’s time to find some new ones. Hearing no all the time sucks.

If you are not having much success with selling to buyers, I would compare the above tips and see if they help improve your sales ratio.

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Avoid these Five Wholesale Mistakes

There are times when I run across an article that there is just not one thing I could add to make it clearer or better or more precise.

The following article from Lela at Lucky Break Consulting is one of those article:

5 COMMON WHOLESALE MISTAKES (and how you can avoid them)Avoid these Five Wholesale Mistakes

1. Offering your wholesale partners a pricing structure that’s less than 50% off your retail.
Wholesale partners expect preferential pricing on the order of 50% off your suggested retail prices. I’m keenly aware that those margins can be a bit tricky, but artisans and makers don’t enjoy a free pass from retailers when it comes to pricing. They think of every square foot of shelving as real estate, and the more money they can make on any single square foot, the better…

2. Choosing the wrong stores to approach.
Not every store is a good fit for your brand and there’s an art to knowing where to invest your time. Continually pursuing shops which aren’t a good fit drains energy and has the potential to reshape the story that you tell yourself about your business….

3. Creating obstacles to ordering.
Today’s retail buyers are truly spoiled for choice. The artisan marketplace is becoming increasingly dense and I’ve noticed that those who are ultimately successful have three things in common…

Long lead times: Retailers need a quick turn-around on orders, since empty shelf space equals missed opportunities and lower profitability.

Too-high minimums: Wholesale pricing is based on volume and minimums are a necessity when it comes to selling to stores… If the minimums you attach to your product range are too high, you’ll scare good buyers away.

Inconvenient ordering systems: Requiring that buyers call during business hours or complete a handwritten order form creates an unnecessary speed bump….. Creating a mechanism through which buyers can place online orders 24 hours a day should be a high priority if wholesale is a primary focus for your business.

4. Jumping into wholesale before you’re ready.
… Many of the brands that I see that have a strong desire to tackle wholesale aren’t yet ready for wholesale because their brand presentation is holding them back….

Selling into stores is somewhat of an advanced strategy. I recommend learning to crawl before you learn to run, and that often means focusing on direct-to-consumer retail efforts until pricing structures, production processes, and brand presentation are refined and ready to rock for wholesale.

5. Not following up with buyers after pitches and/or after you make the sale….

I recommend following up with retailers a week or so after their first order to ensure that everything arrived as expected. Sending a short + sweet email demonstrates that you care about this account beyond simply making that first sale, and it sows the seeds of relationship building.

Communicate at least once per quarter via a wholesale-specific newsletter that’s dispatched to all of your current stockists simultaneously… Check in to discover how sales are going, ask if you can help with anything, tell them that you’re cheering them on. These efforts show that you’re invested in the account while keeping your brand top-of-mind, too.

… think of wholesale pitching as sowing seeds. Very rarely will you see instant results….You’ll need to revisit that seed with an occasional sprinkling of water and lashings of sunshine in order to nurture it. Wholesale isn’t a one-hit-and-done sort of affair. You’re playing the long game and results sometimes take 6-12 months to see. Patience, grasshopper!

Could not have said it better myself!!

 

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