After working as a independent gift sales representative for over eight years, selling wholesale gift products to retail store buyers, I find so many crafters and producers with great gift products who need help getting their items ready for the market. Selling wholesale is very different from selling at craft fairs and farmers markets. But it is not the overwhelming task you might think it is! It is my desire to share some of the things I have learned over the years to help new producers who are looking to enter the wholesale gift market. In this article, you will learn some simple steps to making a sales presentations. If you find this interesting and helpful, you can check out my blog, Selling to Gift Shops, to find more tips and information.
There are many aspects to selling wholesale: how to price products; how to approach gift buyers; what terms and conditions buyers expect; and so much more. Here I will be giving a few tips to the "newbies" who are just getting their feet wet in the wholesale marketing arena.
Materials you'll need
Believe it or not, there is not many materials you need to make a good presentation to a gift buyer. The only items you REALLY need is a good sample or two of your product(s) and a wholesale price sheet or order form that includes terms and your contact information. Of course, you will need the confidence to get out there and be proud of your product! With a few steps to prepare you for what you can expect at your presentation that I will outline here, will help you on your way to developing the confidence you need!
The Sales Call
There are as many different ways to make a sales call as there are sales people in the field. Everyone uses their own system, but after many years as a sales rep, I found the following system to work best to facilitate sales to gift stores.
PRELIMINARY STEPS TO AN IN-STORE SALES CALL
The first time you enter a potential retail store account spend time studying the store and the products they currently have on their shelves. Do they inventory products that are similar to your products? Look at their various displays of gift products. Will your price point fit into their current merchandising scheme? The information you glean from observing and talking to the employees will give you insight as to which of your products will sell best in the store. But remember to be considerate of the customers visiting the store and do not interrupt a clerk with questions if they are busy assisting customers. Customers come first!
TALKING TO THE STORE BUYER(S)
Once you think you have familiarized yourself with the products and store image, it is time to talk to the buyer or manager. If you feel nervous, remember that even the best sales people are nervous on their first sales calls! Think of every potential store buyer as your potential friend. If you are friendly and pleasant, they are more likely to take the time to talk with you.
With all the hundreds of stores I have visited, I don't recall a time when meeting a potential buyer turned out to be an instant rejection. Buyers are more curious about you and what products you have to offer. If you are excited about your products, your enthusiasm shows in your attitude and will spark their interests enough to want to talk with you.
If you are in a larger store where the buyer and manager are two different people, introduce yourself to the manager first. Making yourself and your purpose known to the manager before you start your sales presentation, often facilitate the managers and the buyer's time during your visit. The manager may be the one to place any initial store orders before turning the buying over to another person. Also, if the manager does not place the product orders, having him introduce you to the buyer gives more clout to your presence and presentation.
A good way to engage the buyer in conversing with you is to ask them about their particular store. Ask open-ended questions - ones that cannot be answered with a simply yes or no -- to start a conversation with the buyer, and learn more about the store. Listening to your buyer's answers to these questions will often aid you in building rapport and trust and help you gather information that will be helpful when leading into your sales presentation. Your purpose is NOT just to sell your products, but to help your buyers see your products as a way to solve their sales problems and to make it easy for them to get your products into their store!
BEGINNING THE SALES PROCESS
If you are fortunate enough to interest a buyer on the first visit, you have your foot in the door! But rather than going directly into your sales pitch, spend time working on developing a relationship as listed above. You need to sell YOURSELF first, before you can sell your products. The most important technique during any successful sales call is to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! By listening effectively, a buyer will tell you what they need to buy for their store even before you show them your products.
Once you have starting building your relationship with the buyer, it is time to introduce your product. Hand the buyer your item, gift or gourmet foods. If the buyer holds the product in their hand, they will begin to take ownership of the item. A subtle, but important point! Tell the buyer briefly about your product and then wait for their response. Answer any questions or concerns. If the buyer seems uninterested, ask them what you could do to your product to make it more appealing to them. Should you lose the sales, at least you will have gained some valuable information.
TAKING THE ORDER
Talking about products and taking an order are two distinct different functions. If you don't ask the buyer if they would like to order your product today, most likely, they will not call you to place it later. As pointed out previously, gifts sales are often emotional and impulsive. Frequently, a response like "I'll think about it and get back to you" is just a lost sale if you don't ask the buyer about the issues or questions they have concerning the product. Believe it or not, buyers WANT to be sold. They are very busy people and you need to make a good impression on them during your presentation. If you wait to follow up for the order at a later time, the buyer may not remember you or your products.
When your buyers are showing interest in your product, it is appropriate to ask them if they would like to place an order today. If they are truly interested in your products, don't let them put off ordering. Buyers, sometimes, have trouble making a decision! Often suggesting a choice is an effective way to make the sale than asking them which one they wish to buy. For example, the jam they are interested in comes in two flavors. "Would you like to order a case of X flavor or Y flavor or a mixed case of both?" Giving the buyer a choice often makes the decision easier.
Another good approach to closing a sale is to assume the buyer has decided to purchase your product, and to ask for the details of their purchase. The details include what color, flavor or scent they want; what quantity they desire, and how soon they would like it to be shipped. When reaching this point in the sale, ask WHAT products they want to buy not IF they want to buy a specific product.
All you need to do now is write up their order. That's all there is to it!