This is a guest post by Sara Lancaster, Founder and Creative Director at The Condiment Marketing Co.
In some cases, you can walk into a local shop, drop off a sample of your food product, and end up with shelf space easily. However, it’s not typically that simple, especially at larger retail operations.
To get the retailers and distributors you need to sell more product, there are a few things that must be done first. Like….
Practice your pitch. When you know your brand, which includes your business vision, your unique selling position, and a well-rehearsed elevator speech, selling can become second nature. Not only will you articulate your message well in person or on the phone, but you’ll also be able to create marketing materials that sell.
Create professional, branded sales materials. In addition to a website and active social media profiles, have a sales sheet, price sheet, and order form at the ready. All three of these documents should look slick and get the message across quick.
Side note, a sales sheet, price sheet, and order form can be one document versus three documents. However you choose to do it, include tasty pictures, serving suggestions, a quick description of what makes your product different, and contact information.
Do your research. Make sure your product is a good fit for the store (and vice versa). Find contact information for the grocery buyer (sometimes also called a vendor manager) in your category. Some retailers have one buyer for the whole store, and others have a buyer for individual categories like meat, cheese, etc.
Tracking down contact info can be tedious. Start with the retailer’s website, then a LinkedIn search, then an industry association list, and then a phone call to the corporate office.
Ask more questions and listen. The truth is that retail store owners, managers, and buyers are only people. They are not someone to be feared, just understood. Yes, you need to get comfortable with cold calling and rejection, but it’s all worth it when you create those profitable relationships.
Once you get the right buyer on the phone, don’t provide more information than necessary. Ask what information they need to consider your product. Ask detailed questions about their best vendor relationships. Ask how you can serve them. Ask what would make their life easier.
Many of us think the act of sales is about pitching our amazing product, but it’s not. Sales is about solving a problem for the buyer. With that in mind, do you know what problem you solve for your buyers? Maybe it’s filling a hole in their catalog or helping to promote their store online. You won’t know until you ask.
Once you have placed your product on the shelves of a retailer, the relationship requires nurturing. Plan on follow-up phone calls and emails, in-store sampling events, social media promotional posts, thank you cards, and coffee dates.
Do whatever your creative mind comes up with to move more product off those shelves. Your retail partners will love you for it. Better yet, they’ll make more orders.
Sara Lancaster is the Founder and Creative Director at The Condiment Marketing Co., an agency that specializes in content marketing for growing food businesses. For more information about sales sheets and retailer relationships, see The Condiment Marketing Co. blog and her latest book for food businesses, How to Make Your Food Biz Look BIG.