How to talk to Retail Buyers

When we created a finished product, we were so excited to start selling it. We didn’t care if it was sold to a small independent “mom & pop” shop or to a large national retail chain. We knew that selling to retail stores is going to be hard and we had to learn how to speak their language.

We went to the International Housewares Trade Show because they have an Inventors Corner where we had the opportunity to pitch to the Pros and get their opinion of our product. The last thing you want to do is create a product that retail buyers don’t want. Jared was the one that invented the product but I’m the one that was excited to actually sell it. Now don’t get me wrong, Jared knows how to sell but Hang-O-Matic was his baby invention and he was nervous to pitch it. It was almost like asking a girl or boy out on a date. You’re just not sure you’re good enough for them. Since I wasn’t the one that created it, then I wasn’t the one being rejected.

At the show we met a lot of retail buyers, big and small and collected many business cards and went home with lots of feedback. Then I started emailing them all to follow up.
I started by pitching the product, what it is and what it does. We received a contact list of attendees from the show, which is so valuable and I used Linkedin. I sent email, after email, I sent about 50 emails a day. I often wondered should I pick up the phone and call but then I got nervous I may get rejected and so I continued to send more email. I quickly realized, that I wasn’t speaking the buyer’s language and that’s why no one was writing me back.

I lacked explaining the problem that HANG-O-MATIC solved. I only talked about what it did and because of that, no one responded. My email came across as cold and spam like everyone else. Retail Buyers get pitched all day long with people and their products. I didn’t want to be insane and keep writing the same pitch. If you keep saying the same thing and not getting a result, something has to change. I knew it was my pitch and therefore I learned how to make it better. I spent most of time looking at others products on Facebook and their Facebook ads and learned what I had to do. I had to mention the problem that a customer would have and this problem had to be relatable to the person who was reading my email and would have this problem themselves and how our product the HANG-O-MATIC would solve it. I also included what the store currently offers and what value the HANG-O-MATIC would add to their profitability of the store. Soon after that the emails were trickling back in and retail buyers started requesting samples after samples.

Here’s a quick sample and please keep your emails short. Mine is 150 words.
Step 1 – Introduce yourself and company. Keep it short
Step 2 – Briefly mention the problem they may have experienced
Step 3 – Share what your product does and add credibility such as sales and/or distribution if you have it plus MSRP. Adding awards in my opinion is not necessary because the customer buying it won’t know that. Retail buyers just want to know how it is selling and making money.
Step 4 – Appeal to Buyers. Describe potential growth in sales. Regardless of what your product is, the buyer will always want to know that you are logistically capable of working with a large retailer and that you can make them a lot of money. Remember, the point of this email is to show how you can help them. Please avoid saying things like it’s a billion dollar industry.
I usually like to end with step 4 because I want to leave an opportunity for a future conversation. I want to make sure they are interested kind of like saving some info for a 2nd date. However if you want to add everything at ones then add Step 5
Step 5 – Provide Cost, minimums and your lead time.
Now when it comes to contacting Buyers, personally I am not afraid to contact as many as I can. I didn’t email all at the same time, but I did email a lot one at a time. The hardest part about contacting buyers, is there are SO many, how would I know which one is the right one that buys for the department that I want my product to be in. In my eyes, emailing each one was the only way. I finally had to stop when a buyer from a store wrote me back within minutes, saying she’s received it 10 times and to please stop emailing any ones.

Here’s an example of my pitch:

“Hi [buyer name],
My name is [your name] and I’m the owner of [your company name]. I think you would agree [problem]. We sell [product type]. Our product sold x amount of units in 2017 and I think it would be a great upsell for your customers. It retails for $14.99 and made in USA.
I’ve attached a photo of our best-selling items for your reference.”
Please let me know if you can point me in the right direction and introduce me to the buyer that handles the picture hanging area, I would love to send them a sample for consideration.
Thank you,
Keep the story short and get straight to the point. Don’t write a long story about yourself or your company history. Have your website name in the signature. DO NOT say things like For More information please visit my website. All the information you want them to have should be included in your pitch and since you’re website is in the signature then they will see it.

If you’re a New Company

If you’re a new company and haven’t sold in retail stores yet and don’t have credibility then I suggest not to pitch Big Box Retailers until you can prove the concept. Buyers want to bring in products they know will sell, so they will be very hesitant to try something that isn’t already showing some traction. If you’re a Shark Tank viewer like I am then you have noticed that the companies without any “proof of concept” have the hardest time convincing the investor! It’s worth putting in the hustle upfront to get whatever it is you need to get the buyer to say yes.

With that said start by pitching to smaller retailers or mom & pop- shop and online retailers like The Grommet. They are more willing to try new products since they’ll only be purchasing a few units per store. Even if you sell 10 units, it’s still a sale and you have new customers and will grow from there.