Step 1 – Anyone can get their product into retail stores. You just need to have a good product with attractive packaging that appeals to most people. If you can convince the buyer what problem you’re product solves and how they can profit from it then you shouldn’t have a problem getting your product on shelves of retail stores. Buyers are always looking for new and innovative products. That’s how they maintain their position. They always look for new products to bring in. If you pitch your product to them, you are doing making their job easier.
Step 2 – You don’t have to be a big company and you don’t have to have many products. We just have one product, one color, one SKU and that was enough to sell our buyers. When we launched Hang-O-Matic at the International Housewares Trade Show we met a lot of different people and many told us that Big Box stores will not work with 1 SKU companies and clearly that is not true. Don’t be discouraged and go ahead and pitch.
Step 3 – Packaging, we’ve talked about this before on our YouTube Channel. It must be clear as to what is inside. We invite you to check out the video link here http://bit.ly/RetailPackaging
Step 4 – Do your research. Visit the store you want to sell your product to and compare your product to the ones that are already selling. This will help you to have a better conversation with your retail buyer and it will help you to find your right buyer by knowing the department they buy for.
Step 5 – Avoid Vendor Departments. Depending on the store, you can try calling main number and asking for the buyer that you are looking for but most likely the main number is a gatekeeper and won’t help you. If you fill out forms on their corporate website, most likely they will be unanswered or get lost in the black hole.
Step 6 – You can find the right buyer on LinkedIn. There are 3rd party companies like http://www.chainstoreguide.com/ that sells lists but we personally don’t think you need to spend $600 on a list when you can find them online for free. You can easily find buyers on LinkedIn and then connect with them and ask them who may be the right person for you to reach out to. Some of the buyer’s job titles on LinkedIn may be buyer, sr. buyer, assistant buyer, category manager, category merchant, and category coordinator just to give you a few examples.
Step 7 – Make nice with assistant buyers. Buyers start their career as assistant’s buyers and eventually become buyers. In fact be nice to all buyers because this is a high turnover position and the buyer can end up in a future retailer you want to sell to.
Step 8 – Vendor Day also known as Open Buying Day. You can Google open buying day or I suggest creating a Google Alert like I have that way Google send me notifications in email when something comes up. You can go to one of these buying days and get an opportunity to sit face to face with your buyer and pitch them your product. Some open buying days may require you to register for an invitation. Some retailers may have a fee, every retailer’s runs their business different. Hardware stores may have two open buying days per year and Walmart has one annually at the end of June usually around the 28th and require registration. Generally Walmart does open buying days for products made in USA. Another great opportunity to meet buyers face to face is at Trade Shows such as International Housewares Trade Show, Hardware Trade Show, ABC Toy Trade Show, CES, etc. There’s a show called ERA for As Seen on TV companies for a licensing opportunity.
Step 9 – It’s a number game, you have to pitch a lot of stores to get one and you will hear a lot of No’s and you will have to follow up and keep trying. Buyers get moved into new departments and you can have another opportunity to pitch a new buyer at the same store. You can even pitch a buyer in a different department if your product may fit into more the one area. For example we knew that HANG-O-MATIC belongs with all the picture hanging products but we also thought it would do well at the register and at Hobby Lobby that’s where it is at checkout meanwhile at Bed, Bath and Beyond its will all the picture hanging hardware. When you pitch your product be sure to use a relatable situation that your product solves that the buyer may have experienced. If for example you’re pitching a product for cats but your buyer may like dogs then they won’t be able to relate to this problem your product solves so make sure to use most relatable situations that appeal to all.
Step 10 – Don’t give up. It takes time and effort. It can take a short or a long time to get into a store. Some buyers don’t write back within a week or two or more and you have to follow up. You may pitch a buyer and then follow up three weeks later just to find out they are no longer there and then have to start all over. If you have a good product and get many No’s then most likely there’s a problem with your Pitch and you need us to help with it.