15 Steps to Sell Your Product in Retail Stores
BY: AUSTIN ANDRUKAITIS ON WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2019
Are you an entrepreneur that dreams of seeing your products on the shelf of a major retailer? Creating a new product, or improving on an old one, is the first step to making your distribution dreams come true. Still a hot product won’t sell itself – you are going to need a retailer to push your market changing product in front of consumers. This is where store research, planning, knowledge of market conditions, and a marketing strategy separates great products from sold products, and ultimately dreamers from millionaires.
Here are 15 steps designed to get your product from your bookshelf to the store shelf.
1) Evaluate Your Product
Before jumping into shark infested waters, ask yourself a few basic questions about the product you want to push to retailers. Is there a demand for the product? Have you identified specific retailers that would be interested in your product? Does your product satisfy a want or need of the consumers that frequent your target retailers?
Remember that retailers are all about profit margins. Your product needs to provide high profit margins, stop-and-stare visuals, and not take up copious amounts of space on their shelves (unless in high demand).Plus their customers must like your product. In the end, retailers see a product that makes a profit and makes their customers happy as a win-win.
2) Brand Yourself
One of the fastest ways to gain credibility with a retailer is to have a recognizable and powerful brand before approaching them. Why should a national (or even a local retailer) invest in a product, if you haven’t? Make a name for product so retailers can see that there is a consumer desire out there for it. Create pages on social media that promote your brand. Be unique and different. Interact with customers on your social media platforms. Encourage product users to leave reviews. The point is to show retailers your product already has a brand and a following, so the retailer won’t have to start from scratch if they choose to carry your product.
3) Start Small Then Grow
Don’t make Target your first stop on the retailers list. Start with independent shops and online stores. The more sales and exposure your product receives the better. This builds legitimacy and will further validate your brand to larger retailers. How nice would it be to walk into a meeting and say, “I sell 10,000 (your product) a week, maybe you'd like to sell them, too?"
4) Reach Out to Key Influencers
Influencers need not be the corporate heads or banks, but can include floor managers and distributors. Networking is one of the fastest ways to penetrate tight-knit, highly competitive markets. Here is where you have to do a little bit of homework. Every retailer has its own protocols when accepting vendors. Research the application process for your desired retailer. If there's an application process, follow the guidelines and submit the necessary paperwork. Allow a few weeks to go by before you follow up with an email or phone call, or ask for an appointment.
If you want to start off small and local, nothing makes a bigger impact than having a face-to-face introduction. Find out who the decision makers are and how to reach them. Developing a personal relationship with key influencers — especially by being a customer — makes it a lot easier to ask for favors down the road. Ask a key influencer out to lunch, or invite them to an industry related event to break the ice. Prepare a few questions about the process to get your products on their shelves (they will know all the shortcuts if there are any). Learn everything you can and use it.
5) Know the Store
A little online research, or conversation with the employees of a particular retailer, will reveal the store’s buying cycles, top selling products, seasonal purchasing patterns and customer need. Also map out the store’s floor plan, the types of displays they have and any other information to make picking up your product an easy decision for your target retailer.
6) Make an Impression
If you can’t reach the decision maker in person, writing a letter or email will be the first introduction to your product. Keep your correspondence down to a few short, impactful sentences. Explain how your product will satisfy a want or desire of their consumer, and generate a new and profitable revenue stream for the store.
Remember to be succinct and clear –you only have a few seconds to get their attention. Below is a template for your product introduction email or letter:
SUBJECT LINE: [QUICK DESCRIPTION OF PRODUCT] by [YOUR COMPANY]
SUBJECT LINE: Greetings from [COMPANY NAME]!
Hi/ Dear [INFLUENCER’S FIRST NAME],
I’m [YOUR NAME] owner of [YOUR COMPANY]. We make [PRODUCT NAME].
Included is a free sample so you can discover why so many people love, [PRODUCT NAME] I wanted to see if [TARGET COMPANY] might be interested in carrying it.
Included is also a product sell sheet containing all the information you could possibly need about [PRODUCT NAME] for your review.
Please take a look at this awesome video of [PRODUCT NAME] here: [SHORTENED URL] (optional line)
Is [PRODUCT NAME] something your customers would be interested in?
You can reach me anytime at [MOBILE PHONE NUMBER] or [EMAIL ADDRESS].
7) Make A Great Pitch… In Person.After sending your email or letter, meet the business owner or manager of the retailer in person. A great pitch consists of only a few elements:
1. Personalized message or story (why you created the product)
2. Presentation of a problem and why your product is a solution
3. Compelling benefits
4. Since of urgency to acquire product
5. Bonus value
Do whatever you have to do to make an in-person pitch happen. Simply making the effort to find the right person and coordinating a convenient time to drop by and introduce yourself will go a long way. At the very least, it will separate you from the hundred other emails and letters received that week. An in-person introduction also gives the retailer a chance to interview you, so be prepared.
8) Bring Samples
Make a kit of your products that you can take from store to store. If the product is too delicate to carry around, bring high quality photos or have video of the product. A retailer cannot be expected to agree to carry your product without seeing it first. While pitching your product, be sure to include how the product will easily integrate with their other top sellers.
9) Bring a Sell Sheet
A sell sheet is a one-page brochure that includes everything the retailer will want to know about your product. The sell sheet includes:
- Product images,
- Product image on display
- How much the product costs
- Product ordering information
- Client and business testimonials
- Your contact information
Ensure the sell sheet shows a clear understanding of the profit margins for the retailer and has firm justification for your preferred selling price. Many retailers sell products at double the cost to acquire them. Detailed selling sheets also consider the costs of shipping items if the retailer’s products are available online. In those instances, retailers will have to pay for the product and the cost of shipping. Good suppliers factor these additional costs into the sell sheet.
10) Offer Exclusive Partnership
Retailers are in a competitive business. If your product has the ability to be sold at multiple retailers that are similar, offer your preferred retailers exclusivity. Don’t just offer them a great profit – offer a competitive advantage over a similar store down the road. Remember that getting your product on the shelf of any retailer is a big achievement, will build up your brand, and place it in front of valuable consumers. Some retailers, especially small and local retailers, may be more likely to carry your product if they know the major retailer across the street will not have it. Business at its core is all about relationships, so be kind to your partners.
11) Make Your Product Retailer Friendly
Make your packaging simple for the retailers to move and stock. They want to minimize the time it takes for consumers to grab products from the shelves, and for sales clerks to scan products at the register. As an entrepreneur, you may not think about product usability in this way. Which is another reason to bring the product with you to meet decision-makers.
12) Be Creative
Entrepreneurs that know how to leverage technology and social media will become successful faster than does who do not. Retailers are constantly slammed with requests to stock “Product X” on their shelves. How are you going to stand out? How about YouTube? Video goes a lot further then the written word. So if you send an email, why not include a link to a video tailored to a key influencer. Make sure your video demonstrates your product, discusses the benefits and directly addresses the person you want to impress. Also ensure that the finished product is well edited. You may consider paying for a professionally shot and edited video if it means capturing the attention of the right person.
13) Find a Distributor
Distributors can be key intermediary partners when trying to find a retailer to stock your product. Distributors already have relationships with local and national retailers. Put them to work for you. Approach a distributor the same way you’d approach a retail owner. Offer to take them to lunch, send them a letter with a product sample, or send an email with a video demonstration of your product. Get them to believe in your product as much as you do, and you will have a strong, influential advocate in your corner.
14) Show You Are Willing To Work
Emphasize this point during your meetings, and constantly reinforce that you don’t expect the retailer to do everything for you. Let them know you intend to continue to promote your product, and by doing so send even more people to their store.
15) Guarantee A Win
Success in business is never guaranteed. Still you can feel safe by guaranteeing the store additional sales – at no risk to them if they allow you to demo your product until it sells out! If you cannot secure a permanent or temporary spot on the shelf of your favorite retailer, you may be able to secure a time and space to do demos that will boost confidence in your products for retailers. A series of well attended demonstrations and sold out product will create a ton of buzz and fantastic press opportunities for your brand.
These 15 steps to sell your product in retail stores is a starting point for the entrepreneur with a fantastic product that is ready to go to the next level. Before approaching retailers, make sure that you’ve established a brand, have a following, can offer customer reviews and have a complete sell sheet. Send a unique introduction letter (with samples), or an email with a video demonstration to the people that can get your product in the store. Start local and if you can’t get your products into the store right away, do a demo tour of the retailers in your area that will create buzz and give retailers the confidence to take a chance on placing your product on the shelf.