Saturday, January 25, 2014

Being Schooled in Selling Wholesale! Part 1: Reaching Out

The Dream: To walk into a store and see a Handbrewed Soaps display!! 

This dream is also my growth area… Because honestly, I’m terrified of making a cold call, it completely stresses me out!!!  I’m always wondering: How do I make a pitch to a brick and mortar store to sell my product?  What do I say? What if they say no? Do I have to make a cold call?  Should I go into the store and just introduce myself? I’ve looked at every blog I could find for help. They mostly say the same thing, ‘Make a cold call’ and ‘get an appointment with the owner or manager’.  That seems terrifying to me.  After I milled these approaches around for a couple of weeks, I decided that’s not me right now, I need to start at my comfort level, I need to be myself!

For me, I want my soap to speak for itself, that’s why I have a hand washing station in my vendor booth at festivals.  It’s a great way to introduce the soap.  “Hey, would you like to try washing your hands with beer soap?”  So I need a similar approach to working for wholesale sales.  In a sense, I give away soap to try at my booth, so I probably need to do the same thing in this situation. I need to give samples away to a targeted audience (homebrew supply stores). What better way to find this target audience than at a beer festival I was a vendor at!

My booth was “homebrew alley,” a great location for my product. After booths were set up, and people were settled in for the day, I went from booth to booth that met my target audience, giving a bar of soap and my card to those representing the store!  With my heart in my throat I said,  “ Hi, I’m Alyson.  I make soap out of homebrewed beer! I wanted to give you a sample of our soap. Please come our booth and met the brewer later today!”  What I noticed from that intro was that because we had a common interest (beer), a great conversation quickly developed and cards were exchanged!

I got interest, now what???? Well, I sent a follow-up email a week later.  Something like:  Hi, We met at the beer festival, and I gave you a bar of beer soap.  I would love to hear your feedback on it.   Please feel free to contact me if you would like to buy some!  If you are interested it caring it at your store, I can send you our wholesale prices.  (Ok, obviously it was an amateur ask … but at least I did it!) So…

Days went by, weeks went by, and then all of a sudden… a response…. 
 “We like your soap, can you please send me your Product Catalog.” SCORE!!!!!!  Now I have a new amazing problem, a Product Catalog (I will blog just on Product Catalogs), but lets just say that I 'gotter' done in a day, and sent it off.   Then, there was another wait.  Fear arose for me as I obsessed on: Will an order be placed?  Did I do something I wasn’t suppose to?  Finally, I realized that businesses are busy.  The order is probably on the bottom of their to-do list.  I should be wondering, how I can help them better, maybe my catalog was not as clear as I thought.  So, I sent another email:  “Can I help you with placing your order?”  And sure enough…  I got a reply within a few hours… and the order was out the door!

Lessons learned:  Be yourself… and approach how you feel comfortable…  For me, I was able to make connections at the beer festival.  I know that I’ll become more confident as time goes on.  I will be able to make the cold call, or walk into the store in the future.  Lesson two:  Follow up.  Businesses are very busy and may not get back to you as soon as you hope. Don’t take in personally, just reach out.  Lesson three:  Have a clear order process… and revise policies immediately to make the ordering process easier.  


I hope to have an additional blog titled:  Launching Wholesale:  The Cold Call soon…  (Keeping my fingers crossed!) until then…  how do you approach wholesale?

4 comments:

  1. Congrats on the wholesale order! I hope that there are many more to come. The thought of cold-calling would terrify me, too, but it sounds like you're making connections in a way that makes you comfortable. I think introducing yourself at the festival and giving out free samples was a great idea. Best wishes to you!

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    1. Thanks Jenny! I appreciate your feedback!

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  2. You had a goal, chased it and succeeded - well done! Sounds to me like you did everything right :-D I'm hoping to expand into wholesale later on this year, and your way of going about things is just how I plan to do it - approach potential stockists in person, with freebies. And being yourself (or myself!) is key.
    Really interested to hear that you have a handwashing facility on your vendor stand - my husband has always said to me that I should do that and let the soap speak for itself. Would you mind sharing how you do that? Do you just have a freestanding basin and refill it with water?
    Just discovered your blog but I'll be following with interest from now on!
    Vicki

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    1. Hi Vicki, Thanks! Sounds like we are in the same boat when approaching wholesale! Would love to hear more about your approach! And, it was my husbands idea to have a handwashing station as well! I'll make sure to post an article on it soon!!

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