Many small entrepreneurs dream of seeing their products displayed and sold in superstores such as Wal-Mart, Nordstrom, JC Penney, etc in the United States, El Corte Ingles in Spain or Harrod’s in the United Kingdom or in the major superstores around the world.
And who wouldn’t? If you sign a contract with any of these big stores, you get national, or even international, distribution for your products. You gain a wide market for your products, without the cost if you were to do it yourself. More importantly, your business receives credibility and prominence with your association with the major retailer.
Doing a deal with a big company is exciting and fun; but it can also be intimidating. Moreover, landing a contract with a major retailer is not easy.
Here are some suggestions to help you get a major retailer to distribute your products:
1. Build your reputation.
Many retailers do not really want to deal with an unknown manufacturer. More often than not, those who are able to strike a deal with major retailers are those who already have the reputation, talent and clout. Nevertheless, do not worry: you still have an ace up your sleeves – the quality of your products. You must make sure that your products are of superior quality and fills a void in the product line-up of the major retailer.
2. Talk to the right person.
Getting a deal with a big company requires special contacts, and knowing the right person to talk to cannot be overemphasized. If you are pitching your candles, be sure to talk to the home and furnishings buyer, and not the Vice President for Marketing! The Marketing VP does not decide what products to sell in the home and furnishings department, and may have very little influence on the buyer for that section. You stand a greater chance if you are able to convince the decision maker, which are most often the merchandise buyers. If you get lost in the maze of corporate bureaucracy, you stand to lose your chance in being part of a large retailer. Be patient and persistent, as this process may take weeks or even months. Things often take longer with big companies, more so if players constantly change.
3. Network, network, network.
If you need help getting your products into the radar screen of a merchandise buyer, participate in trade shows or product exhibits. Buyers often frequent trade shows, as it gives them the chance to check out the latest innovations in the industry, compare products, and possibly make purchasing decisions. Be sure to have all your products and marketing materials organized and presented well.
Another option used by some entrepreneurs is to hire brokers, who of course, get a percentage commission from deals that they may be able to arrange.
4. Perfect your sales pitch.
When you finally get the chance to present your products to a buyer, be well prepared to make a positive first impression. You must convince him or her why they should include your products in their line up. Think of answers to the following questions: What can your products contribute to the retailer’s business? Why do you think your products will sell? How does your product compare to that of your competitors? Is there a match between your customers and that of the retailer’s? Your chance of signing up a contract with the retailer will depend on how well you explain the answers to these questions. Be clear and concise, but do not appear too anxious or naive.
5. Deliver what you promise.
Before you even consider contacting a buyer, you must think ahead and plan how you will be able to fulfill your commitment if the retailer offers you a contract. Nothing ruins a business’ reputation than its inability to fulfill what they promised. Will you be able to produce and supply the retailer with the number of items they require? Do you have the manpower, facilities and equipment to produce the items as stipulated in the contract?
If you win a contract with a big retailer, nurture the relationship well but remain on a lookout for better opportunities.