Wholesale 101

Wholesale 101
by Jackie Adamany

Courtesy of Handmade Business

You have worked hard and have a great product line priced to sell and provide a profit, your line sheet is in order, and you are ready to contact shops and write orders. Now the big obstacle looks you straight in the eye--how do you find and approach shop owners and buyers?

The Research

Visit Local Stores
Your first visit to the store is just that, a visit. No need to speak to anyone about why you are there. Just start doing your field research by spending time studying the store. What products are currently on the shelves? Will your products fit and relate to the store’s theme? Does your price point fit well? Chat with store employees to find out how well they know the shop’s lines.
Visiting Local Stores

Visiting Shops in Other Areas Shops in Other Areas
The majority of stores have websites and social media pages. Spend time on their sites and peruse their pictures. What does their ''About Us'' page tell you? What are the comments on their Facebook page? Often a retailer will place a notation on their site advising artists and designers of the way they would like to be approached with new lines. Follow their guidelines to the letter.

What Next?
Keep detailed notes on each shop before and after you connect with them. Start a journal or a spreadsheet. Every time you send an email, make a phone call, etc., make a note of it.

Approaching Potential Shops

First Contact
Your first approach should be by email. Address your email to an actual person--try to find a shop owner or buyer name through their website, Facebook page, or other social media. If you can’t find a name, a friendly ''Hello!'' will work. Review your email a few times to ensure all is in order and hit send! If your cover letter states you will follow up in a couple of days, absolutely do so. You can follow up with another email or with a phone call.

How to Handle ''No''
Don’t be discouraged if you see ''no thank you'' in their response. Promptly write back, thanking them for their time. If they did not state why they were not interested, feel free to ask why they don’t wish to purchase your work. Maybe they are not prepared to buy at this time or your prices are too high or too low. Or maybe your work just doesn’t fit their vision. If they state they are not in a position to purchase at this time, ask if they would like to be added to your newsletter list.

Following Up
After sending out that second email with no response, it’s time to make the phone call. Don’t be nervous! Remember this connection could be good for both of you! Ask for the person you addressed your emails to or request to speak to the owner or buyer. Meeting or chatting with a potential buyer can be a fun experience. Seldom does it turn out to be instant rejection. Buyers are always looking for new and innovative products and will generally want to learn more about you. If you are excited and show enthusiasm about your products, it will show, even in your voice! Ask them about their shop--many times you will find they are eager to tell you about it. By asking questions and beginning a dialogue with the buyer, you will build a rapport and a level of trust with them. Remember, you are presenting your products to them--show how your line will help improve sales. This initial phone call is designed to develop a relationship with the store and you will not always get a sale at this point. Answer any questions they have and ask them if they would like you to follow up at a later date.

Sales Tips
  • Smile! Even if you are on the phone
  • Meeting the buyer/owner in person? Dress appropriately and don’t bring children with you!
  • Stopping in the store--don’t visit on a busy Saturday afternoon
  • Be excited and enthusiastic about your products
  • Exude confidence
Sales Tips for Approaching Potential Shops
  • Offer product suggestions, best-sellers, and new items
  • Present a product that is in-demand and on-trend
  • Suggest display ideas for your items
  • Keep an eye on your competition, but don’t let them paralyze you
  • Always practice prompt and thorough follow-through

Taking the Order

Don't Be Afraid to Ask
Ask for the sale! At any point after the initial communication, don’t hesitate to ask the owner or buyer if they are ready to place an order. Many times people miss this important step--you need to ask if they are ready to order. Very rarely will they approach you and tell you they are ready to write (another term for placing an order). If you sense hesitation, ask the buyer if they have any issues or questions regarding your products. How do you know when to ask for the sale? You will gain a sense from them that they are truly interested either through their voice and comments or the tone of their email. The more you communicate with buyers and shop owners, the more relaxed and seasoned you will become.

Give a Shout-Out
Once you do land a wholesale account, the first thing you should do is put the shop’s contact information on your website. Also post a blurb on Facebook or Twitter and add it to your next newsletter. Create excitement!

Make Suggestions to Encourage the Sale Make Suggestions
If a buyer is having trouble making a decision, suggesting a choice is an effective way to encourage the sale. Giving the buyer a choice often makes the decision easier. A really good approach to closing a sale is to assume the buyer has decided to purchase your products. Ask for the details of their purchase such as what color or size they want, what quantity they desire, and how soon they would like it to be shipped. Asking what products they want to buy instead of if they want to buy is a more effective way to close the sale.

What To Do If They Said

They Said ''No''

What Went Wrong?
Your line sheet is perfect, you have great pictures, and your pricing is spot-on. You selected a shop that seems to be perfect and yet they turned you down. You might feel defeated and deflated. Now shake it off--it’s not that bad! There are many reasons why they say ''no,'' and none of them are personal:
  • Your pricing is not appropriate for their shop. Remember most buyers will keystone (double the wholesale price).
  • The products are not unique enough. Are there too many similar items in their shop or in nearby shops?
  • The items look too homemade or are packaged poorly. Homespun-looking items will not sell.
  • Your sales materials lack a professional look. Your website and all contact with the shop must be professional.
  • The store is not open to buy. If you contact a store and they state they are not buying, ask “When can I contact you again?” Many times they will give you a date to contact them in the future.
  • Your product does not fit. Be sure your product works well with the overall theme of the shop.
Figuring Out What Went Wrong
Be Professional
Handle the rejection gracefully and professionally. You never know when you might run into the buyer or owner again, and you can always ask for feedback. Many times the shop will tell you why your product will not work. Ask if they know of other shops in their area that might be interested in your products. Never let a ''no'' get you down. Just because you are not a fit for one shop does not mean you will not be a good fit in another shop. Remember the owner knows their shop better than anyone. She may love your necklaces; however, she knows in her gut they won’t sell in her individual shop. This is business--remember not to take it personally.

Excerpt from Going Wholesale--A Complete Guide to Transition from Retail to Wholesale by Jackie Adamany. Adamany has more than 15 years of experience as an artist, graphic designer, and marketing consultant, helping small business owners develop and grow their brands. She currently works as a consultant to artists.