9 Steps to Supercharging your Sales and Winning Retailers

Here is a step by step breakdown for selling wholesale to retailers that we have used very successfully at our e-commerce business and that has helped us get our products into over 500 retail locations across North America.  

The key principle in selling wholesale to retailers is to invest time upfront in planning your approach and sales materials. This will allow you to prioritize and focus so that you can go deep into a few areas that will deliver the highest return on your time investment, rather than spreading yourself too thin and getting frustrated.


Determine your Retail Category Focus

While it’s tempting to pursue every retail category for which your products may be eligible when selling wholesale to retailers, it’s best to focus on one at a time in order to make your efforts more efficient and targeted. You can always change things up as you learn more. This means setting up a criteria for determining the best fit for your business.   

Create a list of categories you could target

Depending on your product, you may be very clear that you’re simply going to target a specific category of store. However some products will appeal to several categories. For Instance, our e-commerce business’s bags have been sold through gift shops, baby stores, kids gear stores and natural grocers, among others. Simply make an exhaustive list of the possibilities based on your current knowledge and best guesses.

Determine the top 1 or 2 categories that you will target.

To find your category focus, I suggest using a multi-attribute model spreadsheet. This approach allows you to apply a disciplined approach to choosing your initial target category.

How to use the Spreadsheet
  1. Plug in the categories you are considering down the left hand “LEAD” column (replace the title “Lead 1” etc.)
  2. Determine the 3-4 criteria you feel are most relevant to creating an optimal environment for presenting and selling your products. Criteria  examples include: Price Sensitivity, Similar products, Alignment with core audience.
  3. Plug them into the Attribute row (replace the title “Criteria 1” etc)
  4. Assign a weight to each criteria as it relates to your decision. The total weights you assign amongst the various criteria should add up to 100
  5. Rank each lead category out of 10 as it applies to the specific criteria.
  6. This will give you a total score in the far right hand column


Determine your Top Retail Targets

The retailers that carry your products reflect strongly on what kind of brand you are, so be intentional about who you target when selling wholesale to retailers. In this step you will determine the key criteria that you will use to target specific retailers. For instance, our e-commerce business, while not a luxury brand, does price its products at a premium, so discount stores are not a good fit for us.

Again, focus is the key to remaining productive. Once again use the multi attribute model to determine which retailers you will focus on.

How to use the Spreadsheet
  1. Plug in the retailers you are considering down the left hand LEADS column.
  2. Determine the 3-4 criteria you feel are most relevant to creating an optimal environment for presenting and selling your products. Criteria examples include: Eco-friendliness, Urban Locations, Boutique feel etc.
  3. Plug them into the Criteria row. The total weights you assign amongst the various criteria should add up to 100
  4. Rank each lead category out of 10 as it applies to the specific criteria.
  5. This will give you a total score in the far right hand column


Determine the Specific Buyer for your Category

This is by far the most time-consuming aspect of the process of selling wholesale to retailers. There are companies that offer lists of specific roles that you can purchase, but they’re expensive and I have found that often they are out of date or missing key data. To compound the issue, many buyers go out of their way to maintain a low profile online so that they are not inundated with inquiries.

Getting a name
I will generally start with a LinkedIn search of the company name and review the names of key personnel looking for anyone that is a buyer or “category manager”. I will then cross-reference results with a site called Data.com, which is run by Salesforce. If you find a relevant name and title on LinkedIn, check the side column entitled “People also searched for”.

Getting their email address
Once you have a name, you can guess the target’s email address based on another address from the same company, since most companies follow a standard structure for email addresses. It’s not always easy to find another address. The best resources I’ve found are press releases – since the press contact will often provide a personal email address and company blog posts. If I’m really desperate I may use a credit up on data.com to get any email address from the company.


Build a Buyer Profile

If it is a high-value target, such as a chainstore, I would suggest going a step further once you have determined who your exact buyer is. Check out their social media profiles – especially ones like Pinterest and Instagram where they may be sharing personal tastes. You don’t want to let on that you have been browsing their personal profiles, but you may get some additional insight into their likes and preferences that you can use to your advantage in your sales pitch.

If you are determined to get your products into a specific national chain you may even want to go a step further in building an organizational map. This means building a diagram of all the people who report to that buyer or may have some influence over the decision to carry your products. You can then target each of the influencers with emails tin a multi pronged attack.


Prepare sales materials

Buyers are constantly reviewing products and don’t have a lot of time. When selling wholesale to retailers, you need to invest your time in creating a few succinct but powerful pieces that will quickly convey your product’s value and appeal. There are three main pieces you will need to prepare:

Email templates

Your initial outreach email should be short and to the point. Provide an introductory paragraph that points to the sales sheet, which you will attach, and a brief list of bullet points about the product’s selling points. I’ve found that it’s best not to over sell the product at this stage. You are really just looking for their opinion as to whether they have any interest and see a fit for their retail environment.You can download the exact template we use at our e-commerce business at the link below.

Sales Sheet

The sales sheet is a one page PDF that provides everything a buyer might need to make an initial decision as to whether he or she might be interested in your product(s). Keeping it to one page will insure you focus your message so that the buyer can clearly understand your product and make a quick initial assessment. Any ambiguity about what your product is or why it’s relevant will make a poor first impression and likely just cause them to ignore your products.

What your sales sheet should include:

  • Your logo, product name and tagline
  • high quality photos of your product including packaging (if relevant) and in-store presentation
  • Wholesale pricing and MSRP
  • 4-5 Bullet points outlining major selling points

>>Download a free sales sheet example

Pitch Presentation

While you won’t always need it, you should have a more in-depth pitch presentation prepared. This can be formatted as a slideshow that can be presented either in person or remotely, once a buyer has expressed some interest. It should be short – less than 10 minutes – but fill in some of the details that you did not have space for in your sales sheets.

Your pitch presentation should include:

  • 8-10 Slides
  • Product Features
  • Awards,endorsements or notable users/fans
  • Pricing Details
  • Press coverage
  • Current retailers and notable sales figures
  • Your Target Audience
  • Company History


Initial Outreach

At this point you should have a good idea of who you are targeting and have all of your sales materials prepared. In some cases, your initial interactions with your target will reveal that they are not actually the buyer for your category. Ideally they will point you in the right direction, but if not you may have to go back and do some more research.

Before you begin your outreach in earnest, you should have some system in place for tracking your sales efforts. A CRM (customer relations management) system is great because it allows you to set notifications and see all past correspondence with a lead in context, so you know exactly where your progress with that person is at. We use Base CRM – but there are plenty of others out there.

If you don’t have a CRM yet, you can just track your efforts in a spreadsheet. However I strongly suggest you at least add some software to your email client that allows you to track whether your email has been opened by a target, as this will allow you to better determine follow up efforts.

What to expect after sending an email. I have received responses from buyers based on a single email when selling wholesale to retailers, however this is the exception rather than the rule. If you’ve used the subject line I suggest in the provided email template, you will likely at least prick their interest. I find that about 50%-60% of my emails get opened.

If you see that an email hasn’t been opened a few days after sending it, I would suggest simply resending it again. If you see that an email has been opened, move on to the phone call follow-up with the buyer.


Phone Follow-up with the Buyer

Once you see that an email has been opened, or if you’ve sent several emails that have not been opened, call the buyer. This can seem intimidating at first but, as long as you are prepared with a simple script, it is a simple and straightforward process. Your purpose here is simply to follow-up on your email until you get a response.  

If you get voicemail

You’ll want to keep trying until you get the buyer in person, however it doesn’t hurt to leave a short voicemail drawing attention to your email and politely requesting a response. Use the provided script to insure your message is succinct and to the point. If the buyer has not yet read your email, the voicemail may be what prompts them to look for it in their inbox. At the very least, a voicemail, if heard, puts you on their radar and lets them know that you are serious about getting a response.

If you get the buyer in person

Again, have your script in hand and point them to your email. This is not the time to be doing a hard sell. Your goal is simply to get a response and gage whether there is any interest on their part. Stick to the script and, if there is a moment of awkward silence while they search for your email or ponder a response, DON’T make the mistake of filling it with your nervous chatter. You’ll likely just be giving them a reason to say no.

If you get any response OTHER than a firm “No”

Ask the buyer if you could schedule a short 10 minute meeting in which to give them a few more details about your product. If you are able meet in person that is ideal, however if the buyer is in another city or country, this may be unfeasible. I have done successful presentations over the phone with a simple screen share. Suggest a definite time and see if you can get it booked then and there.

Sometimes the buyer will request a sample at this stage, or even a small test order. This is great progress but even if they request a sample, I would still try to get a few minutes of their time to  give them your full pitch.

>>Download a free phone sales followup script


Pitch to Buyer

I have made sales without doing this step, particularly for smaller chains. However if the buyer is interested but not yet decided, this is your opportunity to make your product(s) seem like a no-brainer for him or her to at least try out.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Before your meeting, go through your presentation as many times as you need to to insure you have it down cold. I would suggest making your slides as visual as possible rather than just a number of bullet points that you’re reading off the page. You should memorize exactly what you are going to say, while using the images as supporting material.

Plan what you want the next step to be

Don’t make the mistake of ending the pitch by asking what they thought. You should end by asking if they would be willing to try a test order. If they have any hesitancy, the next best outcome is offer to see if they will review a sample. It may also be that they are interested but they don’t know how to work the products in yet or the timing is off. In that case, ask if you can follow up with them.


Follow-up to Completion

If you get anything short of an order or test order, you should continue to follow up with the buyer every week or two. I’ll usually do 2 or three emails to every phone call follow-up. Remember that buyers are busy, so they aren’t necessarily ignoring you because they don’t like your product. They may be undecided or have other priorities to deal with. I have had sales that took a year or longer to come to fruition. You simply have to keep politely persisting until someone gives you a firm no or you get a first order. Again, a CRM will help you keep track of all your leads and allow you to schedule reminder tasks around follow-up activities

If you get a NO

Getting a No is much better than not getting a response at all. It means that the buyer has seriously considered your product. Don’t miss the opportunity to get inside the buyers head to understand why they passed on your product. Maybe it’s just not a fit for their store and you’re targeting the wrong category. Maybe they have some valuable feedback on how to better position or even redesign your product. Make sure you ask why they passed on your product in a polite and endearing way – be sure not to appear defensive.


Those that are most successful at selling wholesale to retailers play the long game of consistent efforts. Very rarely are you going to pick up the phone or send an email and get an immediate response. You have to slowly and methodically persist over time with follow-up after follow-up until people realize that you are not going to go away.

Selling wholesale to retailers is not glamorous, and it can be intimidating to reach out to total strangers, but if you do this on a regular basis you will be ahead of 90% of the pack.

Subscribe to our newsletter
The latest news, articles, and resources, sent to your inbox weekly.

By submitting your email you agree that DanChadney.com may send you promotional e-mail messages with offers, updates and other marketing messages. You understand and agree that DanChadney.com may use your information in accordance with its Privacy Policy.

© 2023 DanChadney.com - All rights reserved.   Privacy Policy  |  Terms