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Dear Supplier Rep: Here’s How to Earn a Retailer’s Business

Make it personal!

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AS A PREVIOUS buyer for many independent jewelry retailers, I remember the days of getting daily cold calls from vendors as well as many stopping by wanting to show me their product. The cold calls always
sounded the same: “Hi! I am Brian from XYZ Manufacturing, and we sell bridal at a great price. I wanted to see if I could stop by to show you the product.” I would say that with 85 percent of the interactions that started this way, we never had a connection and they never became a supplier to us. Why? As a buyer, when I would hear you talk about bridal or engagement rings or wedding bands, I would look around at the inventory in the store. I always made the comment back to the supplier that we need more bridal like we need more holes in our heads. So today I want to share some tips on how to connect with retail buyers or owners and how to stand out from the competition.

Research

Research the jewelry store prior to walking in or calling, not only so you have a history on the company for small talk but also so you can see what you’re up against in terms of product. If you google the jewelry store or go to its website, many times you can find things that are dear to the retailer. This could be the charities they support. Or maybe you learn that it’s a dog-friendly store and you see that the owner brings his own dog to the store every day. These are great ways to start a conversation with a buyer or owner. You might say, “Wow, I see you raised $100,000 for the cancer society this year and just wanted to tell you how great I thought that was!” Or, “Hey, I see you guys are dog lovers around here. Do you have any dogs yourself?” You can then share that you have a lab at home who has been part of your family for 15 years. It is small talk, but this immediately brings down the barrier a buyer or owner has up typically when meeting sales reps the first time. In terms of researching the product, look at product they currently carry that might be like yours. Why is your product better or different? Ask yourself what your product can bring to the table that the retailer does not have already.

Connect

Let’s say you have tried cold calls to reach a retailer and the buyer will not come to the phone. What can you do next?

  • Connect with the buyer or owner on social media. You will see things like their birthday and what they like to do outside of work, and possibly learn more personal things about them.
  • Connect on LinkedIn. In my past as a sales rep I found this to be the best way to get a response from a buyer or owner of a retail operation. I would message them and eight out of 10 times I would
    get a response. Be sure when sending a message to make the message personal; do not send a GENERIC message! Do your homework, know the company history, and tell them what is different about your line.
  • Talk to your current retail partners. This is a small industry, and everyone talks. Your current retail partners may know the retailer you would like to get your product into.

To end the column, I’ll share a quick example of a supplier who used the last pointer above by finding a retail friend who knew me. My friend gave the supplier a tip on how to connect with me.

One day I came into my office to find a FedEx box with my name on it. Upon opening it, I found a bag of peanut M&Ms, a travel-size vodka and a can of sugar-free Red Bull. I about died! I thought, “Whoever sent this to me really knows me.” I immediately called the supplier and thanked him. Now this is a creative opening.

So next time before you make a cold call or walk into a store, take 10 minutes to research the company and find a way to connect. I promise this interaction, once you do speak to the retailer, will be different. Hopefully you will make a new friend and also a sale!

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Megan Crabtree is the founder and CEO of Crabtree Consulting. Before founding Crabtree Consulting, Megan had a successful professional career in the jewelry industry, which culminated with high-level positions at several of the top leading firms in the retail and manufacturing sectors. Reach her at [email protected]

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