Starting a wholesale segment of your business is as exciting as it is frustrating. I’m willing to bet, you’ve got a list of questions a mile long so for today’s post, I’m going to help you connect the dots so you can take the next steps and get your first wholesale order!
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO SELL
Not every product you make is going to be perfect for wholesale. If you’re making a product that takes 10hrs to carve out of wood a wholesale order may be too time intensive and not give you the profit margins you are looking for. Take a look at what you want to offer and crunch the numbers to make sure that your wholesale prices are in line with your profit goals. Need a little help figuring out your numbers? I’ve got a free workbook dedicated to perfecting your pricing. You can download it here.
CAREFULLY CULTIVATE YOUR ASSORTMENT
When you’re planning to offer your products wholesale you need more than a handful of pieces in your assortment. A buyer wants enough options to create a cohesive statement on their sales floor. If you’re only offering a few pieces and your assortment is choppy (say, one mug, two cards, and five prints) chances are, you’re going to leave a lackluster impression. If you have multiple categories start with at least 5-6 prints across each category. If you only make one type of product (say, greeting cards) then you’re going to want to offer more than 5-6 prints to ensure you’re making a cohesive presentation.
SET YOUR FOUNDATION
It’s so tempting to just start reaching out to stores and buyers as soon as you have a product to sell but skipping this step will lead to some major headaches down the road! By setting a foundation for your product based business you are positioning yourself to be professional while making it easier to do business. A few things you’re going to want to have in place before you get started:
A Website + Social Media Profiles
The first thing a buyer is going to do when you pop onto their radar is to head to your website and look for you on social media to learn more about your products and company. Have something in place for them to see! A website doesn’t have to cost a lot, I’m a big fan of Squarespace because it’s easy to navigate and you don’t need to know anything about coding or plugins. Don’t worry about the number of followers on your pages either, a buyer isn’t necessarily going to buy your products because you have 5K,10K or 20K followers!
Your Terms + Conditions
Your Terms + Conditions detail everything from how to place an order, minimum order requirements, how you handle returns, cancellations, and back orders etc. It outlines how your policies, practices and how you do business. Want to make this step simple? Head over to the shop and snag a copy of my Terms + Conditions template!
A system for inventory
Most small businesses start tracking inventory with a spreadsheet. While this may work for a bit, one mistake can mean you’re promising products that you don’t have in stock. Be aware that as your biz grows you’re going to upgrade your system. Quickbooks is a great next step because you can integrate inventory and track your orders in one place.
Your Wholesale Pricing
It’s so important to know your numbers inside and out! Do the math before hand so you can accurately quote pricing and are prepared for when a buyer asks you for an additional discount. Getting handed a big order means nothing if you’re losing money to fulfill it.
CREATE YOUR CATALOG AND/OR LINE SHEETS
Your catalog and/or line sheet is one of the best selling tools you have at your disposal because it highlights your assortment and visually tells your story. While nothing beats bringing samples to a meeting you aren’t always going to be able to see every account in person. Even if that was the case, your buyer will want something tangible from you that they can keep on hand for reference. These don’t have to cost a fortune, a simple PDF that you can attach to an email or upload to Issu is a great starting point.
DECIDE WHO YOU WANT TO SELL TO
While it’s tempting to say, “I want to sell to everyone!” your bottom line will benefit from being strategic especially when you’re just starting out in wholesale. By targeting the stores that are the best fit for your products you’re giving them the greatest opportunity to sell. When your products sell well, chances are the store is going to place a reorder.
START REACHING OUT
Once you have your pricing nailed down, developed your assortment and created a catalog or line sheet to share you’re ready to start making calls and sending emails. The key to connecting with buyers is to be genuine. You’re one of the hundreds of emails in their inbox that are product related so craft a killer pitch and tailor it to each retailer. DO NOT under any circumstances use a generic template and BCC every buyer to try and save yourself time.
This is the FASTEST way to set a bad impression and chances are you’re future emails will be sent directly to spam. Would you buy from someone that sent you a generic email? I seriously doubt it.
FOLLOW UP AND KEEP IN TOUCH
Buyers have a lot on their plate so there’s a good chance you won’t hear back from them for a few days, weeks, or at all. While it’s frustrating, it’s extremely common. There’s a fine line between following up tastefully and coming across like a sales stalker. While they might not buy right away it doesn’t mean the answer is going to be no forever. Having a strategy to remain connected is key! Find ways to connect that don’t even mention placing an order like follow them on social media, leaving meaningful comments and send the occasional sneak peek of your latest designs. Eventually, when the timing is right and if your products are a good fit, those efforts will pay off.
When you’re just starting out in wholesale it’s so easy to get discouraged. You can feel like you’ve reached out to every store under the sun and nobody is interested. Building your wholesale business takes a TON of time + effort so don’t be quick to quit. You’ve so got this!