I work with a lot of designers on selling their product wholesale and approaching retail buyers. One question that come up is this…
“Jane, what’s the WORST thing you can say to a retail buyer?”
Well, it depends on who you talk to but I have a strong opinion on this one. I owned my boutique for many years and I got a lot of great pitches from emerging designers — and plenty of bad ones too. I’d have to say the one line that’s universally hated by retailers (you hear chatter about it in the lunch line at Coterie, for instance) is this.
“I just know this would be perfect for your store.”
Seriously. This is really annoying to a retail buyer. I know what designers are trying to say, and the intention is good. What you mean is this:
“I think my line would be a great fit for your store and I want to sell to you.”
What a retailer hears is a different thing entirely. Their internal dialogue goes something like this:
“Don’t tell me what’s right for my store. You have NO idea what it takes to run this business. It’s not YOUR financial risk…you don’t understand my customer the way I do…”
As a former buyer I can guarantee that if you say this is a great fit for your store that it will bother the retailer. This seemingly benign statement gets taken the wrong way – and it really puts the buyer on the defensive. That’s not a good way to start the sales process.
Here’s what you can say instead:
“My line hangs well with some of the other lines you carry, like ____________ and ______________.”
Name some lines you know they carry in their shop. You can find out what vendors they stock by going to their website or Facebook Page. I prefer checking a retailer’s Facebook Page because it’s usually updated more often and the vendors are more likely to be current.
For many designers, approaching a retail buyer and knowing what to say can be daunting. I remember when I had my first showroom rep, I called her up and asked her for the “script” to use when I got on the phone.
She laughed and told me, “Jane, you just start talking and be nice.” I was completely overwhelmed and nervous! I wanted her to write out a little spiel – so I could practice it and not sound like and idiot. She refused.
That’s why I give designers a script. I know how scary it is when you’re just starting out. It’s easier to follow something than just wing it.
Here’s a sample of one of the scripts:
Scenario #1 – You walk into a shop
Amy is shop owner
Jane walks in the store. “Hi! Are you the buyer?”
Amy: “May I ask why you’re asking? Do you have an appointment?” — buyer’s already on the defensive, thinking “maybe I am the owner, maybe I’m not”.
Jane: “Uhmmm no, I was just wondering…”
Amy; “Because if you don’t have an appointment…”
Ooops — this will get you off on the wrong foot. Let’s do it another way.
Scenario #2 Let’s try it again. JH walks into the store
Amy drinking coffee, 50 pieces of mail on desk, looks busy…
JH – I walk in and just start to look around. I am looking around to see if the store’s a good fit for my product and to not be aggressive in my approach.
Amy: Hi, barely looks up
JH takes a look around still…
Amy: “May I help you find something?
JH ”Thanks, Actually I’m a designer of _____________ and I really love your store. I was in the area and thought I’d stop in and…
Take it from there. If the buyer’s busy, you can leave a lookbook or postcard and follow up later. If she has a moment and shows interest, you can tell her more and show her a sample.
Want more tips? I have a pre-recorded mini-workshop that focuses ONLY on the exact script to use when you call a buyer or stop by their store. You can check it out here.
So what do you think? If you’re already selling to stores, what’s worked for you? How do you get over the fear of approaching a retailer? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you for writing about this.
May i also ask your experience on this a bit further?
What if you were approached by the mall’s buyers at a trade fair. Price points weren’t matched so we agreed to keep in touch. After the show, i have changed my mind and actually want to give it a try so i emailed them saying im open for discussion.
I havent heard back from them. Do you have a suggestion? I’m thinking of calling them. Do you think it’s a good approach? And if so, what kind of conversation shall i stick to?
I’d really appreciate your input. Thank you in advance. 🙂
My suggestion is to tell them why you are now open to discussion. If you just pop back in their inbox saying okay, let’s discuss this, you may seem desperate. If you tell them something like my manufacturing costs went down or I have a better price on materials or an actual reason you’re open to discussion, that might help.
Hi, Jane. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing article!
I’m a sales representative of a design company and I did make such a mistake as you said in the article. And when I do cold email to try to open a business, I usually say like ” We are looking forward to sell our product through your store” and simply introduce some feature of the product. I don’t know if it’s a good way to reach out to buyers.
May I know your opinion about it? Or what is the best way to persuade buyers through email?