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It depends a lot on the type of retail but in general;

Newly established: Phone first, send brochure/business card, give website info, then visit.

Once Established: Phone first and book a time.

My two favourite reps don’t sell product. They impart knowledge about their products. One even brings me a donut.:) We have other reps who represent many companies in one portfolio and they pull out folder after folder of products and their order sheet. Even though we have booked a time, we still get busy and called away. It can get frustrating when they want you to look through whole catalogues.

IMO, pick 5-10 good sellers – not your crappiest stock you need to get rid of – and print them on a sheet by themselves.

If you have stock you need to get rid of because you cannot sell it, put it on a separate sheet.

Depending on the product, HAVE samples.

Even though the meeting was scheduled don’t get dis-heartened if no orders are taken straight away.

Prepare some point-of-sale materials. This may be a cost you cannot afford starting out but it works better than without. The retailer probably has lots of brands to sell. Why is yours worth more effort than another one? Save the retailer the effort of in-store marketing and your product will sell and get re-ordered.

Offensive marketing: Attitude by agents. Some agents probably don’t even realize when we don’t have an order for them that they act like a 2 year old and need to tell you how far they have just travelled to see us, their stuff sells better than their competitors etc. Or they keep asking for an order.

Q: Would you like to order?
A: No, not this time.
Q: Hmmm, well it’s your loss because if it’s not in your store your not getting the margin. Are you sure you don’t want anything?
A: No!
Q: Well it’s getting to that time of year and we have some great products you should put at least one on the floor to show customers.
A: No (in head: and now I won’t bother calling you if i do need it!)
Q: Well where can u get a decent sandwich in this town? I’m due for lunch.
A: You won’t get a decent sandwich anywhere here, you have to go a further 1hr down the road. (what a jerk!)

While this actually happened, it is surprising how common it is for reps/agents to get all droopy when you don’t order.

Send us a reminder in the email a week after your visit with a note about the store or something you picked up in conversation. Build a relationship first, impart your product knowledge second and you’ll never need to sell. We will become buyers.

To find an agent simply ask the retailer at your first outlet who comes by. They’ll have a hundred business cards. But retailers LOVE the owner visiting.

Good luck with your new venture.