You’ve made your retail-ready list, and checked it twice … okay, more like a million times. Product ready, check. Packaging ready, check. Labeling in compliance, double check. Now it’s time to launch your product into retail stores. You even have those tried-and-true sales sheets ready and waiting to be launched in a crafty email. But wait, you don’t have any contact information for buyers. What now? How do you contact retail buyers?!
Still need a little help with your retail-ready list? I’ve got you covered in this how to sell to retailers guide.
1. Cold Calling Isn’t Dead
You read it here first, folks. Even in 2021, cold calling isn’t dead. Find the corporate office phone number and give them a ring. When the operator answers, mention that you’re looking for the category buyer of your department. For example: “Hi Tracy, I’m looking for the buyer for the ready-to-drink teas. Can you connect me so I can leave a voicemail?”
Nine out of ten times the operator will connect you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to leave a message — and now you’ll have their extension number. If you’re SUPER lucky, the buyer will include their email address on their voicemail recording. Bada-bing-bada-boom, done.
2. RangeMe can help
If you haven’t heard of RangeMe yet, Startup CPG has a great article that explains the platform and its functionality. Start there, and then sign up for RangeMe.
RangeMe is a great way to get your products in front of retailers. Note that you must have a premium membership in order to submit your products to retailers for review. Tip: Make sure to get your profile verified before making any submissions, as doing so will boost your credibility.
Using RangeMe strategically, you’ll be able to submit your products and write a small message to the buyers you want to target. Be sure your note includes some information about why they should follow up regarding your brand.
What to Include on Your Notes to RangeMe Buyers
You have 500 words, but I suggest sticking to 3-4 concise sentences on your brand. For example: “Hi, I’m Emily, founder of XYZ, a plant-based, allergen free, sweet ice cream. We have popular flavors like chocolate and vanilla, perfect for any on-the-go millennial parent looking for a healthy sweet treat for their children, or themselves. Check us out!”
3. LinkedIn, the best place to snoop … err … research!
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a buyer’s contact information from LinkedIn. Sometimes, all it takes is finding a name! I’ll search for “Whole Foods Snack Buyer” and immediately find a few dozen contacts. I’ll browse until I find the right contact and take a note of his/her/their name. You can do a few different things once you have a name.
Connect through LinkedIn
Request to connect, hope they accept, and then immediately pitch your product (don’t be that person…).
Make a Phone Call
Or, utilize the information you found to make your phone call and ask for the buyer by name. This will almost always guarantee a forward to the right buyer.
Try an Email Address
You can also get creative and try an email address. For instance, maybe you know the format of the particular retailer’s email addresses: first initial, last name at retailer.com – i.e., egillam@(retailer).com. Utilize the name you found, format the email address, and give it a try! It works for me about 75% of the time. These are pretty good odds!
4. Tap your network
As a founder of a business, you should have connections far and wide. If you aren’t utilizing platforms like LinkedIn or Clubhouse, accelerators programs, and other opportunities to expand your network, you’re missing out. Send a message to someone in your network asking if they have buyer contact information or know someone at a specific retailer who is willing to direct you to the right person.
Give More Than You Take
A note on tapping your network: Don’t always expect something for free. Make sure to give information as often, or more often, as you receive it. This kind of attitude will come back to you tenfold!
Post a Broader Call for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or post a plea for information on LinkedIn or a CPG Facebook group like #OMGCPG. If you don’t know who to ask, ask everyone for helping finding and contacting retail buyers! I’ve been lucky enough to land buyer emails and phone numbers using this exact method!
5. Hire the right sales rep if all else fails
Okay – I’m going to level with you – all the tips above usually get you where you need to be! But some retailers (*ahem, Target, ahem*) are like Fort Knox. I’m talking, next level if-we-told-you-we’d-have-to-kill-you kind of secretive about buyer information. I get it, they don’t want brands bothering them left and right.
This is one of those situations where finding the right sales rep is exactly what you need. A rep that lives within the corporate office area, has several other accounts with the retailer already, and can easily find the right contact. If you’re willing, and able, to forfeit 3-8% of your profit margin to a rep, hire one. But, before you get crazy signing a deal, make sure the rep is excited about your brand! Make sure you can work with them well, and you feel mutual respect and trust.
Still feel like you don’t know where to start? Contact me and I’ll see how I can help!
About The Author
Want to work with Emily? We happen to know she is taking new clients. Visit her website consultwithbloome.com or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily founded Bloome Consulting to help with the struggle of scaling products into retail. The product of two serial entrepreneurs, she’s spent almost 17 years ingrained in small business. Living, breathing, and bleeding small business. She’s experienced, firsthand, the struggles small business owners are faced with every day and the lack of real, honest, resources available to them. Bloome is here as a resource, a coach, a cheerleader, and an expert in small business. We look forward to working with you!