We’ve talked a lot about what a crazy juggling act it is to be a sales rep for a small wholesale brand. If you don’t have a good system in place for remembering where you’re at with each individual account and lead that you’re responsible for, opportunities start slipping through the cracks, and money is left on the table.

That’s where CRM comes in (theoretically).

What Is CRM?

A Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) is software that allows you to store, organize, and act on all the information you have about your accounts and leads.

Sure, you could make a pretty nifty Google Sheet…

We’re going to do something a little different with this post. Rather than taking our usual deep dive into some aspect of wholesale, we’re instead going to introduce a new resource for small wholesale producers: Sandra Velasquez (sandraliliavelasquez@gmail.com, IG @distrotalk). Sandra is an industry veteran who teaches a Distro 101 course about getting onto store shelves and staying on them. More details about the course can be found here.

I would encourage anyone looking to launch a new product, or just struggling with sales and distribution, to take her class. The following is an introduction to her method and approach.

Where To Begin

I’m not a marketer by training so in writing this series I had to acquaint myself with the very basics. In the process, I realized something rather mind-blowing (which I’ll explain in a bit) and I also developed a fondness for marketing that I never knew I had.

In its most general sense, marketing is every way in which your brand “touches” a prospect or customer. “Impressions,” in other words. …

Do you know of a resource that should be included in this list? Please send us an email with the link to shelflifepublication@gmail.com.

Small Food Business Consulting
Sandra Velasquez (teaches Distro 101, see her Shelf Life post here)
Allison Ball (excellent video series, and loads of relevant articles)
Growing Your Specialty Food Business

Blogs & Articles
Food + Tech Connect (sign up for weekly news roundups)
Small Food Business
Indy Retail Academy
Modern Soapmaking
The Digest (from entrepreneur.com)
Small Business Encyclopedia (from entrepreneur.com)
Etsy Seller Handbook
Wholesale Guide for Etsy Sellers
Fashion Incubator
The Balance

Simple Startup

Time now for the stunning conclusion to our three part series about distributors. If you haven’t read Part I or Part II yet, please do so for additional context.

In this post, we’re going to cover the vast topic of of distributors’ marketing programs. We’re also going to discuss how you are billed for them, some of the hidden costs to watch out for, and some basic techniques for getting your distributor’s reps to be aware that a) your products exist in their catalog, and b) it’s worth their time to present your products to retail buyers.

I’ll be honest…

In Part I of this series, we covered the broad strokes of working with distributors. In this post, we’ll go into detail about how to price your products when selling through a distributor. In Part III, we’ll get into distributors’ marketing programs, and the policies and billing practices that surround them.

Pricing Your Products for Distribution

When working with a distributor, you sell your product to the distributor, who turns around and sells it to the retailer.

The basic formula used at every step is:

Price = COGS / (1 — Margin)

From the distributor’s standpoint, “COGS” is your delivered price to them (including any…

For more articles in this series, check out Parts Two and Three.

In a previous post we discussed the pros and cons of working with distributors as a way of scaling your business and expanding your reach beyond what you could achieve with self-distribution alone.

Over the next few posts, we’ll assume that you’ve determined that the pros outweigh the cons, and made the call to build a distribution network. We’ll cover what you can expect from your distributor partnerships, and how best to play the distributor game to your advantage while not getting burned.

A Note on Examples and Sources Used for This Series

One difficulty with covering distributors…

When pitching to a retail buyer, it is important that you see the transaction from their point of view.

This is easy to do when you think about it — retail buyers are no different from individual consumers when making a purchase.

When you purchase something for yourself, you first need to see the benefits that you’ll gain from owning the product. Why else would you spend your hard-earned money on it?

What is important to retail buyers in their transactions? What do they expect to gain from the products that they purchase?

  • Something they can put on their shelves…

In 2010, Beth Lewand and her husband Chris Gray opened the one and only Eastern District, an independent food shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that specializes in craft beer and cheese.

“As small business owners,” Beth says, “we got to/had to do a little of everything: purchasing, merchandising, marketing, sales, financial and personnel management, serving food and washing dishes.”

They sold the business in 2017 with the goal of moving to a more rural environment. “I happily landed at Cricket Creek Farm in northwestern Massachusetts,” says Beth. “My job title is Operations Manager, and I still get to do a lot…

Matt Robertson

Longtime B2B salesperson for specialty food brands.

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