“I Hate Selling, But Love Making Sales”
The introverts guide to wholesale
I’m an introvert.
I’m not one of those people who can just strike a conversation with a customer and convince them to buy stuff.
I envy people who can.
When I first started making a collection of home decor goods, my artist partner and I had set up a booth at the Renegade Craft Fair. I enjoyed chatting with people who asked questions and wanted to hear our story. That was the fun part.
But didn’t know how to convert any of those chit chats into sales.
Selling was draining.
When it was time to approach stores, we had the same trouble.
Our list of fears:
What if they hate our stuff?
What if they never respond?
What if we’re not the right fit?
Because of that we never tried and missed a lot of opportunities.
If you’re one of those people who don’t have this problem, you’re going to be very successful.
You can stop reading right now.
But what if you’re like me and hate the idea of selling?
Fast forward a few years later.
When I started working on SKUE, to help other maker connect with retailers, selling was STILL my least favorite part.
And it was even harder now.
We weren’t just trying to sell one collection, we were selling collections of hundreds of makers and convincing buyers to take a look.
It involved cold calling, awkward conversations and uncomfortable requests.
It was exhausting.
We heard a lot of crickets.
We forgot to follow up.
We were worried we were being annoying.
NOT fun if you’re not wired for sales.
My co-founder Spencer was ready to throw in the towel.
Then we changed our approach. We started practicing the art of less selling.
Less selling means you present your product in a way that it starts selling itself.
Then you can spend time on the fun part, which is building relationships.
Through these non-selling tactics, we’ve grown our buyer list by 300% in the past 6 months. We have a 65% email open rate. And a 25% conversion rate on sales. That’s 10X higher than most e-commerce sites.
Now this isn’t about finding the right product market fit. That’s a topic for another post.
It was the things you could do to do less selling around your existing product.
We started thinking about one stupidly obvious thing:
How can we say things that buyers would love to say YES to?
Would you like to us to curate products for you at no cost? YES!
Would you prefer we email you new makers right before you spend all your money at trade fairs? YES! YES!
Would you like it if we could cut down the turnaround times from 3 months to 3 weeks? Fuck YEAH!
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to remember passwords? YOU CAN DO THAT? YES!
What can you do, so you can spend less time selling your product and more time building relationships?
What can you do to increase the chances for an affirmative response?
Here are few things to get started, if you know this, it’ll be a refresher. Each of these topics will be linked to an elaborate explanation with quotes from retailers and real examples.
You never have to sell if you…
Get the basics right
If the sign outside a cafe says: No shoes. No shirt. No service. You should walk in with shoes and a shirt.
Independent retail stores have an invisible sign at their door.
No collection. No linesheets. No service.
I’m not surprised makers still walk in without these basics.
I did it myself.
Sell to the right store
We counted 12 different types of stores.
This is a truncated list. If you know the right store your product belongs to, then you guessed it, less selling.
Let the packaging do the selling
Stores are busy. Store owners aren’t always around to talk about your product, but your packaging is.What are the top three things customers want to know. If you make mugs, it could be:
Who made it?
Is it dishwasher safe?
What are care instructions?
Don’t add the price to your packaging. Let the retailers do that for you.
Get your pricing right
We used to think pricing is math. We looked for formulas. Pricing unfortunately doesn’t work like that.
It doesn’t matter if your cost price is $30 if the market is only willing to pay only $10. Or if your cost price is $10 but market is willing to pay $100.
To get your pricing right, look at what your audience is willing to pay. And the fastest way to find out is ask. Not friends. Not family. But your potential customers or retailers. And test.
Formulas are fun, but market sets the price.
Also, your MSRP should match the price you sell on your website.
Figure out the lowest min order
How many pieces do you need to make it worthwhile to start production and make a profit. It’s called MOQ. Buyers love a MOQ of 1. It’s the least amount of risk for a buyer. But of course, that’s not always possible. Start with one and see how much you need to add on top of it. The min order should make your wholesale business worthwhile.
More Coming soon…
Show these 5 things in your photos
Here are five things all retailers wish they could see in photos
A wide shot
A close up shot
Lifestyle shot (on a model if you have jewelry)
Color variations, if any
All shot with DSLR
Make policies as retail friendly as possible
Here’s a list of dream policies:
-Cancel anytime prior to shipping
-Free returns, no questions asked
-Net 30 (that is, they can pay you after 30 days)
It’s ok for retailers to dream, right?
Now what can you offer? Get it as close to the above as you can. Make those YOUR terms.
Meet buyers when they want to meet you
You know when you’e busy and someone taps you on the shoulder and asks if you have a moment. It’s rude.
Now imagine walking into a store and asking to see the buyer.
Sorry. If you want to meet buyers, send a nice email, comment on instagram, or take an appointment at a tradeshow.
This is how we hear makers sell a bowl..
“-This ceramic bowl is glazed with so and so….
-it’s dishwasher safe.
-Here’s another feature
-And another feature
This is how most people sell.
If you want to do less selling ask the buyer if they have a need for it. Start with “Can you tell me a little bit about your store?”
More coming soon…
Ask for feedback
Its easier for buyers to tell you why they order if you ask for feedback. They may have something they want to tell you in order to get it into their store. But they may not say it since no one really wants to give unsolicited advice. Give them permission and you’ll see a huge difference.
Time your emails
If I wanted to ask President Obama a question, I would wait until until the right moment. For example a Reddit AMA or a question on Quora when he’s active. I might follow up right after a conference. Similarly buyers have the best times when they’re open to chat. It’s right before key buying moments like NY NOW, and a few weeks before Mother’s Day. Or few months before the holidays.
Automate your sales
Imagine if you got all of the above right. What you need is a stupid simple way for stores to order from you and reorder? You become their trusted supplier. Sales on autopilot means all you have to do is deliver.
That’s an introduction to the idea behind doing less selling.
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Vinit is co-founder of SKUE, wholesale marketplace for well-made goods co-created retail experts. If you’re a maker interested in wholesale sign up here.