Top 6 sales pitfalls, ideas to avoid them and what to do if you “pit fall.” 

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Over and over, when approaching new wholesale buyers, new (and existing!) food businesses make easily correctable tactical errors. Here are the top six pitfalls:

  1. Expanding too far too fast.

As the founder, you’re excited to get a new account. That’s understandable. Saying “yes” to accounts that are outside your region, not aligned with your known target customer, beyond your current capacity is a pitfall. 

Success is a result of sustainable growth. Failure is when you try to expand faster than your operations or cash flow allows. 

Start by staying super local. In this case, when you spread yourself too thinly (too many sales channels, different kinds of retailers, etc.) you lack the ability to properly service your local accounts. From afar, it’s a pitfall because things get dicey quickly. 

Rather than expanding into more retailers, we suggest going “narrow” and, at the same time, “going deep”. It’s important to realize that, if you can’t get your product off the shelves of 5 local retailers, it’s a mistake to think your product will succeed on the other side of the country.

  1. Using the same tactics and sales strategy with your wholesale buyers as you use for your direct-to-consumer customers.

Are you using the same pitch? Likely, you’re talking about taste, sustainability, sourcing, or origin story. Those are all reasons why retail customers love you and your product.

Those same sales points, though, don’t work on wholesale buyers. If your product doesn’t fly off the shelves, buyers aren’t interested. A buyer’s performance is based on their sales and margins. 

Even though your retail and DTC customers love your origin story, if you’re pitching on “heartstrings”, you’re wasting both your time and the buyers’ time. At this point, speaking DTC language with wholesale buyers is a lost opportunity. It’s also a pitfall.

  1. Not being fully prepared for buyer meetings or thinking you can use that face time to ask for feedback.

Buyers don’t have time for you to show up underprepared. From the wholesale perspective, you need to know your 5 P’s inside and out. What are the 5 P’s? Product. Placement. Pitch. Purchasing and Price.

To emphasize, walk into the meeting with concrete answers to all the logistics and details that go into the store’s ordering, receiving, merchandising, and selling your product. Otherwise, If you “get back to” the buyer, by the time you do, even if it’s only an hour later, they’ve moved on to another product.

The buyer may ask for certain accommodations. “Do you sell half cases?” “Do you offer free shipping?”. Things like that. I know you want to land the account. In this situation, the answer is “No”. Agreeing to outside terms makes you appear unprofessional as well as desperate.

  1. Thinking a distributor will solve your sales problems.

It’s a pitfall to believe that the path to success is to produce as cheaply as possible, get a co-packer, bring on a broker or distributor, etc. in the hope that your sales problems will be solved. Flat out mistake. Distributors will not help you land on more shelves. Their sole responsibility is to get your product from Point A to Point B. Even if the distributor promises you the world, distribution is NOT your end goal. It’s your responsibility. Take full ownership of your success. Distributors distribute. Period.

  1. Spending all your energy to get on shelves with no plan to get OFF the shelves and into shopping carts. 

Getting on the shelf is hard enough. Getting off the shelf and into customer carts is nearly impossible if you don’t have a strategy ahead of time. What’s your tried-and-true process to engage your accounts and increase sales? Don’t have one? That’s a problem. As I have shown, this isn’t something you can just “wing”.

It comes down to systems. Unless you have an outlined and tested strategy that you’ve successfully executed quarter after quarter, you may as well have nothing.

  1. Big, avoidable pitfall: asking your branding agency or packaging designer for sales or strategy advice. 

Yes, you’ve made a hefty investment in hiring an agency or designer. It’s important to realize that the investment does not include them solving your sales problems. It’s a mistake to ask (or expect) your agency to tell you which channels to pursue. Do not ask your packaging designer how to merchandise or if the packaging will land you on the shelves at Whole Foods. After all, these people have a specific expertise. Not to mention they aren’t qualified to help you on the client side of the equation. Again, just because you paid them doesn’t mean they can solve all your problems. To illustrate: Would you ask your dentist what color lipstick you should buy just because they’re near your lips? No. 

In conclusion, go to the right experts for the right issues. 

Want to learn more? After all, we’ve got tons of free resources to help your small food business succeed. We’d love to hear how you recovered from a pitfall. Let’s talk!

Crafted Kitchen is a shared use commercial kitchen in the Arts District of Los Angeles. We offer flexible kitchen rentals to small food businesses. Rent a kitchen today!

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