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Sales Pitfalls: the top 6, tips To Avoid Them and What To Do If You “Pit Fell.” 

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Over and over, when approaching new wholesale buyers, new food businesses (and existing!) make easily correctable tactical errors. Here are the top 6 sales 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 mistake. 

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. 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, things get dicey quickly. 

Rather than expanding into more retailers, we suggest going “narrow and deep”. For this reason, 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? That’s a sales pitfall.

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. 

If you’re pitching on “heartstrings”, you’re wasting both your time and the buyers’ time. Speaking DTC language with wholesale buyers is a lost opportunity.

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

Another key point: 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
  • Price

To begin with, don’t walk into the meeting without concrete answers to all the logistics and details that go into the store’s ordering, receiving, merchandising, and selling your product. If you “have to get back” to the buyer, all of a sudden, by the time you do, even if it’s only an hour later, they’ve moved on to another product.

In this situation, a buyer may ask for certain accommodations. “Do you sell ½ cases?” “Do you offer free shipping?”. Things like that. In any event, I know you want to land the account and, in a word, the answer is “No”. Agreeing to outside terms makes you appear unprofessional and desperate.

  1. Do you think a distributor will solve your sales problems? That’s a sales pitfall.

The path to success is NOT to produce as cheaply as possible, get a co-packer, bring on a broker or distributor, etc. As a matter of fact that is a lat out mistake. In brief, 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 is a huge sales pitfall.

Getting on the shelf is hard enough. It’s important to realize that getting off the shelf and into customer carts is nearly impossible if you don’t have a strategy ahead of time. To emphasize the point, what’s your tried-and-true process to engage your accounts and increase sales? Don’t have one? That’s a problem. This isn’t something you can just “wing”.

In summary, it comes down to systems. If you lack an outlined and tested strategy in the hope that you’ll successfully executed quarter after quarter, in the final analysis, you have nothing.

  1. Asking your branding agency or packaging designer for sales or strategy advice? Another sales pitfall.

Yes, you’ve made a hefty investment in hiring an agency or designer. It’s important to realize that your investment does not include them solving your sales problems. To illustrate, do not ask (or expect) your agency to tell you which channels to pursue. By the same token, do not ask your packaging designer how to merchandise or if the packaging will land you on the shelves at Whole Foods. These people have a specific expertise. They aren’t qualified to help you on the client side of the equation. After all, 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. 

As can be seen, even though you may be tempted to, remember to go to the right experts for the right issues. 

Want to talk about your small food business? We’re all ears! Schedule a call today.

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