Wholesale is a significant source of sales revenue for many retail brands. Bulk selling products can help your business distribute your items to new regions and sell to customers it might not be able to reach otherwise.
Wholesale is also a widely used and ever-expanding sales technique. According to the US Census Bureau, wholesale inventories reached $932.9 billion in December 2022, while the global wholesale market is expected to grow to $65,613.18 billion in 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1%.
Not sure where to start with your own wholesale strategy? Learn how to give your business a boost and increase sales revenue with these wholesale strategy tips for executing and managing bulk selling customer relationships.
What is a wholesale strategy?
If you want to sell your products to other retailers in the hopes of growing your brand faster, a wholesale strategy is a must. But what does it entail exactly?
Wholesaling products typically involves selling larger quantities of products at a lower price than you’d sell them directly to consumers via your website or brick-and-mortar store.
The wholesale buyer then sells your products to its customers via its retail store or other sales channels.
Developing a wholesale strategy can help you build brand awareness faster than if you only sell products via your website, at events, or via one retail store location.
If your margins are too low, it will be impossible to survive.
1. Define your target market
The first step in creating a wholesale strategy is deciding to whom you want to sell. Do you envision your products sitting on shelves at department stores, specialty retailers, discount stores, or online shops? What kind of wholesale vendor makes sense both for your business and your own target customers?
Look at the type of items each store carries and make sure your products fit their mix. If you sell denim, you don’t want to spend time prospecting potential wholesale clients that only sell swimsuits.
2. Set your sales goals and budget
Creating quarterly sales projections can help you stay focused and work toward your goals. It can also help you understand what you can afford in terms of operating expenses—the saying that it takes money to make money is accurate when it comes to growing your brand and increasing sales revenue.
How many units are you hoping to sell each quarter? What is your forecasted quarterly sales revenue, and what will you have to spend to reach those goals? A few things you might consider budgeting for include:
- An independent sales representative (or multiple representatives who cover different regions)
- A showroom that works with various retailers in your target market
- Trade shows focused on building relationships with your target market
- An in-house sales representative to help drive your wholesale marketing efforts
Be sure to crunch the numbers and understand how much revenue you need to bring in to cover your operating expenses and still make a profit.
3. Manage your customer relationships
Existing and prospective customer relationships can be tracked with a spreadsheet or a third-party customer-relationship manager (CRM) like SalesForce or Insightly.
A spreadsheet can include the following columns:
- Store Name
- Buyer Name
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- Status (the last time you followed up and next steps to be taken)
4. Create a website
Even if you don’t plan to sell your products directly to consumers, creating a simple website with your branding, logo, and product photos and descriptions will make it easier for potential wholesale buyers to get familiar with your brand. And if you also sell DTC, use Shopify to manage all your sales channels—online, in-store, and wholesale—from one place. With the Shopify Plus plan you can set up a wholesale channel where buyers can submit their orders for you to review, or they can pay for their products at the checkout within your wholesale store.
Having a website also makes it easier for potential wholesale buyers to find your brand through Google search, making it a great tool to help you grow your wholesale business.
5. Find buyers and connect with them
There will likely be a countless number of potential buyers for your product, so start with a list of your top 10. From there, working in increments of 10 or 20 at a time will make the task less daunting.
As you work through the first 10, you’ll learn more about what approaches get you the positive response you want and which ones don’t.
Follow these steps to find and approach potential wholesale buyers:
Step 1: Who do you want to connect with?
You may already have a list of stores you want to sell to, but there are a few easy ways to expand that list:
- Create Google Alerts that notify you of stores or boutiques that carry products similar to yours. For example, if you want to find boutiques in New York City that carry eco-friendly activewear, you can search “Eco-friendly Activewear Boutique New York City.”
- Check your competitors’ websites for lists of the retailers they work with (also known as a “stockists” page) and use those names as leads (see Step 2 below for a how-to).
- Walk or drive around your neighborhood and surrounding area looking for stores that might carry your product. Hand out business cards and request contact information for the store’s buyer so you have a name to follow up with.
Step 2: Survey your network for connections
Before you start reaching out to buyers, see if you know someone who knows or has a connection with anyone on your list. You can start by searching the buyer’s name on LinkedIn and looking for common connections.
You also can send prospective buyers a direct message or email letting them know you’d like to connect and share more about your brand. Some retailer websites will list contact information, but you may have to settle for a general mailbox if the buyer’s address isn’t listed publicly. Be sure your subject line includes “ATTN: Buyer,” the store name, and your brand name to make conversations easier to track.
Another option for prospecting smaller retail stores is to interact with their social media channels like Instagram and Facebook. In many cases, small boutique owners manage their own social media. Spend a few days or weeks engaging with their content, and send them a direct message introducing yourself—this might help you make a warm introduction versus a cold email that comes out of the blue.
When you’re ready to send emails out to buyers, you can start with a template similar to this one:
Hello [buyer name],
My name is [insert your name]. I’m the founder of [link your brand name]. I found your shop on Instagram [link your Instagram]. Thank you for getting back to me and providing me with your email address.
I’ve been following you for a while and love your product assortment. I’m hoping to connect with you to share more about my brand—I think your customers might like it.
[Include a quick brand bio—three sentences at the most—and tell the buyer why your brand is different.]
I have attached our line sheets for your review and would be happy to tell you more about [your brand name] over the phone. Do you have availability this week or next?
I’d also be happy to send you a few samples of our bestselling styles for review if you’re interested.
Please feel free to call me at [your phone number] if you have any questions.
All my best,
Step 3: Be persistent
The most powerful tool in your wholesale strategy is persistence: You’re going to get many rejections before, during, and even after you get a yes. Self-promotion can be difficult, but if you stick with it and continue to follow-up with buyers, you should eventually start to see your hard work pay off.
If a buyer isn’t interested immediately, it doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in the future.
If they say no but you truly believe your product would make a great addition to their store, you can respond with the following email:
Hello [buyer name],
Thank you so much for getting back to me to let me know you’re not taking on new brands at this time. If it’s OK with you, I’d love to keep in touch and share my new product launches with you as they occur.
If anything should change on your side, please feel free to email or call me at [your phone number].
All my best,
Include the phrase “Follow Up” in your subject line—it alerts the receiver that you’ve attempted to connect before, and should result in more responses.
6. Get on the road
Once you’ve connected with retailers, see if you can make appointments with a number of buyers in the same region to show them your products in person. Pack up your samples and schedule time to meet with each retailer you’d like to build a relationship with—this is sometimes referred to as “road sales.”
Attending trade shows is another good way to meet buyers on the road. Be sure to make connections with buyers before a show, and to follow up after.
If you’d like to cover an area broader than your immediate region, you can look into hiring outside sales representatives.
Moving forward with your wholesale strategy
An important takeaway for any customer acquisition strategy is to build relationships. If people feel a connection to you and your story, they will feel a connection to your brand, and they’ll want to support it. Using the wholesale strategy tips listed above will help you stay organized so you can focus on nurturing customer relationships and achieving your goals.
We at ShopShipShake have been working with businesses like yours with fulfilling experiences. We offer one-stop services, including an efficient supply chain, over 10 thousand of China’s suppliers, over 1,000,000 SKU and more. With a successful track record of over 100,000 clients, we are sure to deliver your orders requirements.
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