December 5, 2011
5 Practical tips for landing a meeting with a buyer.
Now that you have a business case, 30-second product pitch and PowerPoint presentation built using the tips Romy and I provided in our last posts, your next step is to make contact with the buyer. I find that the following 2-pronged approach works when cold calling a buyer. Of course, if you have a warm lead (contact through a mutual acquaintance, broker, etc.) that will only strengthen your position.
Step 1: Mail 2 to 3 sets of product samples representing your entire line. Include in the box, a color copy of your PowerPoint presentation and a cover letter addressed to the buyer bullet pointing the ways your products will drive the buyer’s assortment’s financial performance. Make sure your cover letter closes with a call to action (every communication with a buyer should always conclude with one). A call to action can be a request for a 30-minute in person meeting or a phone call appointment. How do you find the mailing address for the buyer? Romy’s blog post about getting a buyer’s attention gives helpful hints.
Step 2: Within 2 weeks of mailing the sample package, follow up with an email to the buyer. Attach the PowerPoint presentation and copy/paste that same cover letter into the body of your email. Your call to action will be a notice that you will be calling within the week as follow up.
Step 3: After 7 days, call the buyer to follow up and request an in-person meeting. If you get them on the phone, ask for feedback on your submission.
Step 4: In the event you are able to get feedback on your submission, take this feedback to heart and decide whether you will act upon it. If you do, once you have revised your submission, email or call the buyer back to let them know you have listened and would like to schedule a meeting so you can walk them through the updates.
Step 5: If you do not hear back from the buyer after either Step 3 or 4, fret not. Sometimes it is a matter of timing. Follow up once every 6 weeks, but only with newsworthy updates. For example, with upcoming media or PR activity that will drive awareness of your product and potential foot traffic to retail stores. Or, with updates on new major retailers that have picked up distribution of your products. Or, with new product launches. All of these updates pique buyers’ interests and shows that your product has sales potential.
Alternative: I call this the “hail mary”. Those of you who know this football reference will understand. If you are going to be visiting the city in which the buying office is located, call and email ahead of time to let the buyer you will be in town on those specific dates. Offer to bring the showroom to them – either by suggesting a meeting at their office, or invite them to coffee at a nearby Starbucks. I’ve had one vendor rent the hotel ballroom across the street and invite me to their traveling showroom. And did I go? I sure did. I was curious!