5 To Do’s for Scouting and Securing Wholesale Accounts

While many sellers think about diversifying their revenue streams, it’s not always obvious where to start.
When selling to retailers, do you hit the streets with your catalog or blanket potential retailers with emails?
Both of these strategies may garner an account, but equipping yourself with a reliable set of “to do’s” will help guide you to securing your first wholesale accounts.

5 To Do’s for Scouting and Securing Wholesale Accounts


To Do #1: Scout Locations

For your first to do, you’ll be scouting locations. This can be a bit of fun. Think of it as a scavenger hunt meets window shopping.
Get out your map. You’re looking for the best places to host your product. Best will depend on a mix of audience, geography, and price range. You want to find the places where your audience shops and won’t hesitate to pay what your product is worth.
If you identify several locations in the same neighborhood, prioritize them in order of first picks as each store will want to have a unique offering from its neighbors.
Be sure to look for locations where your product’s price will fit in comfortably. Ideally your product is neither the most nor least expensive item in any given store.
While visiting potential locations in person will give you the greatest perspective on a location’s wholesale potential, use online resources to save legwork. Here are ways you can employ technology:

  • Both Google Maps and Bing Maps offer tools to build your own maps where you can save locations, color code territory, and even take notes.

  • Local review sites, like Yelp, can both aid in finding potential locations and learn about their track record with customers. Negative reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, but an overwhelming number of complaints about a location’s retail experience could be a red flag.

  • LinkedIn can help you identify connections you already have at retail locations and reveal easier targets.


To Do #2: Do Your Homework

After identifying potential locations, run each through the classic 5Ws and H. These are who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  • Who is the store’s buyer? – Find out who’s in charge of buying from wholesalers. While you may find this information online, it’s likely that you’ll need to make a call to the store or visit in person. For large companies, there may be regional or national buyers assigned to multiple locations.

  • What does the buyer want? – Look at the big picture when you evaluate a store. Does your product complement what’s already sold there?

  • When does the buyer want your type of product? – Understanding a buyer’s seasonal rhythm is key to making contact at the right time. For example, a fashion retailer will want a six-month lead time for seasonal items. Large retailers also tend to need longer lead times. Start with whatever rule of thumbs exist for your industry and adjust as each buyer’s individual preferences emerge.

  • Where will the buyer carry your product? – Research the neighborhood of a potential location to gain an understanding for the audience it serves. If you’re working with a large retailer, your product may fit one of their store’s better than another.

  • Why would this buyer want your product? – Put yourself in the location’s shoes and develop a pitch tailored to their business style. Retailers get fatigued by cookie cutter pitches. Show understanding for their business and how your product fits.

  • How much will the buyer want? – Observe what percentage of their inventory matches your product’s category. Do they keep a lot of what you have on hand or does it look like something they purchase in small doses? Also, think about how much you can realistically provide in relationship to what you’re able to see from what they already carry.


To Do #3: Make Contact

After you’ve identified the buyer, make contact and schedule an appointment.
If you have trouble doing this by email or phone, don’t hesitate to go in person. Some small retailers may want to talk right away, but don’t go in with a high pressure sales pitch.
Remember, the goal of the first interaction is to identify the buyer and schedule a future meeting. This conveys respect for their time and professionalism in your process.

To Do #4: Prepare Like a Pro

Professionalism will quickly separate you as an appealing wholesaler.
Here are some often overlooked tips:

  • Be on time – Tardiness starts you off on a bad foot. Will a wholesaler who’s late to a simple meeting be able to deliver a product as scheduled?

  • Bring prepared line sheets – Professional line sheets are more than a nice touch, they summarize your line and prices for the retailer. Inventory management software is worth the investment as it can produce line sheets for you with a few clicks. Learn more about line sheets and see lots of examples in Get Retail Ready.

  • Provide payment options – Have multiple payment and deposit options available for retailers. Have a plan for everything from checks to wire transfers. Don’t let payment friction inhibit your sales.


To Do #5: Celebrate the Wins

Rejection is inevitable, but repeated effort pays off. Not every meeting with a buyer will result in a new account. However, each win makes any “no” worth it.
Be tenacious and keep in mind that a retailer that chooses not to proceed with your product may still be interested at a later date. Keep track of good feedback throughout your search and use it to grow your business.
And when you do land a new wholesale account, celebrate. Always celebrate. 

For more on getting your business retail ready check out these resources:

Find & Manage Sales Reps
Selling to Retail Stores
Selling to Retailers Mastermind Group
The ‘Get Retail Ready’ Guide and Workbook


Stitch Labs

Stitch Labs is a provider of an online application for simple inventory management, order fulfillment, invoicing, expense reporting and business analytics.

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