I loved the challenge of approaching a mega giant, finding their desires, overcoming objections, and putting the purchase order in my pocket.
A few suggestions and stories from my personal experiences.
- Do not be afraid. The buyers are people, just like you. They may have a fancy title with a business card from a well known company. They still put their shoes on the same as you.
When I was dealing with Sam’s Club, arguably one of the more finicky customers I worked with, the first few minutes after I made the appointment, I was scared. However, as I was planning my presentation and proposal for them, being a successful entrepreneur, there was no reason to be scared.
2. Plan your pricing. The big guys want the world when it comes to the price they pay. Fortunately, being the owner and sales representative, I had some room to play with.
The buyers were always made aware they were getting a great price. Bass Pro was the first big buyer for a novelty fishing lure I invented called the Shad Quack. (See a previous blog with the Shad Quack Story.)
With their name recognition and buying power, they got a terrific price. Bass Pro sold thousand and we me sell thousands more because of the “tag along” mentality of the smaller retailers. “If Bass Pro is carrying the ShadQuack, I better too.”
The volume from their orders also helped decrease production costs, thus the margins for other sales, making their “best” price a win win for both of us.
3. Background relationships. Cabela’s and Jennings Decoy Company, (Jennings is my middle name) had a long and mutually profitable relationship. The head buyer grew up in North Dakota, not far from where my Dad was born. My brother and I still own the homestead to this day and use it as a waterfowl hunting camp. This was a natural connection the Cabela’s buyer.
The buyer and I got to know each other fairly well. We would meet at trade shows and occasionally I would drive to the headquarters in Sydney NE. Our mutual bond to our roots was a huge benefit to both of us, as Cabela’s would often get first crack at our new products.
4. New Ventures with Potential. In the late 1980’s Gander Mountain was a mid-size mail order retailer of sporting goods. Based in tiny Wilmot, Wisconsin, I drove down to meet the buyer. Little did I know at the time, that they would grow into a huge customer for Jennings, with retail stores located throughout the Midwest.
By taking a chance, Jennings gained a substantial customer generating millions of dollars in sales over the next decade.
5. Giving Back. Early on in my career, I got involved in various conservation groups. Ducks Unlimited was my favorite. After joining the local chapter’s committee, I soon became the chairman and helped raise many thousands of dollars headed for wetland and nesting ground protection.
One of our favorite fund raising activities at banquets was a game called “Last Duck Standing”. The basic premise was like reverse bingo–as long as you did not get “bingo” you were still in the running for winning a shotgun.
One year I bought the last card so we couldd get the game going. Wouldn’t you know it. It came down at the end to a twelve year-old boy, and me to win the gun. I was praying to lose. I won. The boy, seated with his Dad at the next table looked heartbroken.
One of the committee members brought me the prize. Looking at the young hunter, It was an easy decision. He was elated when I handed the prize to him.
The large crowd applauded and he and his father were truly thankful. Giving back can be rewarding in many ways.
D. U., Pheasants Forever, and many other charities became large customers, partly because of our many donations in time and merchandise. The efforts were well worth the investment.
You may wonder how the examples relate to your business or personal life. The concepts outlined in the above stories can be to help you attain and retain customers of any size. Plan and Proceed. Do not be afraid.