What Retailers Need Right Now #YourQuestionsAnswered

OTS 165 | What Retailers Need Now

 

Whether you’re out and about or if you are sequestered at home still, everybody has their own way of dealing with opening back up. As stores and establishments are creating their own standards –  which they have every right to do – all kinds of crazy sentiment are going on out there, especially on social media. On today’s show, Timothy Bush answers some questions from the On The Shelf Now community and takes a closer look at what retailers really need right now when the lockdown is starting to loosen up. No matter what the process is, the bottom line is we, as human beings, have to be together on this thing.

Listen to the podcast here:

What Retailers Need Right Now #YourQuestionsAnswered

I hope you’re having a great day whenever it is that you’re reading this, whether you’re out and about or if you are sequestered at home still. I do have family in California. A lot of things are still in place there. I am in Florida and things are opening up. Things are getting back out there. It’s interesting because everybody has their own way of dealing with opening back up. What are they going to do? How are they going to do it? Are they going to wear a mask or not? “My face, my choice.” All kinds of crazy sentiments are going on out there. In reality, do what you think that you need to do.

I’m wearing a mask when I’m out in public, when I’m putting myself in and around other people for a couple of reasons. I care about you. If I’m somehow carrying this virus and I don’t know it, it’s not affecting me, I don’t want to be the one that transmits it to you. Is the mask going to stop that? I don’t know. I’m not an expert at it, but it certainly can’t hurt. If I can do a little something to help protect you, I’m going to do it. I also have a mother-in-law that we take care of. She’s on chemo and so when I’m around her, I have to make sure that I’m not bringing anything back to her. Unlike me, I probably would survive the Coronavirus if I got it. I don’t know that for sure. I’m guessing that it probably wouldn’t be the end of me, but it would be the end of her.

I have a responsibility to take that into account with my actions and what I’m doing. I’m not upset that people are out there saying, “If you want to come into our store, you have to wear a mask.” That doesn’t bother me anymore than it bothers me that I have to wear shoes or a shirt. I’m all for Costco. I was on the phone with multiple buyers. We were talking about the stance that they’re taking. They are interested in keeping their employees and their members safe. I’m all for that. It’s not a big hardship for me to throw a mask on while I’m walking through Costco. It’s not going to be the end of me. It’s not an infringement on my rights. Remember when Costco first opened and they would only take American Express or your debit card? No Mastercard, Visa or Discover Card. That was not an infringement on my constitutional right. If I wanted to use Visa, Mastercard or Discover Card, I just didn’t shop at Costco because those were their rules.

Going into a store that says, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” nobody’s infringing on your constitutional right. They’re trying to create a standard in their restaurant or in their establishment. They have the right to do that. They have the right to refuse service based on their rules. If you don’t like it, that’s all good. If you don’t appreciate it or think it’s right, that’s all fine. You’re living in America, you have the right to feel that way. Just don’t shop there. Find a place that is amenable to how you’re feeling and how you’re thinking about things and go shop there. The bottom line is as human beings, we have to be together on this thing. We can’t be divided on haves and have nots, mask wearers and non-mask wearers. I’m going to cough in your face to prove a point. None of that is getting us any further. None of that is helping anything.

OTS 165 | What Retailers Need Now
What Retailers Need Now: The faster that we can move through this part of the process, the faster the economies can recover and the faster we’re going to get back to whatever our new normal is.

 

You go on social media and it is a blood bath out there as far as how people think and what they’re willing to say. Tone it down. Calm it down. It’s not making anything better. You want to talk about how you feel and how your rights are getting eroded away. Make it constructive. Tell them how you’re feeling but don’t degrade other people. That doesn’t make anything better. That doesn’t make you look better, smarter, more educated, more well-informed. Put your argument out there. This is how I’m feeling personally about the situation. This is what I noticed. I’m the same as anybody else. I can get angry. I was at Costco one day and I’m sitting there looking at a product. Somebody walks right up and stands shoulder to shoulder next to me. Our shoulders at one point were touching. In my mind, I was saying, “6 feet is not as far as it used to be.” I didn’t say that. I simply moved. I could have and I wanted to. I got a little bit angry but that wasn’t going to help it. That wasn’t going to make the situation any better. I moved and went on about my business.

It’s A Process

We’re all in the same boat. We’re all going the same direction. We want to get through this. It’s a process. Whether you agree with the process or not, it’s still a process. The faster that we can move through this part of the process, the faster the economies can recover, the faster we’re going to get back not to normal, but to whatever our new normal is. I go by restaurants, people are eating. I go by stores, people are shopping. I go to the mall, people are in there. Maybe they’re wearing a mask, maybe they’re not. People are not afraid to get back out there. I’m glad about that. It’s making me happy to see that this virus is not going to keep us down. It is not going to beat us. It’s not going to break us. We’re going to get back out there. We’re going to do it safely. We’re going to honor each other. We’re going to stand together, but we’re still going to get out there. I’m going to get off my soapbox. Those things were on my mind and I’m sure they’re on your mind also.

I want you to know I’m with you. I’m rooting for you. I want you to be successful during this time, at this time, after this time. That’s what this show is all about. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re talking about. How do we move forward? How do we take ground because there is ground to be taken? We’re going to get into some questions and answer. We haven’t done questions and answer in a while. I thought we would do that. We’ve been doing Facebook Lives on our private Facebook group, On The Shelf “Now”. Join that so you can get in on that. A lot of great questions are coming out of that. I wanted to share a couple of those with you. The first one, I have a question from an Amazon seller. She’s starting to get into selling into brick and mortar. She had one of her first discussions with a specialty retailer. He’s a single owner who wants to buy her product, but he wants to buy it on terms, 30 days net.

Her question was, “Should I do that? I don’t want to do that but should I? Do I need to? Is this what’s normal? Is this how things are happening? Is this how things are done?” Let me preface this answer by one key factor. How badly do you want your product to be in that store? That overlays everything. If this is a certain store that you’ve been after and you really want your products in that store, then that is going to direct every part of what you do next. If you don’t care, then that’s going to direct everything that you do next. If it’s a step in your sales story, then that is going to direct. How much money do you have? Can you afford to lose that money? Is it all going to be part of it? The answer that I gave her is, “No, I wouldn’t.” It’s not enough volume. It’s not big enough. It’s a first time interaction with this particular specialty retail store. The risk is not worth it from my perspective.

Maybe she’d been trying to get into that retailer and they finally are letting her in. They need 30 days. They want to try to sell the product before they have to pay for it. I understood. Maybe she wants to take that risk. I don’t even know how much her product sells for. I don’t know how many units they were asking for. I don’t know how much dollars are at risk here. Here’s the thing. If it’s a single-owner specialty shop, they should be used to paying up front credit card for small shipment, then create a relationship. One, two, three orders, and on the fourth order, we can start talking about terms, promotions and a lot of different things, but now I don’t know you at all. I don’t know your finances, where you’re at, how you’re paying your bills.

Once my product is in your store, it’s all on me to get that money. It’s not worth it for me to take that risk and put that money in jeopardy, especially since nobody has money to burn now. If that person really wants it, they’ll pay up front for it like they do on hundreds of other products. Do they want net 30? Who doesn’t want to get something and pay for it later? That’s called credit. You have to ask yourself, “How badly do I want it? How much is that risk? What’s going to happen to me if I lose all of that?” If it’s a small order and your product doesn’t cost that much, they’re buying twelve units and it’s $26, you’d rather have it on the shelf than possibly lose the deal. If you lost the $26, so be it. At least you made a solid decision based on facts. At least you took a look at, “This is my risk. This is my exposure. If it all goes south, I’m okay with it.” I would much rather get it on the shelf and be able to say, “We’re in this next specialty retailers as part of our sales story than lose it.”

Looking At Risks

I’m not sure how she decided to go or which way she decided to take it. My advice to you is take into account, take a look at the risk. Generally, I wouldn’t do it. I would stand firm, “I would love it if our relationship grew to the point where I was able to offer you terms. That would mean that your customers are loving the product. You’re selling through it. We’ve had a couple of orders and we’ve created a relationship. Now we’re doing business. Now, we’re not doing business. I don’t even know you, but I want to offer you terms. I want to give you net 30. This is what I need to be able to feel comfortable doing that.” If you put it like that, it’s so much more inviting than, “No, I don’t do that. That’s against our policy.”

If you tell them, “I want to give you terms because here’s what terms means to me,” if we get to that point, then we’re both in a relationship. We’re both doing well. It’s mutually beneficial. Your orders are starting to go up and it makes sense. Let’s do this. Let’s run the first couple of orders on. Pay up front and take credit card payment. As we build this relationship and we see whether your customers are interested in the product, then we’ll move into terms. That’s how I would handle that one. Should I do net terms out of the gate on specialty? My immediate answer is no and that’s how I would handle it generally.

Your Packaging

This is a question that comes up a lot because as you transitioned from Amazon to any retail. One of the things that you have to do is start looking at your packaging. Most likely, you don’t have a lot into your packaging. You’re sending it into a polybag, in an unmarked box, because they’ve already bought it.

You don’t need to resell it to them. It reminds me of that movie, Dave, when he’s sitting there and he’s trying to cut $600 million out of the budget. They have a program going where they’re spending $60 million making Americans feel good about their American-made auto purchases. Kevin Kline’s like, “We’re spending $60 million making people feel good about a car they already bought.” That did make sense. That’s what happens on Amazon. You don’t have to put a lot into it. It’s more about when they open it and making sure the instructions are there. Everything they need to have a good experience. Outwardly, it’s not a big deal.

Read your email word for word before you send it. It takes a little bit extra time, but it's worth it for that first impression. Click To Tweet

As you move into retail. It’s probably one of the biggest deals because your product is sitting on the shelf, people walk by it, they’re either going to notice it or they’re not. It’s everything. When is the right time to start thinking about your retail packaging? The moment that you decide to expand and diversify into brick and mortar retail. The moment that you start to make that decision, start to think about that. That’s when it’s time to start that process. Depending on where you’re going. Depending on if you’re going to big box only, you’re going to create a bigger sales story, or you’re going to start out in specialty. If you’re going into big box, that’s going to take some time. It’s a marathon or a sprint. You can get away with not having the new packaging, just renderings in your buyer deck. This is how our packaging is going to look. This is what we’re thinking. This is a couple of different variations of it. If you’re starting out in specialty, you have to get it packaged for specialty so they can put it on a shelf, put it on a peg hook, hang it in on a clip strip.

Whatever they’re going to do with it, you’re going to have to create that. Without getting too much into it. What I would do is I would make this transitional packaging that you could also use on Amazon. You could transition into this packaging. This is what people get when they buy it on Amazon or when you send it to a specialty retailer. Your better and more robust packaging is reserved as you start to talk to big box buyers and it’s in rendering form only. You would not want to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a new packaging, have it packaged by product, have it sitting and waiting for that big box retailer to pull the trigger. You have plenty of time. You’re going to give them lead time. You have plenty of time to create that packaging for that order. All they need to see is, what does it look like? What are you thinking? They can also give their feedback and their thoughts on it as well.

What Buyers Interested In Right Now

This was a question that I’ve been answering a lot. This is not necessarily a straight up question. It’s been on everybody’s mind. The question is, what are buyers interested in now? What are they doing? Where are they going? What’s happening? A lot of it depends on the retailer. Are they already open? Were they opened during the pandemic or the height of the pandemic? Were they grocery, drugstore, essentials, automotive? Did they close down and now they’re starting to re-open? There is a humongous difference if you’re starting to re-open like you’re Bed Bath & Beyond or you are Costco. You’ve always been open during the pandemic. Both buyers of all those types of retailers are very active now. If you’ve been closed, you’re in an unprecedented situation. You had product in your store that was geared towards a certain time of year that never happened for you. Now you’re going to have to deal with, “What are we going to do with that? Where’s that going to go?” You’ve got to get rid of it.

Most likely, you’ve not been buying a lot of stuff and letting it stack up, waiting for this thing to be open because you didn’t know when we’re going to open. Now you’re behind. What a great time for people like us to swoop in especially if we have product state-side ready to go. This may be an all year round or it’s a product that could help fill gaps and holes. It’s a great time. In my opinion, from what I’ve seen and spoken to, buyers are very receptive. What have you got? What’s happening? There are a lot of categories that are crushing it. Fishing and home-improvement are crushing it. Anything that has to do with yourself, cooking, cookware and cooking utensils, they’re crushing it. I have a client that sells something for the kitchen. He’s up on Amazon and he’s up 200%. Why is that? That’s because people are at home and they’re cooking. It’s a good thing to be cooking in your kitchen and not eating takeout fast food all the time.

I hope it sticks around. You’re going to start to go back and get some old habits going as your favorite restaurants open up. I hope some of what has happened here in the pandemic as far as staying at home and cooking your own meals sticks around. It’s much better for you. Buyers are very receptive. What’s interesting is the buyers that are still at home, it’s funny to talk to them. When you talked to them before and they were in their office, all kinds of stuff are going on. People are coming in their office or cubicle. They have meetings they’ve got to run to. They have vendors that are coming in and they have staff. They require their attention. All these things are going on, but when they’re at home, none of that exists. There’s a familiarity with being at home that makes them or any of us feel calmer. I’ve been able to have conversations with buyers in the past where it’s been like, “We’re going to go here. We’re going to go there. Give me that, give me this.” This time, it’s been much more conversational. That’s been interesting. That’s been a change.

OTS 165 | What Retailers Need Now
What Retailers Need Now: Moving into retail is going to be a big deal because your product is sitting on the shelf and people who are going to walk by it will either notice it or not.

 

I spoke to a Costco buyer in Canada and they’re back to work. They’d been back at the office. What Costco in Canada did is they staggered it. This guy has a team. It’s him, his assistant and an ICS, which is an Inventory Control Specialist. He went back to the office weeks earlier. By the time his assistant comes back, he had already been there, then she’ll come back. Another two weeks later, the ICS will come back. They’re staggering it so that it’s not this massive amount of people coming back into the office all at one time. I thought that was smart. Depending on what your product is. People need holiday too, so it’s a good time. I would get on the phone, get out there, and push it forward.

What’s going on with retailers? They’re buying product. They want to get back, start selling, and start making some revenue. I know that you’ve been seeing, “So-and-so declared bankruptcy. This company is going to close. JC Penney is closing 30% of their stores.” That’s a good thing. JC Penney already needed to close 30% of their stores. That already needed to happen pandemic or not. They were struggling already. This accelerated it. If in retail things thin out a little bit, people cut off some dead weight. It is going to make them stronger. It’s going to push more people into the surviving retailers. It’s going to boost their business. It’s going to make them more flexible. Don’t be afraid of that. When you see that retail is ending, It’s not ending.

VIP Facebook Group Lineup

I’m having some questions on my VIP Facebook group. We have a lot of cool topics that we’re going to be covering. In the VIP Facebook group, this is not going to be, “Check out this article.” It’s going to be teaching. The very first topic that we’re going to talk about is the difference between selling to the consumer and selling to a buyer. That is a dichotomy, a dynamic that is vastly different. If you’re an Amazon seller and all you’ve been used to is selling to the consumer, one of the biggest mistakes that you make when you try to sell to a buyer is selling to the buyer like they’re going to use your product personally. You’re trying to sell them your product and you can’t do that. That is huge. We’re also going to talk about something called email snippet. I’m not going to tell you what that is. You’re going to have to be part of the VIP Facebook group to find that out.

I noticed something in emails that we’re sending buyers or emails that you’re sending to anybody. Something has changed about our technology that’s hampering our email’s ability to be effective. We’ve hit on something pretty special there. We also put together a cold call worksheet. This is created of that famous call I made to a buyer at a sporting goods store. Because I handle a lot of different accounts, sometimes it’s very much cerebral for me. I have to think about who I’m calling. I’m calling for this client, “This is Tim from this company.” On this particular day, I was complacent. I didn’t have my stuff in front of me. I didn’t have the buyer deck up on my screen. I just had a to-do that said, “Call this buyer from this store for this client,” so I did. Going through the motions, I left them a message and hung up. If you’ve heard the story before, which I’ve talked about on the show, they called me right back. Seconds later, my phone rang. I picked it up and it was the buyer.

OTS 165 | What Retailers Need Now
What Retailers Need Now: Selling to the consumer and selling to a buyer is a dichotomous dynamic that is so vastly different.

 

He’s like, “This is so-and-so. You just called me. What’s up?” I was frozen. I wasn’t ready to answer that question and I wasn’t even apparently ready for him to answer on the first time. I wasn’t ready for him to call me back. I ended up eating humble pie and telling him, “I thought I was going to leave you a message. I didn’t expect you to call me back. I’m not ready to have this conversation. Can you give me twenty minutes? I’ll call you back.” He knew what he was doing. He did that on purpose but who cares? I should have been ready. I have a process now because that will never happen to me again. When I’m calling buyers, I have a worksheet in front of me to make sure that I know what I’m talking about. Specifically, what product I’m talking about, what my agenda is and what I want from that call even if I’m not expecting them to answer. We’re going to go over that. That’s going to be fun. We have a bunch of other stuff lined up for the VIP Facebook group. You’re not going to want to miss it. It’s like the show on steroids. It’s going to be broadcast live in the Facebook group but it’s going to be on Zoom. You are going to be very participatory.

Tweak Your Emails

It’s going to be like a classroom teaching. We’re going to talk about things. It could even be called a mastermind, although I’m not calling it that. I’m excited to be able to offer it and get into it with you. That’s the answer to that question, “What else have we got?” If you have an email template that you’re going from a big box retailer and telling them the same thing. You might tweak a couple of things. What happens as you’re using this template if you forgot to take out or change the company name. You’re sending Costco buyer an email that says Target in it. Maybe you’re sending Bob at Costco an email that says Tiffany in it who was the buyer at Bed Bath. What then? It’s happened. The good thing is that buyers never read their emails that closely. They may or may not catch it. The bottom line is you never want your email to feel generic like you’re going out there and sending the same email to the masses. That’s not going to help you. That’s not going to make them feel special. That’s not going to make them feel like you’re really targeting their company for a specific reason. What do you do?

What I recommend is that you get a program that gives you a moment to take that email back. If you hit send and you’re like, “Crap, I didn’t change the name,” you can undo it. I use a program called Mailbutler from a European company. It’s not very expensive. It works with my Gmail and G Suite. It has a lot of great features in it. One of those is when you hit send, it pops up and you have five seconds to undo it if you want to. If you end up sending that, always correct it as fast as you can and send another one. The reason you do that is because most likely a buyer’s email list is like a Twitter feed. Emails are just coming in. Chances are they’re going to open the first one that they see and that’s going to be the most recent one. If it groups theirs by conversation, they’re always going to click on the one that’s newest. There’s a chance that they will never even read the one that you send. If they do read it and they see the mistake, they’re going to be, “They corrected it.” Send it right off.

It’s going to have less impact than if you did nothing. The faster you can follow it up with a new email, the better chance that they are not going to read that email before you get the second one off. If you realize that you did it, hit them with another email ASAP. After that, read your email before you send it. I know this seems weird, “What do you mean? Of course, I read it.” That’s not true because I see emails that come to me all the time, miss words, misspelling, left out words. Read your email word for word before you send it. I know it takes a little bit of extra time but it’s worth it for that first impression and how the buyer is going to view you. Sometimes I read it 2 or 3 times. I need that email to have a certain impact. I need that buyer to take action. The last thing I need is for there to be a reason that they don’t. They got all fired up. They’re reading it and then it says Target. They’re like, “What?” and then it’s over. I don’t send buyers emails for any old reason.

If you’re trying to impact the retailer and offer their consumers an experience, you're going want to be on the phone with that person. Click To Tweet

I send an email for a specific reason and I want a specific result out of that email. I need it to be right. Take the extra time to reread it and then ask yourself, is this going to give me the result that I need after I send it? If you’re not convinced, then tweak it, add to it, change it. I think too often because it’s easy, you just type it and hit send, we don’t think about the impact. We’re trying to get something in front of them. I don’t know whether you notice this or not, but a tremendous number of people when they sell things, they call somebody on the phone, they call the buyer or whatever, they want to get off the phone fast. They want the buyer to say no and hang up. They don’t think that’s what they want but that’s what they’re hoping for. “Get this over with. I hate cold calling. I want this to be over.”

You have to analyze yourself. You’re not going to tell yourself that’s how you feel because you want to sell something. You’re going to be like, “That’s not how I’m feeling.” Watch yourself. Are you wanting the conversation to be over? If you are trying to impact that retailer, if you’re trying to offer them something of value and wanting to offer their consumers an experience, then you’re going to want to be on the phone with that person. You’re going to want to have that conversation. The longer it goes, the better it is. Don’t just check it off. It’s not a checkoff. I learned from Tony Robbins that if the end result that you’re looking for is to get the buyer at Walmart to buy your product, then just having it the to-do that says, “Call the buyer at Walmart.” You then call and leave a message or you call them and you get off the phone so you can check it off. That’s a to-do, not a result. You still didn’t get the buyer at Walmart to buy the product. You’re not even close to that. It’s because you were focused on checking off that to-do. It’s not a to-do, it’s a result that you’re looking for.

If you call the buyer and they’re not interested, you still have this result on your list that has to be accomplished. How are you going to do that? How are you going to get that done? I’m happy to talk to you about that if you want to. I know we’re digressing from this situation, but it’s common to send out an email that has a mistake in it or has somebody else’s name in it. Reread your email diligently and ask yourself a couple of things. One, is it all right grammatically, spelling wise, and punctuation wise? Secondly, is it set up to get me the result that I want? Thirdly, what is that result? Maybe switch those around. What is the result that I want? Is the email set up to give that to me? If it’s not, you’ve got to redo it. Don’t just send people emails. They don’t have time to read BS emails that are generic and you’re trying to just check it off, “I sent the guy an email.” What you want is a conversation. The email is designed to get them on the phone with you, so that you can tell them what you’re doing. Think about that when you’re sending out your email.

OTS 165 | What Retailers Need Now
What Retailers Need Now: Don’t just send people generic emails. What you really want is a conversation, an email that is designed to get them on the phone with you so that you can tell them what you’re doing.

 

That’s the question I had to go into this episode. It’s been great talking to you. I appreciate you sticking with me and supporting the show. It’s always an honor for me to talk to you. I would like to do more of that and have more interaction. We can do that in the private Facebook group, On The Shelf “Now”. You can go to the website On the Shelf Now and you can leave comments so that we can interact. You can also send me an email at Tim@OnTheShelfNow.com or Tim@TLBConsulting.com. Either one of those are going to get to me, but I want to know how you’re feeling, what you’re dealing with, what you’re struggling with, and how things are going for you. If you want to get deeper into training or you want to get deeper into learning, there are all kinds of things that you can do. You can go to our course page on TLBConsulting.com. You can take the newest course we have on pitching your product via video conference or our course on how to price your product for the US market.

You can book a coaching call directly with me. You sign up for the VIP Facebook group and start getting involved with other people that are doing and wanting to do what you’re doing. We’re here for you. We believe in you. We know that you’re going to be successful. I appreciate each one of you and how you’re making it through this time. Someday we’re going to look back on this and say, “That was a crazy time.” We’re in the middle of it and it is crazy. We’re dealing with crazy. The fact that you’re reading this blog means that you want to step out of that, you want to move forward, and you want to take some ground. I’m with you on that. I support you. Thank you, Big Boxers. I appreciate you. Until next time. We look forward to seeing your product on the shelf.

Important Links:

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the On The Shelf community today: