Onboarding to a big retailer takes time and effort. It’s not difficult, but you need to be dedicated to it because it takes a lot of man-hours for these retailers to get the process all done. So, you got to do your part as well. Join your host Timothy Bush as he goes through the onboarding process from filing paperwork to knowing your product claims. This is all you need to know when it comes to onboarding. Learn more about the process by listening to today’s episode.
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The Onboarding Process: From The Paperwork To The Pricing
I hope you are doing well. I hope that your 2022 is off to a fantastic start. It’s so important to kick things off and make sure you have set up to hit the ground running. One of the key ways you could do that is to spend some time in November and December of 2021, planning out how your year went. Did it go to plan? Did you exceed your goals? Did you meet your goals? Did you not meet your goals? Wherever you ended up, what were the key factors that brought you to that place? If you exceeded your goals, how did you do that?
If you met your goals, how did you do that? If you didn’t meet your goals, what went wrong? Only in dissecting can you understand how to plan for 2022 and make things different from 2021. If you have exceeded your goals, how are you going to exceed your goals even more and set your sights even higher so that your business continues to go on that upward rocket trajectory? If you didn’t exceed your goals, what held you back? How can you affect that this 2022? How can you stop that from happening this time?
Did you aimlessly make it through the year tackling things that came up as they came up? Did you have any purpose or real strategy? If not, how can you create a strategy in 2022 that will keep you going? There is a difference between getting up in the morning, getting ready, going through your routine, getting to the office, and having it all laid out for you because you wrapped up your day before you made some adjustments. You gave yourself a clear set of things that you were going to accomplish and some results that you wanted to hit. That helps you come in and get right to work.
If you have to come in and create that for yourself, a couple of things are going to happen. One, you are going to be like, “I wonder what’s going on with email?” Once you click into an email, then it’s all over because email could eat up your day like nobody’s business. If in your plan that you had created the night before that you had specific times in the day that you were going to do your email, you can follow that.
All too often, we come in and let the day affect us instead of us affecting the day. First of all, I feel better at night. I can disengage from work and focus on my family because I have a plan for the next day. It’s not all up in the air. Secondly, when I come in, I feel like I’m ready. I can go right to work. I know what I’m going to do. I even have my tasks listed with the results that I want to get started right then. I don’t let email affect the outcome of my morning.All too often, people let the day affect them instead of them affecting the day. Click To Tweet
The reason I’m bringing that day-to-day thing is that your year is in some ways like that. If you start your year without having any type of a plan, strategy or like, “What do I want to do the 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter? How do I want to end up the year? Where am I going to be? What’s it going to feel like in December of 2022? How is it going to feel? Will I have attained things? If I did, how would I feel about that? If my goal was to make $500,000 this 2022 and I made $500,000, what about my life, is going to change? What will be different?” Get that process and those juices flowing, understanding that if you put that feeling in your head, that’s the feeling that drives you every day.
I want to have that feeling. If the feeling is all about $500,000, then these are the things I have to do. When things get hard, you remember, “I want to have that feeling of having made $500,000.” I have something that I call daily grit. Even though entrepreneurs might not use that same term, most entrepreneurs have daily grit. What daily grit is for me is the grit that you need to get through the day because entrepreneurship is hard.
It’s not always what you see on Facebook, standing in front of nice cars or getting your legs kicked up on a boat. Those are advertisements. Real entrepreneurship is up early, bed late, grinding it out, and making it happen. To do that, you’ve got to have daily grit. It’s grit that you have to access every day of the year. Do you have the daily grit? Do you have the plan? Do you break it down? Do you go to bed at night with a plan for the next day? These are all things for you to consider.
Before we get into the topic, I do a lot of business with Costco. They are a favorite retailer of mine. They have been since the start of TLB Consulting. Costco has shown itself to be pandemic proof. They have done a great job in making sure that they are on the edge of what people need and being able to provide it to them at a cost that they can buy it. If your goals are set on retail, Costco has to fit into that strategy. Is it easy to get into Costco? No. Why is that? They only have a certain amount of products.
Costco doesn’t sell ten different types of olive oil or fish oil pills. They sell one type. Whereas Target has 50,000 SKUs, and Costco has 5,000 SKUs. To be 1 of those 5,000 is difficult. The big question is, “Is your product even right to go to Costco? Does it make sense for their business model?” Before you even think about it, you should find out, “Is my product even right for Costco?”
On the front page of my website, TLBConsulting.com, I put an embedded questionnaire on the homepage. You can fill out five questions that will give you yes, your product is a possible fit, maybe, it might be a fit, or no, it’s not a fit. You are going to get an answer, and it gives you a chance to book a call with me to find out more about your results. If it’s not a fit, why is it not a fit? If it might be a fit, what does it look like? If it is, what do I do next?
You can book a 30-minute free consultation with me, and we can talk through those. That’s on the front page of the website. You can go to the website and take that quiz. It’s superfast to take it and get your result. Book a call with me, and let’s talk it through. If it’s not a fit, why is it not, and is there anything we can do about that? I’m happy to have that up on the site for you to utilize.
Let’s get on to the topic, which is onboarding. Somewhere in the 177 other episodes, we have talked about onboarding several times. I’m bringing it up again because once a retailer decides to buy your product, that process is fairly quick. I’m going to have a PO in hand, send them a product, I’m going to get paid, and life is going to be grand. All of that is going to happen but not necessarily in the order that you think it’s going to have and the timeframe that you think it’s going to take. There are some key things that you are going to have to do first to facilitate that process.
I have written down some key things that I want you to be aware of and keep at the back of your mind so that when it does happen, you are ready and you don’t have a misconception about the process. We are going to use Walmart as our example. Onboarding to Walmart requires several different steps, paperwork, online, EDI, factories, warehouses, how your product is case packed, inner packed, barcodes, GS1, GTINs, images, and all these things go into it. How are you going to sell it? How is it going to go on the shelf? How is it going to be presented to the Walmart customer?
Let’s go through these quickly. This is not going to be training. As Jack-O’ would say, “We are skipping the top of the waves of this.” You can always get in touch with us for more detail if you like. Starting with the paperwork. Once you receive your vendor paperwork, your goal should always be to get this stuff filled out in its entirety and sent back to the retailer in 72 hours. The reason we want you to get it back in 72 hours, if possible, is the more it’s still top of mind with the buyer, the faster they are going to submit it and try to get that turned around.
If it takes you a month to get it filled out, then they are going to forget that they even wanted to buy your product. You’ve got to remind them who you are but they have so many other things in front of you that they have to backtrack. We want you to get back to them pretty quickly so that you are still top of mind. A couple of things you are going to receive inside your paperwork is before we get to the different things, review all the paperwork in its entirety before you start filling anything out.
Don’t grab the first attachment printed out and start filling it out because it’s going to take you forever if you do it that way. Print everything out, dedicate some time, and start going through it. Read everything over at least once to figure out all the different things you are going to need to fill this out. If you have already downloaded my vendor prep worksheet and have done that, then most of what you are going to need is going to be right there. If you have not done that, go to the website, download the vendor prep worksheet and get that filled out. In that way, you will be that much further ahead when you start filling out vendor paperwork.Most entrepreneurs have daily grit. That is the grit that you need to get through the day because entrepreneurship is hard. Click To Tweet
Once you have read through everything, the first thing you have to go back through and read in very fine detail is the vendor agreement. That is the agreement between you and the retailer. Everything that you need to know about that retailer is going to be in there. Everything they are going to require of you, do to you or want from you is going to be in there. You often hear people say, “This happened to me. I’ve got screwed.” All the things that the retailer did to you were in this document. You dismissed it. You didn’t understand it. You didn’t see it. You didn’t read it. You skimmed through it.
You can’t skim through it. You’ve got to read and understand it. Not that you can change it. You can’t change and redline anything in there but you need to know so that you can make an informed decision, “Do I want to move forward or not?” If you don’t understand it, find somebody who does. Get ahold of us. We can help you go through this and explain why they are like they are so that you can make an informed decision. Do not sign this document until you understand it.
Once you have done the agreement and filled out all the rest of the paperwork, there is going to be ACH paperwork on how are they going to pay you, privacy paperwork, things to sign, addendums, quotes, and item set up paperwork where you are going to be filling out all the information about your items. That’s where that vendor paperwork sheet comes in handy. You get all that done and don’t scan it all together. Don’t put it all in one document. You scan each document separately and then save them so that they don’t pile up to 900 megabytes. You put and send them in one email. Don’t send them multiple emails.
If they are too big, reduce them down so that they can be emailable. Put them all in one email and mark the subject your brand name, new vendor paperwork, and completed and signed documents so that they can easily find it when they are searching for it and that they are all in there. Once you have done that, it’s going to take them some time, probably 30 days, to get that stuff looked at, reviewed, and get back to you if there is anything else that you need to do in the meantime. They may have you get started on setting up EDI, Electronic Data Interchange.
That’s how your POs and invoices are going to be transmitted back and forth through EDI. I generally use SPS Commerce as my EDI provider. You are going to want to get ahold of your EDI provider and start working on getting that connection set up. While you are doing that, they may have an online portal like a Walmart retail link. They are going to give you access. Inside, there are many videos and stuff to help you understand and get ready to do business with that retailer. You have to go through all of that. It’s going to take you some time. They are going to want you to upload information, items set up sheets into there.
Dealing With The Retailer, The Pricing And All
It’s very rare that they work the first time you upload them. There is a lot of back and forth with that retailer, making sure you have everything filled out correctly, so it uploads correctly. Once you get that uploaded and they have all the things that they need, that’s when they will start to move forward. It’s important to remember that the buyer is not your main contact during all this time. There are all different people that get involved. That’s why retailers take time to decide if they are going to carry your product because they invest a lot of time in getting you set up. It’s a lot of man-hours to get this all done.
If that sends you to somebody and says, “Your main contact for the online retail setup is this person,” if you have trouble, that’s who you contact. You don’t go back to the buyer. You may copy them on it if you are having trouble but you don’t bother them with that. You are going to give them the address to your warehouse, who your factory is, and that’s how that information has to go into the system. There is no way to do business with big retailers without telling them who makes your product. I know you want to hide that but you don’t get to.
A couple of things to consider if you have done mostly eCommerce, a lot of times, you are going to have your product brought over in big cases, and it’s a lot of products like 100 units per case. Retailers are not going to buy it from you that way. They are going to want it in master cases with inner packs. The smaller the inner packs, the better for the retailer. Not smaller than 6 units but 6 units is a good amount, depending on how big your product is. Let’s say it’s the size of a big cell phone, probably a master case of 24 with 4 inner packs of 6.
When that master case gets to the retail DC and sends an inner case to this store, they will not send 20, 30 or 50 units to a store. They are going to send 6 or 12 units. If the product is small like a cell phone, you might be able to get away with putting 48 in a master case, which is 4 cases inner packs of 12 if it’s small. You want to repackage that way. It’s going to add some costs. You are going to have to understand that you’ve got to deal with that but you are not going to be sending a case of 100 units to their DC for them to break up and send out to their stores. That’s not the way it’s going to work.
When you are doing your pricing, make sure that you take into account, work with your factory on, “If we have to put these in master cases and inner packs, what’s that going to add to my cost?” You take that into account when you are doing your pricing and making sure that you have priced them correctly. If you need help with pricing, we have pricing worksheets on the website that you can get. If you need help with the pricing strategy, you can reach out to us so we can help you with that but do not do it.
You are also going to have to know how many units are on a pallet. How many pallets fit in a container? How many total units come in a container? What are the dimensions of the pallet? How many fit on a row, and how many rows high on a pallet? You are going to have to know all of that. Your barcodes, do you have UPC codes? Are they GS1? Are your barcodes certified? Do you have high res images? If you are an Amazon seller, you most likely have high-res images but are they actual images of your product or renderings? You are going to need some decent high res images of your product. If you don’t have those, you are going to want to get them done.
Onboarding Length And Claims
How long does this all take? When we onboarded in 2021 to Walmart, it took six months to fully onboard before we’ve got our first PO. When we onboarded to QVC, it was five and a half months before we’ve got our first PO. One of the things that you should also consider is QA. If your factory already has independent third-party QA certifications, it’s better that they have that because if they don’t, the retailers are going to recommend that you use their company. You don’t have much control over what they are doing or looking at it.Review all the paperwork in its entirety before you start filling anything out. Do not sign it until you understand it. Click To Tweet
If your factory has its own QA audit certifications, you can submit those to the retailer, and hopefully, they will accept those. I would check with your factory and say, “What QA audits have you done? What was the last time you did one? Who was the company that you did it through? Can I have a copy of your certification?” That should be no big deal. If they are a legitimate factory, they concern with that as well.
One other thing that could hold you up is claims. What are you claiming that your product does? Can those claims be backed up through third-party independent testing? If I claim my product is non-slip, do I have any third-party testing that verifies that it is non-slip? If I claim that my product is anti-microbial, do I have any independent third-party lab testing that shows that it is anti-microbial?
I mentioned this because more retailers are trying to set themselves apart from online by requiring these because, on Amazon, it’s like a free for all. They can claim pretty much anything they want. Amazon will ratchet down on you if you are claiming that your product cures a disease or if it is a pesticide. Other than that, you can claim a lot of different things. They don’t ask you for any third-party testing.
One of the ways that retailers can set themselves apart is to say, “All of the products that we carry in the store, the claims have already been third-party verified.” The cool thing about it is once you do it with a company like SGS independent labs, you do it one time, and they are good. Unless something in your product changes, you can have those going forward. In some cases, even if the retailer doesn’t require it in your pitching process, you can use those and say, “These claims that we are saying, one of the things that set us apart from other products, ours are all third-party independently verified, tested and certified. I can send you those reports if you like.”
That lets the retailer know you are serious and know like, “We are saying our product does this, and we backed it up with the fact that we paid to have it tested and verified.” A lot of times, this QA testing on your product comes at the very end, and they will be like, “You need to pass QA.” When we onboarded to QVC, it was supposed to start in the middle but they were backed up and came at the end. We had to push our air date on QVC two times to get through all the independent lab QA testing. Know that it may be coming. Keep an eye out for it.
If you have a lot of claims, anti-slip, antifungal, your product lasts a certain time, doesn’t wear out or stick to the surface, you might consider getting those independently tested. We even had the claim that you could customize it with scissors. We had to have that claim tested. Otherwise, we couldn’t include it as a claim. Understand that onboarding to a retailer is not this quick, easy, fast thing. It’s not hard but it’s not something that happens in a day. You have to be dedicated and on top of it.
Once you have done all the heavy lifting of getting the product in front of the retailer and getting them to say yes, you don’t want to fall and be lax on this part. You want to keep pushing this forward. That’s how you finally get in. If it was easy, anybody could do it. It’s not hard. You’ve got to be diligent. If you don’t know what you are doing, find somebody who does because you don’t want to mess this part up.
A couple of things. Paperwork, you receive and review it all before you start filling things out. Gather all the information you need ahead of time. Fully review the vendor agreement before you sign it. Make sure you understand what you are signing. Fill out all the other paperwork, scan documents separately, put it all together in an email, and try to get back to them in 72 hours. You are going to have EDI, talk through your warehousing, logistics, and factories. You are going to have to work out your case packs and inner packs. How many fit on a pallet? How many fit in a container? You are going to have to have GS1-certified barcodes and some high-res images.
That should give you an idea of onboarding. Everything that we do here, we do this all day long. People do it every day to get into retail, not scare you away. It’s to open your eyes and mind to what’s going to happen. Only in understanding and having the knowledge can you be ready to do it. If you have questions, comments or issues, reach out to us. Don’t forget about the Costco questionnaire. Take advantage of that. Don’t forget about the vendor paperwork sheet. You are going to want to have that and tuck that away for when you need it. We are here for all your needs.
If you need anything, please reach out and connect with us. Anything you would ever need is on the website TLBConsulting.com. You can even get to the show from that website. Everything on the show related is on there. The VIP group is such a great resource. There are many great people in that group. All we talk about all week long is buyers, talking to buyers, emailing buyers, what it takes to get your product in front of buyers.
Once you do that, how do you get them to say yes? It’s talking through real-life scenarios, real things happening, and real emails that are getting sent. It’s such a fun group. Hopefully, you will get connected there as well. That’s all I’ve got. I hope you have a great week whenever you are reading this. Until next time. I hope to see your products on the shelf.