As an apparel entrepreneur you work incredibly hard on your collection. When it’s finally done, when you have your great looking sales man samples in your hand, you should be extremely proud of you accomplishment. Congratulations, you have reached half way. Wait, what?
Yup, by half way we mean: you still have the selling to do and to get the end consumer to want to buy your products. No orders, no income. And without sales, there is no business!
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Here are some points to work on, and to make sure you have ticked off, before contacting buyers, for a sales presentation.
1. Make sure you have a rock solid concept that stands out. Have a clear presentation for your brand to make the buyers understand why your brand is different from the ones on the market.
2. Know your target customer. When you know who your end consumer is, where he/she shops and what other brands he/she is wearing, it’s easier to define a list of shops to represent your brand.
3. Do extensive research on all the retailers you wish to present your apparel brand to. The point of this is to make the buyer understand that you know their product offer and customer base and that you know your products will benefit the selection and ensure sales for the store.
4. Prepare before going to the sales presentation meeting. Have all the garments nicely in line, cleaned up and pressed. Have all the line sheets printed out, have neat workbooks with you, have orderforms and price lists printed. Have color and material swatches with you if needed. Put on some of your own apparel where it’s suitable and be prepared. Know what to ask, what to say and in what order. Leave information with the buyer so they can process what you have shown and take a decision. Make it easy for them.
5. Know your stuff! It doesn’t matter if you have all the products and the workbooks etc if you don’t know about your products.
What is the story of your brand?
Why is it so great?
What is the story with your products?
What materials are you using?
Why is the color story so fantastic?
How is the customer supposed to use your product?
Why is your fit so amazing compared to the competition?
What about your quality that makes the product so great?
All of this should be so imprinted in your head that if someone woke you up in the middle of the night you’d make a kick ass pitch!
6. Visit the buyers early in the buying period. This will increase your chances for an order. If you present late, there is a risk the shop already placed all their orders, and they don’t have any money left to buy from you.
7. Ask questions and listen! If you are the one doing all the talking it can be a bit overwhelming and your presentation will come across as “pitchy”. Ask tons of questions about the store, the customers, what are they missing, what are their customers asking for… be genuinely interested and take notes, this info will help you out later on. And, the buyer will feel acknowledged, seen, and heard.
8. Build trust, by showing interest in the store way earlier before you are ready to show your line. Show appreciation for the buyers, the shop’s offer, and the customer base. Be a fan, and when the buyer knows you, trusts you, knows you like the shop, you will be in a completely different position when you are ready to do your sales presentation. The trust is there and the buyer will gladly look at your presentation.
9. Sell to the right store. Make sure you do your research and you want to sell your products to the right store. For example, if your brand is high end, don’t try and sell it to an entry price store. Don’t waste your time and effort. Where is your target customer shopping? That’s where you want to place your products.
10. Build a buzz around your brand and its product. Have “proof” of the hype and proudly mention this to the buyers. People want what other people want. Name drop other great stores that are carrying your brand.
11. Talk and present to the decision maker. There is no point in showing your brand to someone that can’t take any decisions. You will lose your time. Meet the buyer that is going to potentially place the order.
12. Be professional. Call, send information, visit them, do your great presentation, build the trust and all that thing, but make sure you never go over the line to enter the PUSHY area. No one likes to feel forced. No one likes obnoxious sales people. A sales person/buyer relationship is like all relationships, it should be 50/50. Both of you should want it as bad as the other.
13. Follow up. Buyers are busy people. Just because they didn’t get back to you doesn’t mean it’s a NO. Respectfully follow up and see if they lack information, if there is more you can do to help in the decision process etc. Half of the sales lay in the follow-up.
14. Ask for the order. This is business. Give deadlines and time brackets for when the order should be placed, follow up and ask for the order. Sometimes if you don’t ask, you will never know.
Even though you have done everything in your power, and have played your cards right , there is still a chance that the buyers won’t place an order. The most important is to walk out of the meeting with as many questions asked/answered as possible, so you know what to improve until the next time or before meeting another buyer.
See this period as a learning opportunity, to learn as much as possible about the customers, end consumers and about your brand. What is popular, what is not, what do they want more of?
Selling is hard work, but especially fun and rewarding when it’s your own products. Review the 14 ways in the list above, before entering the sales period, and yo will increase your changes for more placed orders.