I was at the great Enterprise Nation Food exchange event last Friday and three new companies made their pitch to the Selfridges buyer. And whilst they all did a great job of presenting their new products, I felt all of them could do with a little help so i have devised the three stages of a successful first buyer meeting
1. Gather your knowledge
I was once told “fail to prepare, prepare to fail!” and nothing is more true than in this situation. Before you start to write your presentation - go and visit the retailers shops - its amazing to me how often people don't do this - not just one shop but several especially if it is a multi format supermarket. Look at what is on the shelves in your category, talk to the staff about what they think about the current products and take photos of existing category and if you get a chance - with your products in the display as well. If this is not possible, you may have to photo shop them in afterwards.
And know your numbers - what is costs to make the product, ship it and how much you hope to sell which will then enable you to know how much you are prepared to invest in promotional support
2. Write an awesome presentation that you never present
I am a great believer in writing a customer presentation that gathers my thoughts, organises my pitch but actually I may never present. Ideally you just have a conversation to the buyer about your products showing him samples, photos and ideas - by all means have a power point to hand as an aide memoire but better to talk from the heart in an organised way.
3. Make sure you have a great meeting
What to take with you - product samples, examples of PR coverage, social media support or other props such as shelf ready packaging
Begin presentation as a discussion - ask the buyer questions to check that you are on the right lines - nothing worse than talking for 20 minutes and you lost them at the first bullet point. And listen to their questions and answer as honestly as you can - you are looking to build a relationship for the future. Ask for feedback and agree next steps
But don't expect to have it launched and listed in your first meeting - it takes time!
4. Follow up with tenacity but don't be a stalker
Always follow up with a contact report summarising what was discussed in the meeting
Make sure you do the actions that you have agreed and make sure you call to follow up next steps. But remember the buyer is very busy and you are probably not top of priority list (harsh I know!) so don't ring him/her every day but be creative - maybe send a new flavour or a great piece of PR coverage - keep selling by letting him know how your tribe want your products to be in his store!
5. Dealing with rejection
Now I want to assume that you get the listing at your first pitch and the sales fly and everything lives happily ever after. But lets be honest it doesn't always work like that. Dyson made 5126 prototypes before he had the successful product, JR Rowling was turned down 20 times before being published. So be prepared for rejection - ask for feedback, don't assume no is forever and ask if you can follow up in 3 months - you already have a connection with the buyer so it could be interesting. Or a new buyer/policy etc etc may come along. And keep following point 4 - regular contact may well pay off in the long run
I love to help food companies big or small to write that all important presentation so email me firstname.lastname@example.org for my checklist on key elements of the killer pitch presentation or ring me on 07811942054 if I can help you in anyway.