Finally, you got a lucky break! That big chain stores buyer will finally see you. Your mind is racing with the possibilities: your product in all of her stores, access to all of her customers, your brand “takes off!”

Not so fast, Bucko! Do you even know what she wants to see? Do you realize that you’ve got one shot at this – and it better be good? Before you were in her stores you could not be discontinued, but once you are in, you can be discontinued …forever!

Everything hinges on the deal, the roll out, and your ability to get around to all of her stores quickly. You must make sure your product got in, is priced right, is visible, and that the clerks and store personnel like you, your representative, and your product. Otherwise they won’t promote it and probably won’t reorder it. This means you fail even with a great product.

When you see her for the first time, you must be prepared.

Pricing. Understand what she wants to “see” on sale. In other words, what percentage of her selling price does she want as profit. Your price to her has to give her that profit. Also understand what she wants to see “on deal” or “on sale.” Find out what kind of “cooperation” (financial support) she wants from you during the introductory special and for how long. Lastly make sure your volume discounts don’t leave any money on the table because she will price your product at the nearest 99 (dollars or cents), and pocket everything above her required percentage. Do the math!

Never reduce your price. Rather, give a temporary price reduction, or she will think you are raising your price when the discount is over. All this gets a whole lot more complicated if you have to go through a distributer or broker. Oh, and one more thing, don’t ever let her see it for less anywhere on line!

Introduction. This is critical to get right. If she buys too much, you may be happy …for a while! But if she doesn’t sell through within a short period of time she will close it out at such a low price that it will haunt you in the marketplace. She must sell through and she must reorder. This means that you or your representative must personally visit every store your product is in on a regular basis to ensure its success. It’s best to have a small test market in nearby outlets that you can visit often to correct sales blocking situations.

Exclusivity. If she represents the first large chain to take your product, she may want exclusivity, preferably long-term, to increase the odds of success. Settle for a reasonable period, being careful not to give her any long-term competitive advantage you will later regret as new chains will want the same deal. Tie all advantages you offer to quantity purchases.

Merchandising Materials. Remember, she wants to know how you are going to move your product in her stores. You must be prepared with allowable signage or video promoting your product. Many buyers will make their decisions on new products based solely on merchandising materials. They know that where the customer, the product, the money, and the decision all come together is at the point of sale. Make sure yours is timely, compelling, and within her size limitations.

Partnership. Think of her as your new, long-term partner. Work with her on the introductory roll out. She knows what works in her stores. Come to an agreement on the price points, price reduction programming, and the scaling of future volume purchases based on the initial success of your product in her stores.

Bottom line: she’s not buying your product so much as she’s giving you an opportunity to sell it in her stores. But hold off celebrating until year two in all her stores! Then you will really have something to celebrate!

Who Are We.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.

Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact info@thebarefootspirit.com.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders