This week we have with us Nate McCallister who is a serial entrepreneur/dad and online seller. He currently operates TheListingstudio.com (Amazon Copywriting), Ungateyouraccount.com and has a new blog for entrepreneurs, Entreresource.com, he is also a writer and suspension consultant for OnlineSalesStepbyStep.com.
888 Lots is an excellent service to help expand your Amazon business.
You may be wondering why I’m teaching you how to get “in” with other suppliers on the blog of one of the best in the business. Better yet, why are they letting me?!
The team at 888 Lots invited me to write on a topic with the only stipulation being that I would provide maximum value to their readers and clients. They understand it’s critical to your business success to have multiple product streams, so they were happy to have me write this article.
I was impressed by the confidence they have in their service, and that they are not afraid to share information, enabling the readers of this blog to potentially make more deals with other companies.
So, kudos to Albert Palacci and his team. Now, on to the content.
Understanding The Thought Process of Potential Suppliers
First, just as with a job interview, not all suppliers are the same, and they will not handle your contacts in the same way.
What I am sharing in this post are best practices, but they are not going to make up for all the shortcomings your business may have (lack of capital, storage constraints etc.) They will also not work in all circumstances, but they will improve your ability to land deals in the long run.
Obviously, some sellers will have an edge when making contracts with suppliers because of their access to capital and vast sales history, but every seller can improve their chances of landing deals by implementing the methods I am about to share.
What You Should Be Looking For in a Supplier
Finding quality suppliers that fit your business well is much more important than the ability to connect with suppliers in general. If I teach you how to land deals with suppliers who are not high quality, I have done you a disservice.
Quality trumps quantity in this business every time.
Never forget that. Making a bad deal is worse than not making one at all.
Don’t fixate on how many deals you can negotiate, but focus on the quality of the deals you negotiate.
You should look for suppliers who have the following 4 traits:
#1 Excellent customer service
Working with a supplier who is not going to answer your questions promptly and resolve issues appropriately is not acceptable. If a wholesaler is cutting costs on their customer service, it is safe to assume they will cut costs in other important areas.
They are more likely to operate understaffed, have subpar shipping practices, use lesser quality materials, and overall, fall short of the quality standards you need to sustain your business.
Finding suppliers who are willing to make some accommodations is a great asset to you, especially at the beginning of your relationship.
Test their flexibility by requesting better shipping rates, bulk discounts, better terms and lower minimum orders. Don’t come off as needy and disrespectful, but don’t be afraid to assert yourself and let the supplier know you are serious about working with them and want the best terms possible.
You should research the background of any supplier you are considering doing business with, just as they should be doing with you. Again, landing deals with bad suppliers is infinitely worse than not landing them at all.
If you can’t trust a supplier, you shouldn’t work with them. They should trust you just as much as you do them.
4 Important Questions to Ask Suppliers
#1 What Is The Price?
Obvious enough right? Typically, vendors are not going to publish their prices publicly. They will usually have different pricing structures depending on the client.
Prices will tend to be highest on your first order, so keep that in mind. Over time, your supplier should begin to offer you better prices.
#2 What Are The Lead Times?
You may be shocked to realize how long it will actually take to receive products from certain vendors. This needs to be factored into your buying decision. If you tie up capital for products that will not be able to sell for 6-12 weeks, you are sacrificing your earning power.
#3 What Is The Minimum Purchase?
This is where many buyers lose out. In order to ensure maximum revenue and sustained business, many suppliers have large minimum purchases. Before you waste too much time with them, find this out and make sure it is close to feasible.
Many suppliers will negotiate down from this number if you are credible and appear serious.
#4 How Do You Ship and What Are The Payment Terms?
Typically, vendors will offer both air and sea delivery depending on the quantity. Brush up on the lingo and ensure that you understand what you are getting into completely.
Why Do Applicants Get Rejected?
There are many reasons why sellers are rejected or even altogether ignored by suppliers. They include:
- Not having strong references.
- Not having strong communication skills.
- Not presenting themselves professionally.
- Not having enough capital.
- Not having a large enough business presence.
- Not having enough sales history.
While some of these may be (temporarily) out of your control, with a little finesse, you can showcase your strengths and cover your weaknesses.
You can give your company a fighting chance, regardless of the supplier.
What Are Suppliers Looking for from Their Applicants
The bottom line is this: Suppliers want to feel comfortable with their buyers.
They need to believe that they are selling to a legitimate company that will represent their brand well and generate them a good deal of business. Oh, and they want you to pay them on time.
Here are some specific things you can do to improve your appearance to potential suppliers and better your chances of becoming approved to work with them.
#1 Create a Professional Looking Website and Logo
As sellers on Amazon, I understand that many of you don’t have functional, off-Amazon websites.
But I recommend that you get one now.
How to get a quality website done quickly
If you do not specialize in any particular product, consider creating a storefront that does and target the products that would be similar to the ones the supplier you are contacting would be selling.
If the contract is important enough, creating a site just for the purpose of landing one deal may be a worthwhile investment. The ROI on a quality website will be large if done correctly. If it helps you land only one quality contract, it will pay itself off many times over.
Note: It is not feasible or ideal for you to have a website that showcases a hodgepodge of products. Specialization is (often) key when dealing with particular suppliers. Be sure your site is ordered, easy to navigate and has a clear “contact us” page.
A site is of no value if it is not professional looking. If it isn’t professional, don’t share it. You will only hurt yourself.
You can have a site and logo designed for you relatively cheaply with a service like 99Designs. With the addition of an extension like WP-Lister, you can sell products on your site and fulfill them from your Amazon inventory.
You can also develop a web store very quickly or purchase a pre-built one with the following sites:
Although this will most likely not become a long term revenue source for you, these sites can be important to landing lucrative deals.
A website may range from $30 (pre-built, very low end) to $5,000+. Make the best decision for your own business, just make sure the site looks great, is functional and showcases your business well.
Note: The ideal price range for a site like this is $400-$1,000, depending on the number of products you plan to list. You shouldn’t worry about listing thousands of items by the way. 75-200 will suffice.
Bonus #1: Build a social media presence. Your company should become active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Post behind the scenes pictures of your company and show that you are human. It makes it easier for the supplier to trust you.
Bonus #2: Be sure that your website is listed locally. The supplier will likely want to see some evidence of your location and will likely Google your company.
#2 A Professional Business Email
This is more than a formality, it is absolutely necessary. If you are doing business from “Davematthewsfan88@yahoo.com” (sorry if that is your email!) you will not be taken seriously.
If you are getting contracts with an email like this, you should question the supplier! They should be better than that. Letting someone like that through shows that they are probably not reliable themselves.
There are multiple ways to set up a business email address, but you first need to purchase the domain name to your company (something you should have done already anyway).
You can setup your domain email through:
Be sure that you also have a very responsive email system. If the supplier should contact you, they should receive a response promptly.
A professional looking business signature is important as well. I use WiseStamp for designing my email signatures. You can customize these. Here is what mine looks like for my entreresource.com email address.
#3 Form Your LLC and Use a Professional Name
You should have this already, but dealing with suppliers almost always requires you to have a legal business entity.
If you have not done so already, you can set this up online with a service such as Legal Zoom, or you can do it with a local business attorney. I am of course, not an attorney or tax professional, so do your research on this.
#4 A Strong Biography
Suppliers will want to know as much about you as they can. Some of this information is great to put on your website under an “About Us” section. Information regarding your finances should only be shared with the supplier.
Your bio should include:
- How long you have been in business
- Your overall business model (where you sell and who your customers are)
- Your spending budget
- Your monthly revenue
- Your predicted growth over the next couple of years
- References from other suppliers or clients.
- Your customer satisfaction policies. Suppliers will want to know that you handle all customer concerns appropriately and have a sound refund policy.
- Where you sell.
Bonus: Pictures of your facility, showing how you will store their items and how you will ensure product quality.
#5 That You Have Done Your Homework on Their Company
The worst thing that you can do is send a generic, mass contact to every supplier that you can find.
Doing this is also a sure fired way to make sure that you get in with suppliers that are not quality anyway. Just as with the unprofessional email, any supplier who accepts a generic contact with little substance will most likely be subpar.
Let them know what products specifically interest, why and why you are a good fit to sell them.
#6 A Professional Phone System
If the supplier contacts you, you can impress them fairly easily by having a customer support line.
You can also turn them off just as easily if they call your personal number, listen to your ring-back tone of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and get a sarcastic, joke voicemail. I am of course, not speaking of anyone in particular 🙂
Look awesome by:
- Having a business answering system setup and having them contact you through an extension. Here is a list of the top ten customer service outsourcing agencies.
Get “in” with referrals and current clients of the supplier
Remember, suppliers want to feel comfortable with you. If you know someone they already trust, you immediately become more credible.
Join buying co-ops
Some suppliers will have minimum purchase requirements that are simply out of your budget. You may still be able to utilize them by joining a buying co-op and crowdsourcing the funds required to do business with larger suppliers and negotiate lower prices.
Don’t Negotiate Only on Price
Psychologically, it is easier for you to convince a supplier to save you money by changing a factor other than the price of the product.
They could change the down payment required, the minimum order, the speed of shipment (at no additional cost to you), priority contacts (deals to you first) or extensions on warranties.
Don’t Accept the First Offer
Don’t come off as desperate. Remember, you don’t have to make deals with anyone. You do have a say in the matter and accepting the first offer with no question may even make you appear unprofessional and weak.
Go to Tradeshows and Network
Networking can go a very long way. When you know someone on the inside of a company, you have a much better chance of landing contracts that may be “out of your league.”
You can put your networking on steroids by attending trade shows and making connections with suppliers in person. It is much easier to make a deal with someone when you are looking them eye to eye.
Practice on Suppliers That Are Not as Important to Refine Your Pitch
Practice makes perfect. I know I said earlier that quality is better than quantity, but there is no shame in seeing what is out there and seeing what your options are and who is willing to do business with you. Remember, you don’t have to work with a company forever. Working with lesser level suppliers will help you build up references and increase your sales numbers to show future, more lucrative suppliers.
There you have it, a crash guide to dealing with suppliers and landing more contracts! If you have further questions, comment below and I will answer them for you!
Disclaimer: The information and views presented in this blog post are the opinions of the guest author, and not necessarily those of 888 Lots.