Knowing how to sell to farm shops, delis and independent retailers can be a great first step in scaling your food business. If you’re planning to sell regionally or nationally, you’ll find it’s a completely different process to engaging with retailers in your local area or selling directly to consumers. You’ll be competing against other eager suppliers.
Helping food start-ups sell and grow
Marcus is founder of the Artisan Food Club and is dedicated to helping independent shops and artisan producers find each other. Marcus has over 35 years of experience in food and farming. He’s created a string of successful food businesses and worked in international sales and distribution. Needless to say, he has a full 360 view of the business and how it works.
So what are the key steps you need to take to get your products into farm shops, delis, and independent retailers?
Are you a food business or a sales business?
“You’re running a sales company, you just happen to know a lot about the product you sell.”
When it comes to creating an effective growth strategy – and establishing your brand – your first job is to think of yourself as a sales business. Having a clearly defined sales strategy nailed down is a crucial part of business growth, enabling you to target the right customers and ultimately sell your product to the right people.
“There’s no point setting up fantastic production if there isn’t a sales strategy – if you haven’t got a plan for how to take the business once you’ve got product into the market and grow and, ultimately, get consumers to eat it,” Marcus says.
Know your business inside out
“You don’t have to look up your address, or the name of your wife, there are certain things that should just be in your DNA.”
Once you have worked out which retailers to target, the next step is getting your message out – articulating your unique offering. If you’re going into a sales situation, it’s important to make sure you have a structure, i.e., a very simple set of processes to follow. Most importantly, make sure you understand the DNA of your business – this means knowing all the nitty gritty details, from sales rates to consumer feedback, to branding and marketing. Everything you would need if you were heading into a Dragon’s Den situation.
This means, once your business starts to grow, you’ll have so much more understanding about how the product performs.
The most important people for your business
“You’ve got to think about consumers.”
So many businesses focus on how to get their product into retail, without thinking of the next step: getting consumers to eat it. Marcus’s advice for businesses beckons an important mind shift – think of the retailers as the middle people. As the old adage goes, “the customer is king”. In other words, your job is to think of the retailer as someone that holds the product in order for the consumer to buy it.
Retailers are not your customers. Gauging success, therefore, means looking at your consumption rates – how many customers are actually buying your product.
Sell to farm shops, delis and independents
“It’s how you present your product to make it look like a good investment for the money that they have to spend.”
When it comes to actually getting your product stocked, it’s all about presentation.
Retailers will have products in their shop that are performing brilliantly, and on the other end of the spectrum products that they need to phase out. That means they’re always looking for new products. They last thing they want are empty shelves.
“You’re not trying to sell something to somebody that a) doesn’t have the money, and b) doesn’t have the desire. It’s how you present the product that’s important,” Marcus added.
What do retailers want to know?
“When you go into an independent retailer as an independent producer, you’re like a scratch card to them.”
Whether it’s an independent deli, a butcher, or even supermarkets like Tesco, the biggest worry for the retailer is not seeing any return on their investment or not being able to turn their stock into cash quickly enough. Therefore, your job is to show them that your product is a low enough risk that it’s worth trying in their shop. You need to show them that it’s worth them buying the scratchcard.