As a small business or maker of any kind, nothing is more exciting than sealing a deal with a stockist. Getting your hard work from your shelves to theirs is, of course, your first concern - but what if their payment is late? In all of the excitement of wholesaling your products, it's easy to find yourself stuck on which steps to take next, especially when the last thing you want to do is soil a new business relationship. This edition of Ask A Small Business Owner comes from a question that landed in the blog inbox from another maker, reminding us what's gotten P.F. Candle Co. to where it is now.
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Q: I'm having trouble getting stores to finalize their payment so I can deliver. I'm still just wholesaling local so after we've met and they place an order it's difficult to get them to respond to emails. Any advice?
My best advice here is to be the squeaky wheel. (you know, the one that gets the grease). What’s the worst case scenario? They get annoyed and don’t want to order from you? If you don’t hear from them, that’s pretty much what's already happening.
Don’t be tempted to send that order without payment. Call them, email them, and follow through on your word. If you say you’re going to cancel it on a certain date, cancel it.
I’ll share a little story from the beginning days of P.F.: we were approached by someone at West Elm who passed us off to their buying team. I’m not sure if the buying team wasn’t that interested or just had a lot on their plate, but it was difficult to get them to respond to our emails. Tom told me – if you get the order, I’ll make the candles. So, I emailed them. Every day. Sometimes every other. I squeaked that wheel until they finally placed an order. Was I annoying? Probably. But if you aren’t your own advocate, who will be?
In the beginning we only offered Net30 terms for National Stockists, where there was no negotiation. The problem with Net30 is that you need someone dedicated to chasing that payment if it’s late (and there will be late payments).
As far as getting responses to emails from stores – be nice, firm, and direct. Short, concise emails with clear calls to action are the way to go. In our experience, boutique owners rarely sit down at their computer, so it’s really hard to catch them. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call them – sometimes that’s the easiest way if they’re in the shop and not glued to a computer! Another little trick? Social media! If your boutique uses Instagram as a preferred means of communication, you might have better luck reaching them that way.