5 Things You Need for Your First Sale

You’ve decided to start a food or beverage business and have chosen the product you hope to bring to market...congratulations! Now it’s time to bring your vision to life by finding your first avenue for repeat sales. You may have started selling to friends, family, and neighbors, maybe you even have an established presence in farmer’s markets in your area.  This is a great start as these all provide data points and direct feedback from customers that you will use to continue refining your product.

Your next big step is establishing sales through a retailer. Retailers provide you with consistent access to consumers. Unlike farmer’s markets or other event-based sales, stores are open with set hours and days year round.   

Before approaching retailers, there are five things you’ll need to make a great first impression: product, pricing, sell sheet, elevator pitch, and samples - everyone loves to try food! In this post, we’ll walk you through the specifics of each to make sure you know what to expect and can come prepared for your sales contacts.

#1. Your Product 

This one might seem obvious but what does it mean to bring a product to a pitch and how is it different than samples? Always bring the product in its final packaging. The retailer is assessing whether this product is a good fit for their store. They need to visualize what the product will look like on the shelf, next to the other brands in your category. Make this process as easy as possible for the retailer by only bringing finished packaging with you.  

So what should you include on your finished packaging? 

  1. Description of the Product - Make sure the customer is told what the product is! You’d be surprised how often this small detail is overlooked. If you are making chocolate, say chocolate on the front of the packaging. If you are making popcorn, say popcorn. Tell the customer exactly what you are selling.  

  2. Brand Name and Logo

  3. Value Proposition - Why should customers buy your product?  

  4. Barcode - This let’s the store ring up your product

  5. Nutrition Facts - It not only looks professional but also provides customers critical information on things like allergens and caloric content. Using online resources like Recipal to help you calculate and present this information is particularly helpful here. 

Pro tip: once you decide on your packaging, keep order quantities realistic for current sales. Though it might be cheaper per unit to buy larger amounts, you will definitely make changes to your first design as you learn from your customers!

#2. Pricing Information

Much like packaging and the product itself, your pricing will change over time as you refine your production methods and become more familiar with the expectations of your customers, retailers, and distributors. At this stage, though, your customers are your best authorities on how to price your product. Familiarize yourself with the prices offered by your competitors in your category and decide where within that range of prices you hope to fit.

#3. Sell Sheet

A sell sheet is a summary one-sheeter of all the information a retailer needs to know to make an informed decision about picking up your product. It includes a summary of your brand, pictures of your product, pricing, and ordering information. 

#4. A 30-Second Elevator Pitch

As you may have guessed, you can’t simply go and hand your sell sheet to a buyer, leaving them to figure out what it all means.  Being able to communicate the value of your brand and products effectively to buyers set you up for success as a business owner. Come prepared with a well-practiced and intentional elevator pitch so that you don’t need to make it up on the fly. This should be between 30 seconds to a minute. Buyers are busy. The expectation is that these conversations will be short. 

Pro Tip: Your sell sheet includes all the technical details. Focus on connecting with the buyer and the intangibles: why your product is a good addition to their current selection and where you see their customers finding value in your product.

#5. Samples of Your Product

As customers, we all recognize how great it is to try a product before purchasing it.  The experience is no different for buyers. In fact, a buyer’s sampling experience is even more important to focus on because they are used to trying lots of different products every day.  Compass Coffee is a great testament to this! When they approached Whole Foods Market to pitch their tins of coffee, they provided whole cups of brewed, hot coffee to the buyers and the other team members in the store. This got everyone excited and talking about Compass Coffee! 

We know this process can seem intimidating. Here are a few words of motivation: