Common Mistakes When Contacting Wholesale Vendors And Distributors For Your Online Store

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Working with reliable vendors is an essential part of running a profitable online store. And on the surface, the process is pretty straightforward.

One, you look for distributors that carry the product you want to sell.
Two, you call them up or send them an email in order to establish a relationship.
Three, you ask for pricing, availability and discuss selling terms.
Finally, you either buy a small stock of inventory or work out a dropshipping arrangement.

Sounds simple right?

Common Mistakes When Contacting Wholesale Vendors And Distributors For Your Online Store

But for some reason, many brand new shop owners screw things up during the courtship process.

Today, I’m going to discuss some common mistakes that new shop owners make when it comes to dealing with vendors for the very first time.

Understanding A Vendor’s Point Of View

The first thing that I always tell my students when sourcing product is to put yourself in the shoes of a vendor or distributor. In the grand scheme of things, vendors are just like online shop owners in that they want to make money by selling products.

The only difference is they need to move product in much higher volumes.

As an online store owner that caters to the general consumer, it’s fine for you to sell items individually. But a distributor typically needs to move product in much greater bulk because they have higher overhead and inventory storage costs to deal with.

That is why distributors need to pick their clients extremely carefully. Every store that they work with requires a certain level of time commitment.

So it is in their best interests to only work with stores that can consistently bring in revenue and have the best chance of becoming a long term customer.

Distributors come in all shapes and sizes and in order to be successful, you have to find the right vendor that is willing to sell you the right quantity of product.

And the first impression you give to your vendor can make all the difference.

Here are some common mistakes that I see new entrepreneurs make when contacting vendors for the first time.

Mistake #1: You Lack Confidence And Come Across As A Noob

newbie

Remember how I told you that well established vendors tend to pick their clients very carefully? In order to get their attention, you sometimes have to act larger and more confident than you really are.

And to illustrate my point, I would like to show you a letter a reader wrote to their very first vendor/dropshipper.

My name is Vivian and I’m a brand new entrepreneur so please forgive my ignorance. I would like to start an online business selling baby products. Could you send me a price list for your products and describe your dropship fulfillment process? Here are some of my questions…

Can I just send you an order by email and you’ll ship it to my customer?
Is my contact info on the packaging slip?
Can you provide an order summary to confirm the order?
Do you tack on a dropship fee?
Do you provide a discount once I start selling in higher quantities?
Is there a restocking fee and how are returns handled?
How long do I have to return a potential order?
Does a customer contact me or you directly when they want to make a return?
Do I get charged immediately for an order or do I pay later after a set period?
How long does it take for orders to be processed/shipped?
Do you ship via DHL, FEDEX, UPS, and USPS and do you provide tracking numbers?
Do you ship internationally and how do you deal with shipping exceptions where the merchandise is returned to sender?
Do you provide order and shipment confirmations and tracking numbers?

Sorry for all the questions. Thanks in advance.

Not surprisingly, this email received no response. Can you spot the problems? First of all, you should never ever say that you are a “new entrepreneur”.

Think about it this way. If you were a wholesaler, would you want to waste time with someone who has no clue what they were doing? Absolutely not. When you deal with a new vendor, you have to go in with confidence.

Tell them exactly what you are looking for, do your research before hand and don’t ask stupid questions. You don’t have to come across as cocky but you should behave as though you’ve done this before. The key is to be specific, succinct and confident.

Mistake #2: You Talk Too Much In Your First Email

shutup

To a certain extent, your initial contact with a vendor is like going on a first date. You don’t want to overwhelm them with questions or seem too desperate or eager.

You simply want to get a feel for the vendor and see if they carry what you want to sell. Most distributors are busy so you should be respectful of their time.

In the sample email posted above, this reader asked way too many extraneous questions right off the bat. While the logistics of how business is conducted is important, the key to the initial interaction is simply finding out whether they’ve got what you need.

Here are the typical things I ask for in my first email.

  • Information about specific products
  • Minimum order quantity
  • Pricing
  • Shipping and lead times
  • Do they offer samples?

Once I’ve gotten an initial response from the vendor, I then start to ask some of the more logistical related questions if I feel they are a potential fit.

Mistake #3: You Have No Clue What You Are Looking For

Confused

The more vague you are, the less likely you’ll get a response. In the email above, Vivian mentioned that she was interested in some “baby products” but she was not specific at all.

If I were the vendor, this would be an immediate red flag. What is she looking for exactly? Is she on a fishing expedition to find out everything that we carry? Is she really serious about carrying my products? Does she really know what she wants?

When contacting a vendor for the first time, it helps to clearly specify exactly what you are looking for. By being specific, it demonstrates to the vendor that you did your homework, you know what you want and that you are serious about carrying their products.

On the other hand, if you are vague and/or wishy washy, you will not be considered a serious prospect and your email may go unnoticed.

Sample Script

Here’s a very sample script that I like to use when contacting a vendor for the first time

Hi “Vendor Name”,

My name is “Name” and I’m a purchasing agent for “Your Company”, a store in “Your Country” that sells “the products you want to carry”. We are interested in carrying many of the items that you have to offer.

Specifically, I would like to get pricing and availability for the following items

“list the items…provide photos if you have them”

“list the items…provide photos if you have them”

If you could send us more info as well as your product catalogs, lead times for manufacturing, and MOQ we would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,
“Your Name”

Putting It All Together

When it comes to finding vendors for your online store, you need to keep in mind that they have the same interests as you do. They want to work with people that will help them make more money.

And if they feel as though you are not worth their time, they will ignore you completely. So even though this might be your first online store and you have no clue what you are doing, you need to throw all of that out the window and proceed with confidence.

Before you contact a vendor, know what you want to carry in your store and do your research. Approach the vendor knowing that you can offer a mutually beneficial money making relationship.

Don’t ramble in your initial email. Instead, be concise and ask them what you need to know about the products you want to sell and the minimum order quantities.

Finally, don’t be timid. Remember, they want to work with you as much as you want to work with them. And it’s a matter of finding the right vendor that will suit your needs.

photo credit: Јason I like troycochrane “Does Not Work”

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10 thoughts on “Common Mistakes When Contacting Wholesale Vendors And Distributors For Your Online Store”

  1. Hi Steve,

    As always, this is another great practical information packed article from you. To think in others’ shoes is the best way to understand others better. I guess the only way to secure a great distribution vendor, after learn the tips you revealed here is to be persistent and don’t give up. It is like interviewing for a new job, the more you practice, the more you know what you should say, what you should not say.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I completely agree. After running my class for a while now and experiencing this first hand, it does take some practice to get your pitch down pat.

  2. Mistake 3, went deep down in my mind and also got me thinking.

    Nice one bro

    Thanks

  3. Greg Ekins says:

    Hello Steve,
    Hope all is well with you and yours. I know your busy so I’ll make this short and sweet. I’m about to contact a new vendor, I’m interested in dropshipping only right now. What should or how should I go about asking about product images or descriptions of products to place on my website. I can’t possibly afford to buy every product the offer and take photos of them all. What’s the best approach in finding out how to display their products on my online store?
    Thank you,
    Greg Ekins

    1. Hi Greg,
      I would start by just asking for their spreadsheet of stock images and descriptions. It’s fine to launch with stock images but make sure you write all of your own descriptions! Then over time, you can take your own photos.

  4. Steve,

    I wished I had found this blog post before today. I have been struggling through this process the past several weeks myself. Would you recommend trying to work with suppliers for only certain or small amounts of products, or primarily trying to find larger scale distributors? I am working on dropshippng rc boats btw. Thanks.

    Matt

  5. it is useful article to me thanks guys.

  6. Cindy Bendel says:

    Your timing is perfect Steve. I’d been contacting manufacturers in the past couple weeks and from your article can see some of the mistakes I’m making. I’m not getting the response I would like and will give it another try with the recommendations you made. Thanks!!

  7. Amanda S says:

    Hi Steve,
    Great article and points, as always. I made a few of those mistakes my first time out the gate. Thankfully, one of the vendors took pity on me and gave me a quick rundown.
    I know you are busy, so I will keep this short. I am starting an onine subscription service and hope to have a store attached after the boxes take off. I work with very small batch vendors all located within my area. When trying to negotiate “wholesale” prices, the best they are willing to offer is 30%-40% off the sticker value, claiming that whoever buys the product marks it up 50%. I think “oh, they are a small vendor, they need to make money.” Then I think, “wait!, this is advertising for their business. They can do better than that.” Any advice on pricing and negotiating? Could you point me to any helpful articles? Thank you very much, Steve.

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