Selling the Big Box Retailers- 11/7/16

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Selling the Big Box Retailers- November 7th, 2016

On November 7th, 2016, Exceed Network hosted its second annual Selling the Big Box Retailers event. Hosted at Harry Tawil’s Q4 Designs headquarters, well over one hundred people showed up to listen to and query a panel of former retail buyers from stores including Walmart, TJ Maxx/Marshalls, Macy’s, Saks, Ross and Dicks Sporting Goods. The sold out event was moderated by Jason Mazzola, president and CEO of Citi Trends, a fashion retailer with over 500 stores nationwide.

The Panel

Sitting at a conference table, facing rows of attendees, the panel of six former buyers discussed everything under the retail sun. Topics ranged from basics such as how to present your product properly to more advanced and necessary selling methods such as SWOT analyses and market trends. Strong emphasis was put on knowing your product inside and out as well as having extensive knowledge about the company you are pitching. Time and again the panel expressed how important it was to give buyers a reason to buy your product over someone else’s. They stressed confidence, not cockiness, and that being personable is just as important as having a great product.

The highlight of the panel came from Jason Mazzola of Citi Trends. Rather than giving a long and winding speech about how to pitch retailers, he distilled his thoughts into a four part formula that he shared over the course of fifteen minutes. Many attendees later said that this was their most important takeaway from the event. His four points are the following:

1.  Be a Student of The Business

Make sure you understand your business as well as the buyer’s. Visit their stores, study their sales and their competition. The more you know about your business as well as the store you are pitching, the more impressed a buyer will be.

2.  Over Prepare and Lead The Thinking

Telling a retailer why they should purchase 30,000 units, and not just why they should buy from you, gives the buyer a number to latch onto. This is called leading the thinking. The more homework the wholesaler does, the better chance they have of closing the deal. Buyers want to make purchases that are simple and well thought out. If you do the work for them, you have a better chance of making the sale.

3.  Think Strategically & The Three Cs

What exactly does your business do? What are you good at? Make sure to stick to your core competencies. Don’t try to sell an urban retailer high end products. Always match your pitch with the business you are pitching. And always know the three Cs- Customer, Competition, Core Competencies. What does your customer do? Who is their competition? What are your core competencies?

4.  Be Humble, Be Nice and Understand Your Audience

Be respectful of people’s time. Show up on time and be well prepared. Buyers lean toward nice people. Also, understand how to connect with your audience. Be aware if someone is a new buyer and make them feel comfortable with the meeting process. You always have a much better chance of repeat business if you are nice and humble. It sounds simple but it goes a long way.

Pitch The Panel Competition

As an added bonus to the event, Exceed invited up and coming wholesalers to apply for one of three spots in their Pitch The Panel competition. The accepted applicants were given fifteen minutes each to pitch their products to and field questions from the panel. The winner of the competition, decided by the panel, would receive a buyer meeting with the retailer of their choice.

Exceed interviewed the winner, Mark Shalam, and asked him about his business and his time at the Exceed event. Shalam represents Sleep On It, a cutting edge children’s clothing company that specializes in interesting fabrics and printing techniques. “Our clothes are for confident kids who want to look and feel like their older siblings” said Shalam. Their products can be found at Macy’s, J.C. Penny and other major retailers. When asked why he thinks he won, Shalam responded confidently. “I sold my product well to the panel. I knew the information about the stores I was trying to sell and answered their questions well. I presented myself correctly.”

Watching the presentations, it was clear that all presenters knew their products well, but under the harsh questioning of the buyers, Shalam stood just that much taller than the other wholesalers. He knew his product, the competition and had a professional demeanor that won over the panel. During our interview, Shalam made a point to stress how important Exceed is to him and the community at large. “The events that Exceed puts on are wonderful for the community. Everyone should get involved if they have a chance. There are a lot of good people in the Exceed Network and nobody should be afraid to reach out for advice or help from a mentor. A lot of great people have done great things and they are all involved in the organization and are willing to help.” Upon winning, Shalam requested a meeting with Walmart, one of the most difficult companies to secure a meeting with. If he matches his performance at the event, he is sure to make a deal with Walmart.


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