Small Business

How to Become a Vendor: A Simple Guide

how to become a vendor; Women Cashier Passing over a Credit Machine to Customer

Breaking into the world of retail and learning how to become a vendor can be a challenging experience. Planning ahead and building your network will be important factors in driving your success to become a retail vendor.

Breaking into the world of retail can be a challenging experience. Large retailers might grapple with over-saturation, debt, and intense online competition. Some of these same challenges apply to smaller retail businesses as well. In fact, in research conducted by Square, 72% of business owners concur that small businesses face more challenges today than they did five years ago. In the same way, retail vendors face many of the same obstacles.

Planning ahead and building your network will be important factors in driving your success if you want to become a retail vendor.

What Is a Retail Vendor?

In layman’s terms, a vendor is an individual or a company that offers a service or makes goods available to another company. A Coca-Cola bottler is a vendor to the local grocery store. A manufacturer who produces goods to sell to wholesalers are vendors to retailers. In the same way, a vegetable street vendor selling in downtown business districts is a vendor to customers. There are a wide variety of types of vendors across a range of industries. 

The Most Important Skills of a Retail Vendor

Just like business owners, retail vendors need guts and grit to compete and succeed. There is no one type of person for the job, as most skills can be learned. You don’t even need a fancy school diploma! However, most retail vendors are self-driven people who understand the basic principles of sales. They have soft skills such as good communication skills, organizational skills, and a knack for working with people. If you’re wondering how to become a vendor, consider if you have any of these common skills:

  • Product Knowledge
    Product knowledge is first and foremost the most important skill a retail vendor needs to master. Without it, and you won’t sell a thing. Product knowledge is vital to hone your sales pitch so your customer will buy your product or service from you rather than from your competition.
  • Customer Service
    Many people agree that the days of great customer service are gone forever. This is your chance to prove them wrong. Offering assistance to current and potential customers, fixing problems, answering questions, and giving them the confidence you can deliver are all part of the customer service experience. Building strong vendor relations will keep your customers coming back, and is key to becoming a successful retail vendor.
  • Positive Attitude
    This seems obvious. But a positive attitude can be the difference between making a sale and walking away empty-handed. Even in stressful situations, an optimistic attitude can mean a positive outcome.
  • Sales Goals
    Confucius once said, “If it’s obvious that the goals can’t be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”  Sales goals are bound to time but can be just the motivator you need to work harder—for yourself and for the company you represent, as well as for both current suppliers and potential suppliers.Y

How to Become a Vendor

When it comes to taking steps to bring your goals to fruition, you might be wondering how to become a vendor? While there’s no real clear-cut path for how to become a vendor–and certainly no application process–there are some steps you should follow to ensure you’re on the right path. Taking these steps will ensure you’re gaining the necessary knowledge and experience in order to make yourself stand out and be successful as a retail vendor.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself With the Industry

As someone who wants to become a retail vendor, one of the most important things you can do is get to know the industry you represent. It’s not only vital that you know the industry, but also the produce, product, or products you’re selling. It’s fundamental that you can explain the industry’s potential for growth, the general state of the industry, and how your business model fits into the landscape. 

Industry analysis is part of basic pricing options, market guidelines, and good management. Most of the people who successfully become retail vendors already have relevant business experience, sometimes as employees themselves. Understanding the industry and becoming a successful vendor means looking for a detailed list of features that includes:

  • Distribution patterns
  • Industry participants
  • Competition and buying patterns
  • Levels of pricing

The more you know about your industry, the more advantage and you will have.

Step 2: Determine Your Business Goals

Business goals are the actionable steps you need to take to grow as a retail vendor. Without goals, there is no measure of success. Of course, you can set high-flung goals that you have no way of meeting, or you can set reasonable goals—a step process—that will prove a successful outcome.

Are your goals specific? Setting a goal to increase revenue is fine. But by how much? Setting a goal to increase revenue by 20% gives you something to work towards.

Can you measure outcomes? Your goals should be measurable. If a goal can’t be measured as a success or a failure, it doesn’t do you any good.

Can it be achieved? The whole point of setting business goals is to achieve a specific outcome. Lofty goals can be motivating, but can fall apart quickly. Whereas realistic goals can stand against the odds. That way if something takes a wrong turn, you can adjust your goals and still have a favorable outcome as you navigate how to become a vendor.  

Are your goals relevant? Every goal you set for yourself should be tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. In the same way, your sales goals should be relevant to sales.

Are your goals bound by time? Business goals should be bound by time. Your goals may be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant, but if you haven’t set a timeframe for reaching your goals, you may never get there. Ask yourself, do you want to reach your business goals in a month, a year, or in five years?

Step 3: Make Sure You're Ready to Become a Vendor

Production capacity, product availability, quality control, distribution logistics…these are all aspects of the business that you must carefully consider before letting a retailer know you’re ready for their order. If you cannot get the product on the shelves, or a faulty product is returned, you could irreparably damage a once-in-a-lifetime relationship. Your competition is waiting right outside the door.

One of the most common challenges that can cripple and sink a burgeoning company is financial difficulties. If you don’t have enough money to produce your product or even keep the lights on, you’re in trouble.

Avoid financial worries by planning for cash reserves or by having supply chain financing or invoice financing partners that can help you bridge any cash flow gaps you might experience between the time you fill an order and when you get paid.

Step 4: Connect With Purchasing Managers

When you become a retail vendor, your relationships can either elevate your product to mass adoption, or add you to the long list of failed products. If you want to be the next iPod and avoid the fate of the Zune, you’d best start schmoozing with those who are most influential.

The purchasing managers of retailers are the ones to woo, and LinkedIn is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do so.

For every retailer that you want to form vendor relations with, search LinkedIn and connect with its respective product managers. Prepare a short pitch that will impress them, while keeping you and your products on their radar. Even if you’re not ready to make a sale yet, it will be much easier to approach the right people if they already have an idea of who you are. Better yet, walk into the retail establishment and introduce yourself. Taking the time for a face-to-face meeting can imply you mean business, and is an important step in how to become a vendor.

Step 5: Learn to Use the Vendor Portal

To make sure that you don’t falter when it comes time to fulfill those orders, make sure you are familiar with the retailer’s vendor portal. Vendor registration will be required, but the registration process is typically quick and easy.  Vendor Portals help suppliers learn vital product information, pricing strategies, periodic updates, and much more. Each portal is a bit different, so it pays to take the time to learn a portal well.

Step 6: Take Advantage of Open Vendor Days

Another element for those who want to know how to become a vendor to capitalize on is open vendor days. Many retailers hold these events to connect with new vendors, share information, show product samples, and develop personal relationships. Take the time to prepare small presentations and product demos to show the retailer why they need to take you seriously and how well prepared you are for their business.

Before heading to the event, always prepare. Most major retailers provide an outline of requirements for vendors on their websites. For example, check out Home Depot’s guide.

If you are a new vendor, creating relationships with retailers will be one of your greatest challenges. Keep this at the forefront of your strategy, but also be aware of where small vendors typically fail. Keep your company growing as you begin the process of of how to become a vendor by seeking new retailer relationships, while soundly managing your finances to ensure your retailer-vendor relationship is healthy, as well as lucrative.

Put FundThrough to Work for Your Business

FundThrough helps small business owners (including those looking at how to become a vendor) navigate cash flow hurdles. All it takes is just a few minutes to get started. FundThrough has the highest customer service satisfaction in the industry, and we offer complete transparency and integrity. If you’ve been waiting up to 90-days or more to be paid on your invoices, our customer service team is standing by ready to fill your cash flow gaps.

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