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Selling to the hospitality sector – Our top 10 tips

30/05/2017 10:15:03

Getting your product into a restaurant, hotel or any hospitality business can be difficult at the best of times and next to impossible at the worst.

When businesses attempt to pitch their product to a potential buyer, they are stopped by a gatekeeper who insists that the company they represent has everything they need. So how do you get your foot in the door and sell your product to the sector?

We’ve put together our top 10 tips to help you overcome the barriers and give you and your business the best chance of getting in front of the right decision makers to ensure you have the best chance of securing a sale. 

Make sure your product is desirable for your audience

Depending on what your product is, you may need to carefully choose who you pitch your product too. A fruit and vegetable wholesaler will probably have something that all restaurants and hotels are going to need. However a microbrewery producing regional craft ales may not and their market becomes more selective.

Put together a list of the types of businesses and even specific companies whose brand compliments yours and whose clientele are relevant to what you are producing. This will mean you can then target those relevant businesses and not waste time on buyers who will show little or no interest. You’ll have a much better success rate and develop stronger relationships along the way. 

Speak to the right person

Before approaching a company out of the blue, it’s worth researching who the most relevant contact will be. LinkedIn offers a wealth of information as to who will be the key decision maker. Reach out to them and persist, but don’t pester. It’s worth calling their office, sending sample products and following up with an email. If you can’t get through then simply call reception and ask to speak to the most relevant person in that business. Put together a steady, well-timed action plan that gets your business and product on their radar.

Ask the right questions

You’ve got your foot in the door and showed off your product. You’ve had good feedback and the business is keen to secure a meeting which means that it’s time to prepare and plan your questions effectively.

Using open-ended questions rather than closed will ensure that you keep the conversation flowing and help to build a good relationship. For example, asking “Are you happy with your current supplier?” will leave you with nowhere to go should you get a “yes” response. However, by asking “Tell me, what gaps, challenges or issues do you have?” will create a conversation. They will have to think of a response.

It’s worth asking if they go through procurement reviews and / or renewals. Find out what their processes and procedures are. Get a really good feel for the company culture and ultimately make them buy into you.

Rehearse your answers

Don’t stumble over your facts and figures. It’s easy to do, but simply writing down your key points and figures to refer back to will mean that you avoid looking foolish. Make sure you prepare and know the lowest price that you would be willing to go in advance. Businesses in the hospitality sector are focussed on the bottom line and they will negotiate hard. Stay firm, don’t trip yourself up and offer a fair price based on your competitor analysis and market research.

Stand out from your competitors

If your product is a high-end chocolate made with cocoa beans that have been picked by a community co-operative in a remote corner of the Dominican Republic then the answer is probably yes, you will stand out. If however your product is organic fruit and veg, then it makes things a little more difficult. There are a number of ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors when pitching your business. You could offer attractive terms and conditions for example, or a simplified payment system, or innovative packaging so that chefs can easily order by either weight or amount. Whatever it is, your product will have something that makes it different so make sure that you bring this to light.

Know the benefits of your product

When pitching to potential buyers it’s important to focus the benefits. Simply listing an array of your products features will not be enough to make a sale. The buyer will want to know what’s in it for them: How will it make their life easier? Will it attract more customers? Increase profits? By explaining how a feature will benefit the buyer, it will lead to more engaging conversation.

Listen to your buyer’s needs?

The buyer won’t enter the room with a desire to be sold to. Don’t rush in and explicitly tell the buyer what you’re offering. Begin by asking them what they need, what they’re looking for then listen and take note. This will allow you to match your products to their requirements and also give you the time to learn how the buyer operates. A softer, more consultative approach will go a long way to securing that next meeting or even the first order.

Focus on building a relationship

In a B2B environment, people still like to buy from people. It’s important to be genuine and confident of your product, talk knowledgably of the industry whilst at the same time come across personable, and even try to elicit a few laughs from others in the room!

Demonstrate your ethical and sustainable approach

Many hospitality businesses are under increasing pressure to show that they operate sustainably and improve their environmental performance. By outlining Fairtrade practices, ways that you’ve helped to cut down on food miles and any measures you’ve taken to combat waste, it not only demonstrates your corporate social responsibility but will appeal to potential buyers as its one less thing for them to worry about.

Social media is a powerful channel

Using social media can help to build brand awareness, drive leads, and enlist advocates for your products. If you manage to build a solid online presence with a large following and one which demonstrates you are interacting with customers, it offers a potential buyer a snapshot of what you and your business are all about. Both Twitter and Facebook can add substantial credibility to your business.

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