Trying to sell your clothing line to large big box retailers or small independent boutiques? There are strategic processes you’ll need to follow. Learn step by step how to find and reach out to buyers, what to put in your line sheet, and what to do when you finally get a meeting.
In this episode I’m chatting with Traceena & Lauren, founder of The Sales Concept, which helps designers maximize profits through merchandising and sales strategies. This is one of the most content packed episodes to date, and if you have – or want to start – a label, grab a pen and paper to take notes and listen carefully to everything these two experts have to say about how to sell your clothing line to retailers. Traceena and Lauren give step by step instructions of how to approach buyers at shops and trade shows, word for word scripts of what to say on phone calls or in emails, and the exact steps to follow from the time you find the shop to writing the order.
Heidi: Hey everybody this is Sew Heidi and you’re listening to the successful fashion designer podcast we all knew that the fashion industry is brutally competitive and it takes loads of hard work to get ahead the problem is that everyone’s secretive and tight-lipped about their ways. After working as a designer and educator for over a decade I wanted to help break down those barriers and bring you valuable knowledge from industry experts and this show is exactly where you’ll find that whether you’re trying to break into the fashion world make yourself more marketable launch your own label or become a successful freelancer we’ll help you get ahead in this cutthroat fashion industry. This is episode 9 of these successful fashion designer podcasts, and today I’m chatting with Kristina and Lauren founders of the Sails Concept was a collective 25 years of experience they teach designers how to grow their wholesale fashion business and maximize profits during our conversation Lauren and Traceena share the best way to merchandise and price your collection and why this is crucial to your success how to find and reach out to buyers without sounding salesy what to do when you finally get the meeting and the best etiquette on following up with your prospects.
Kristina: be mindful and show them the solutions and not just list all the features in the benefits it’s about them it’s unfortunately it’s not about us.
Heidi: Before we jump into the interview I want to remind you can help the show out and make it easier for others to discover by leaving a rating on iTunes if you enjoyed this episode I’d really appreciate it if you take 60 seconds to do that visit SFDnetwork.com/review to leave your rating and thanks for your support and help to access the show notes for today’s episode visit sfdnetwork.com/9 now onto the interview with Lauren and Kristina. A well, thank you so much Kristina and Lauren for joining us on the successful fashion designer podcast and I’d love to start out tell everybody a little bit about what you guys do together with your business?
Lauren: Sure do you want me to take that Traceena? Or just say no or do you want to do it?
Traceena: Sure. Go right ahead.
Lauren: Okay so we basically help fashion brands and designers entrepreneurs help we help them to grow their wholesale business so connecting with buyers getting into boutiques and everything between with when it comes to sales and merchandising so helping them in all those areas and we teach sorry go ahead.
Traceena: No, no, no. I’m sorry it’s gonna say in big-box retailers.
Lauren: Oh yeah.
Heidi: Oh awesome! So a designer let’s say we’re, we’re in the process what they come to work with you guys?
Lauren: So after they already have all their product and designed or may not have they have to already have you know secured their factories and are starting the designing process at least so they’re not we don’t do any of the like connecting with factories and things like that or product development.
Heidi: Okay, cool so if I’m a designer and I have my collection put together and let’s say I have some line sheet set up and I have factory secured and I’m like right if you go into production and I’m like okay and you just start selling and securing some orders that’s where you guys would come in?
Traceena: Yeah, I mean for yeah for the main part but we can also help with you know the merchandising can become can be a pre development phase as well.
Heidi: Yeah, so to… sorry go ahead.
Traceena: Yeah so I mean it’s you know merchandising is both pre and during and after so there’s three different like phases within merchandising but the main thing is that they’ve already come up with their design you know they’re not totally starting from scratch but they have their designs together they’re working with the factory they have samples and things like that but maybe they’re in the process of creating their collection but that’s like the bare the bare bones stage that we’ll start working with a brand.
Heidi: Okay and so I feel like this word merchandising can kind of be like a confusing word people are like what is merchandising really like why do I know that so and I know like one of your backgrounds is in merchandising one of your backgrounds isn’t sales is that correct?
Heidi: Yeah so tell me a little bit about tell everybody in the audience a little bit about what exactly is merchandising and why is it so crucial to success?
Lauren: Sure so yeah as you said you know merchandising it’s kind of like this gray area in the fashion industry because you know people they when they think of merchandising they think of visual merchandising which you know it definitely is a huge part of what merchandising is in general but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes during and after like I said before so making sure that you have the proper assortment which can also be about pricing your products correctly and then also analyzing your sales figures so those are probably like the three main elements of merchandising but as I said it’s you know it’s still there’s a little gray area because there’s so many parts that a lot of fashion companies the lines are a little bit blurred when it comes to merchandising but essentially it’s helping your products creating the proper assortments that so that you can sell your products which is why we teach both strategies because you can’t have great sales without having great merchandising and vice versa obviously.
Heidi: Right, okay, cool so if we can we kind of just like walk through the process like let’s put can we do a little make-believe here and I want to pretend like I’m a start-up designer or maybe I’m not I’m going to startup maybe I’ve been in business for a little while but I need some help with merchandising I need some help with sales so could we maybe walk through like what the process would look like and some strategies and tips that you guys would advise me to do to best present my brand and my product and get myself into as many stores as possible?
Lauren: Sure, so I mean with merchandising it really is about figuring out your price point because your price point is gonna be so important before you even start selling your line so making sure that you are you know figuring out where you want to position yourself as a brand and who you’re trying to target what kind of stores you’re trying to get into because that your price point obviously will make all the difference in that aspect and then from there it’s creating a proper assortment so making sure that you know you do have some of those eye catching pieces but you’re also incorporating some core items or items that you know for a fact are going to sell for that particular store so that’s really why we work with designers because a lot of designers are very creative, creative people individuals and they don’t really understand you know how to price their products and what exactly creating a proper assortment is you know so they just like to sometimes create a lot of different eye catching pieces which is great but you also want to make sure that it’s gonna sell in the store…
Heidi: So how do I how would I first go about creating my prices would I is that a combination of like looking at obviously the cost to produce the product but also in conjunction with the stores I ultimately want to sell to and who my target customers so what would that process look like?
Traceena: So, I mean the main process is a lot of people get this wrong is you would actually look at look at what stores you want to be in how you’re positioning your brand and look at the retail prices and what those items that are similar to your items are selling for and then you kind of want to work backwards so you want to make sure that you are figuring out okay so if I need to sell something retail for a certain price then what is my wholesale price gonna be and then what does that cost from the factory have to be in order to get the margin that I want to get.
Heidi: Okay. so I when hanging on the same rack as some hundred dollar dresses then I would start with the hundred dollar retail price and calculate backwards?
Traceena: Yeah cuz that’s gonna help you figure out okay so you know this factory is giving me this price I don’t think I can work with this factory because that is gonna cost me out of my target market…
Traceena: …or something like that does that make sense?
Heidi: Yeah, no it does absolutely…
Heidi: …okay so I figured out the price and then then what’s next?
Lauren: So, then it’s just you know starting to actually create your assortment and figuring out what you need to put into your collection what are you gonna do you know are you going to do all dresses or if you’re gonna do all dresses are you gonna have what styles are you gonna have what are your what are your core items gonna be what are you gonna be known for…
Lauren: …but it’s really about building that collection that has different pieces that are both eye catching and can be something that is potentially going to carry over because when you’re first starting out you want to make sure that you’re not having to buy a ton of inventory obviously so you want to make sure okay so is this something that might be able to carry over to next season and it’s not going to be a super trendy item I would say that would be the next sort of step in you know the whole starting from scratch…
Heidi: Go ahead sorry.
Lauren: I was gonna say and then it’s just like you know making sure you’re getting all of your collateral together which you know Tracee and I can talk about more but like line sheets and your look book and you know there’s a whole process that has that goes on before you can even launch or even talk to a buyer.
Heidi: Yeah. You know and I definitely want to get into that but first I wanna talk a little bit more about like creating your collection in your assortment is there like do you guys have any advice or guidance on like what should that really look like you know it can depend on like what your budget is like what your capital is and what your potential reach is and the market but what I tend to see is a lot of designers want to create a 12 or 14 piece collection to start like right off the bat and I don’t know without you know answering the question for you to me that always seems a little bit high so what’s your phrases advice I’m like where to start like how many patient pieces should I really be introducing and launching and I know you mentioned like a few statement pieces I’ve also heard them referred to as like sort of roadmap pieces and then you’ve got your essential core items that can hopefully carry over and be a little bit more bread and butter so what do you what do you suggest that like initial starting package to look like?
Traceena: I mean I think like you said it really does depend on your budget if you have a decent amount of you know something about save that you know that you want to create a collection I would say go for it but I would also say if you are you know trying to go as small as possible then yeah maybe just start out with a three-piece collection but you have to make sure that those pieces are gonna stand out you’re not gonna just be you know maybe that’s not where you start in terms of just creating core product I would do something that would really stand out because if you’re just gonna create you know a basic white blouse I mean what’s gonna stand out with this basic white blouse that it’s gonna be so I catching that buyers are gonna have to have it…
Traceena: …I mean…
Heidi: So your collection is to be so big to allow room for those core items with having enough substance to have the eye-catching like gotta have it items.
Traceena: …yeah, I mean I think that when you’re first starting out and if you only have room for three pieces and you and that’s what you want to start with that’s totally fine I mean if you think of someone like you know Diane von Furstenberg who start out with like a wrap dress it just has to be something that like is so different you know what I mean…
Lauren: …and then from there you can start building upon like what would be your core items and what would be you know more of a fashion item but I think it’s totally fine to start out with, with a small very small collection it’s probably smart actually.
Heidi: Yeah and just kind of test the waters and see how everything goes?
Lauren: Yes, okay.
Heidi: Okay. So I’ve kind of figured out the price point by working backwards and we then put together our collection let’s say we’re just starting with like three a to five pieces and so now what and do I put tear my line she and I start trying to pre-sell to buyers with some samples?
Lauren: Yep. I would say that would be the next step.
Lauren: What do you think Traceena?
Traceena: Yes and then that’s when the designer will come to me and then I will assist them.
Heidi: Okay, cool. And so what is like what are some tips for putting together your line sheet and then like actually like how do you get that in the hands of the right buyers what does that process look like are we emailing or we cold calling are we going to trade shows like what are some of the most effective ways you see designers getting in touch with the buyer and getting that appointment?
Traceena: Well, what sells, sells is very strategic. A line sheet is imperative to have on your line sheet you want to actually have the product the origin of the product the size the sizing that’s available the color once that’s all put together then we will create a strategy what I teach the designers in our course is sells is actually made up of three different core elements which is mindset skillset in your toolbox when you go out to sell I mean let’s just be honest cells isn’t easy it’s really not and Lauren and I when we talk to our students the first thing they say is I suck at sells I’m a designer I’m creative I don’t know what I’m doing please help and we let them know that look no one can sell your bought your product better than you why because you designed it you know it in and out so my thing with designers is mindset first I know it’s uncomfortable and our brains are actually designed to protect us from negative and harmful things so if we go in to approach a new store that’s something we’re not comfortable with so will automatically say oh I can’t go in there I can’t talk to the designer so I tell designers to eradicate negative talk because that actually stops them from approaching the boutique owner or a big-box retailer buyer that’s super, super important…
Traceena: …and then skillset to approach a buyer the number one thing is to be confident to be confident and relaxed not to be very scripted because no one likes to be sold I mean it’s just common no one really wants to be sold to, but if you if you come at it from that angle where it’s very relaxed and you’re very confident so what does that really mean it means when you’re a designer you create two different lists you create a list that consists of your existing accounts and prospects that’s really important on your prospect list you state the buyer who you want to get in contact with their contact information email phone number and then you set a date in your calendar to visit the store once you’re at the store you do not sell on your first visit now Heidi this is this actually blows designers away they’re like what do you mean that’s why showing up in the first place I understand that I totally do but again sells is all about relationships it’s to build that relationship and it’s really hard and difficult to build a relationship when you first meet someone and say hey I have this wonderful product do you want to buy it for me please oh it’s gonna fit in your store in your end consumer is gonna love it that’s not how you create a relationship and that’s actually alarming the buyer isn’t expecting you they don’t know who you are and they don’t know what your brand is all about so what I urge designers to do is before they go into any process before they go to prospect any store do their homework the thing you need to do is find out the buyers name the brand’s carried out the store and the average price point now you might be thinking well why is this so important because when you show up to that store you’re going to be ready when you approach the buyer and so what I told designers to do when they show up to the store remember you’re not selling on your first visit you’re showing up you’re walking in when you step your foot inside that door you’re immediately scanning the store the reason you’re scanning the store is because you want to know visually where we where would your brand fit in the store that’s so important once that is done then you browse the store when you’re browsing the store you’re touching fabric to make sure that your fabric is up to par you’re looking at price points to make sure they’re comparable you’re looking at brands to make sure they’re adjacent want you to do that you work your way up to the cache rep wherever the buyer is and you say hey you know what I really love this store it is so amazing the layout is great I love the brands that you carry and I mean originally I mean organically the buyer is going to say oh thanks you know and you see if you approach it like that it’s not so alarming it’s not like wait who are you want to tell me what it’s more a soft approach.
Heidi: Yeah, so to rewind a little bit because I have a couple questions so we’re like other than alright maybe I know the stores in my hometown or where we’re you know in New York or wherever in LA that I want to approach where am i finding the right information or even especially for like big-box stores like where am I discovering the contact information the right information and who’s the right person to get in touch with I mean I think sometimes at a small boutique you can walk in and perhaps chances are the person behind the counter is the owner and/or buyer but a lot of times that’s not gonna be the case so how do you approach those kind of stuff and finding the right contact?
Traceena: Absolutely that’s a great question personally I’ve so too many big-box retailers and the buyer for those stores are very, very busy the way that you contact them is through LinkedIn it’s important to go to their LinkedIn to find out exactly what they look like it’s important to know what they look like why is it important to know what they look like because when you’re showing at a trade show you’ll easily spot who that buyer is because you know what she or he looks like…
Heidi: That’s really smart.
Traceena: …and I agree for smaller stores it’s a bit easier to find out who the buyer is for smaller stores just by visiting their website sometimes it’ll say about and then it might have a bio about who the owner is of that particular boutique.
Heidi: Yeah. And so ok so you first go in and you do your research and you maybe just strike up a conversation and you compliment them but you’re not really there’s no pitch involved at that stage?
Traceena: There’s no pitch involved at that stage no not at all.
Heidi: Ok and so then what would you do next?
Traceena: So after you strike up the conversation you say you know oh I really love the layout the brands you carry they’ll say thank you and you’ll say you know actually I rep an adjacent brand called you’ll say the name of your brand and they’ll say oh really and then you’ll reply back have you heard of it and they might say no and then you’ll briefly tell them about it in two to three minutes you don’t want to go over two to three minutes when telling a buyer about your brand you should have your brand story down packed and in two to three minutes.
Heidi: Yeah. And so is this like I know you talked a little bit earlier about going in and being confident and being really casual and conversational in the dialogue don’t be too scripted this is something you would want to have practiced maybe with friends or maybe even just like a networking event go and like kind of practice talking about your brand and what it is and the story?
Traceena: You’re absolutely right in and sometimes you can’t always get to an networking event maybe you are a designer who’s designing on the side and you have a full time job what I also suggest is and it might sound silly but practice in front of the mirror…
Heidi: Oh yeah. do you take yourself?
Traceena: …yeah, call it friends up record yourself if I want to leave a voicemail for a buyer I recorded myself and listened to it over and over and over and over…
Heidi: Oh, that’s awesome!
Traceena: …it sounds ok and then I’m confident enough to call the buyer and if he or she doesn’t answer then I’ll be fine when I leave the voicemail because I practice.
Heidi: Yeah, those are great ideas. Okay so if I’m going to small boutiques where I might be able to get the buyer in person I go in the first meeting I just introduce myself and I tell them some clary compliments about the store and I kind of like introduce the brand and see tell them a little bit about it and see what see what they know if they don’t know anything and then and then what’s the next stage after that?
Traceena: okay so you tell them about the brand in two to three minutes nothing over and you hand them a business card now the thing is you don’t want to take up too much of their time you want to be very mindful on how much time you spend at the store because they might have customers in their store.
Heidi: Yeah. So do you want to know you probably won’t also be mindful about what time and day you go to then?
Traceena: Oh my gosh yes so the best time to go into a boutique is at two to three o’clock the time to avoid is after work so after 5:00 p.m. and on Fridays.
Heidi: Okay. All right so I give them my card and then…
Traceena: Give them a card and then you before you leave it’s imperative to accident a question so you might be thinking well what question do I ask them so you’ll ask them you’ll say something like this before I get out of here I want to hand you over my card and ask you a really quick question what do you typically look for when you’re buying for let’s say you sell hats what do you typically look for when you’re buying hats and they’ll let you know and so that import that question is so important because of that question and that answer is going to prepare you for your next visit.
Heidi: Right, okay very smart. Okay, so now let’s pretend like what would they say I don’t know much about hats but what would they say they might say oh I really want a super trend forward or I don’t know it would hopefully be an answer that, that is something you could connect with your offering?
Traceena: Yeah, and you can say oh my gosh, that sounds really good well I can’t wait to connect with you in the near future again it was really nice meeting you and when I’m in the area I’ll stop by again…
Traceena: …so after that you go back to your office and use and let’s say they say I’m looking for superior fur felt hats in navy gray and black and I want to make sure that it’s one size fit all…
Lauren: And you’re like oh my god I have that.
Traceena: …so what you do is you go back to the drawing board and you say but I have 50 different hats how do I choose so what you’re gonna do is choose that’s where merchandising come in you look back at what they currently sell in the store and you choose you do not in a date the buyer with too many things you choose maybe five to ten different things to put on a custom line sheet you’re making a custom line sheet at this point because when you send a buyer too many things at once they can become overwhelmed and then immediately put on the brakes and say this is not for me so what you’ll do is send them a line sheet with maybe two black hats to Navy hats and two gray hats and they’re all adjustable U.S.-made because you notice in their store it’s all U.S.-made products so you don’t want to send anything from China because you know they’re their big supporter of U.S.-made goods so you send that over and you know in an email and you say hey you know it’s really nice meeting you below I attach thanks for the information below I attached some options that I think will that I think will catch your attention and then they’ll open it up they might not respond back to you but that’s okay it’s okay because one now they know who you are two they know exactly the name of your brand what your brand stands for your brand story and they know what your product looks like so that sets the foundation and to getting into a store the relationship has started.
Heidi: Okay. So, I mean loves is sort of like nice flow of events that this all goes through but going back a little bit what if the answer they gave about the hats was really specific do they typically give an answer that’s that specific I don’t know anything about sales I mean I work on the backend I design product I get it made a manufacturer overseas and then my clients take it and run with it from there so I don’t know much about being on the frontline and do buyers really act like say something not specific and if they do there is there a good chance that maybe you don’t have something in that offering especially if you’re a small brand starting out with only three to five pieces and what are you doing back?
Traceena: I’m actually really happy that you asked that question because some buyers do and some buyers do not and the buyers who do not answer your question our suspects they’re not real prospects so that means that one you might be wasting your time as they can’t give you a clear answer.
Heidi: Okay. So, that’s a way to weed people out who are like really are you lucky …
Traceena: Absolutely. and if you only have let’s say you’re your new designer and you only have six items send the buyer your number one performing item that you know that’s proven.
Heidi: Okay, and just send them one?
Traceena: Send one or two. I would say if you have a collection that consists of six different items I would send them two.
Heidi: Okay. Just sent on the top site for me wines with the top two what I think would fit based on what their answer was?
Traceena: Right, because people like choices but they don’t like too many.
Heidi: Yeah. Okay, and so I prepare the custom line sheet and I send it over based on their answer it’s a game you really wishy-washy answer and they were super vague and maybe just didn’t really care to tell me what they’re looking for then I might wanted to stop then otherwise it’s just a waste of energy?
Traceena: So, I never encourage a designer to ever stop pursuing in account unless the buyer tells you flat-out no they don’t want to buy from you.
Heidi: Oh, okay. So, we are getting pretty assertive here.
Heidi: Okay. So, you keep going until you literally get a flat no I love that.
Traceena: I mean we’re in sells…
Traceena: …I mean we’re nice definitely we’re always nice but you’re in sells.
Heidi: And that’s where I think it gets really scary like going back to the whole mindset and the confidence thing it can get really scary and almost it could I mean it can just it can tear away at you of like oh I sent out all these line sheets and nobody even wrote back to me or I talked to the buyer in person they just didn’t seem interested but you just have to keep trudging forward and have the mindset of I got this?
Lauren: Absolutely. And then you also have to have a nice healthy prospecting list okay if you’re going back and back and back to that same buyer if you’re always emailing that same buyer there’s a huge problem…
Lauren: …your pipeline should consist of so many prospects that you’re not calling that buyer every single week…
Lauren: …you’re calling that buyer maybe every four weeks every other month…
Lauren: …you’re not calling that buyer all the time.
Heidi: Alright. So, I was I thought was gonna be my two questions but that was one of them next was what’s the appropriate frequency and also what’s the best late do you find that emails better or phone is better or just it might depend on the person
Lauren: So face to face is better for me however phone is quicker…
Lauren: …emails I like emails I’m not a huge fan of emails I’m a huge fan of emails when it when you’ve already spoke or seen the buyer then I would suggest emailing because emails buyers it’s easy for them not to respond back to you but if you call them on their phone their desk and they’re their big box retailer buyer they’re gonna answer the phone faster than they answer their emails.
Heidi: And then I have this moment of panic when they answer and I was like oh my god I was expecting the voicemail but now I have a good phone but I practiced so I know what to say?
Traceena: Yes. And just in and this is for all the designers out there that’s listening if you get in a panic when a buyer is on the phone and you were prepared for the voicemail literally count 5 4 3 2 1 breathe and then do your spill…
Heidi: Yeah, okay.
Traceena: …do it in your head, because when you count backwards for some reason it relaxes your entire body.
Heidi: Or maybe you go in with the mindset that they’re gonna answer and then if you get the voicemail you’re like oh okay I got this I got the voicemail otherwise you’re prepared I know I’ve called people before not for not for sales but for other things and the answer is like oh god I was I totally didn’t think you were getting answer.
Lauren: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Traceena: Yeah. I suggest always be ready…
Traceena: You would never know what the next opportunity is right in front of you.
Heidi: So, if I can’t get in front of that buyer in a real physical environment you suggest my first like I’m just gonna cold call them initially and try to would I leave a voicemail and I made me call a couple times and then give up and leave a voicemail or try a couple times to get them the answer what are your thoughts on that?
Lauren: You never give up.
Heidi: No. I’m sorry I didn’t mean you love it you’re giving up but like maybe I call three times and I get the voice and I’ll get the voice no I don’t leave a voicemail though because I want to try to get them on the phone the very first point of contact and then after the third time I get the voicemail I’m like okay I guess I’ll leave a voicemail now?
Traceena: Yes. So, I suggest you always leave a voicemail if you get the voicemail you always leave a voicemail…
Lauren: …and you’ll say something to this effect hey this is Christina we released some new hats by such-and-such brand I would love to talk to you about it you can reach me at did it and then you say your phone number…
Lauren: …most likely they will not call you back…
Lauren: …that’s okay because at least they know your name now and at least they know the name of your brand the whole thing with sells is that you want to make sure your front and center on that buyers mind make sure that buyers do not forget who you are.
Heidi: Okay. So, I leave him a voicemail they’re never gonna call me back and then do it would I follow up that voicemail with an email to then send the line sheet so they have something to look at?
Traceena: Yes. So, you send a line sheet according to their so you’re approaching this as if you’re in inside sales okay so you can’t physically get to the location so you call the buyer up they’re not answering you leave a voicemail and then you follow up by sending a short email no more than four to six sentences double-spaced…
Traceena: …with the question at the end of the email and then you will insert a custom line sheet based on their website and their store their website aesthetics…
Traceena: …and then you don’t want to remember put too many things on the line sheet so you want to list maybe anywhere from four to ten things on the line sheet according to their website.
Heidi: And again this is where the merchandising comes back into play is like how to pick the best pieces that are gonna fit…
Heidi: …so how like are you just kind of looking visually and picking what do you think with the best based on price point and aesthetic?
Lauren: So, it’s all again strategic you want you’re looking at price points you’re looking at fabric content you’re looking at aesthetics so if you see on the website they sell the highest item is $500 and the lowest item is $50 you want to be mindful not to send anything higher than 500 and anything lower than 50 you want to hit that sweet spot and you want it you want to insert an item that ties back to their aesthetics price point in fabrics that they usually buy in your custom line sheet
Heidi: Okay, okay. So, I made my phone call I left a voicemail and then I followed up with a very brief email with some type of question at the end and what is the question at the end is it kind of the same question I’m asking if I’m in person like what are you looking for in this type of product or…
Lauren: Absolutely the same question.
Heidi: …okay, and then I send a line sheet?
Lauren: And then you send the line sheet and then after that you set an alarm on your calendar your calendar is your best friend.
Heidi: I knew you were gonna say something to that extent your calendar is like you live and die by that.
Traceena: Right! so if you haven’t heard from the buyer within a week say for instance you emailed them on Monday and you haven’t heard from them and it’s Thursday afternoon it’s okay to email them back on Friday morning.
Heidi: Okay, and from there then would you go into the follow-up once a month routine?
Traceena: Yes. Absolutely.
Heidi: Okay, okay and then that would that be the same for the buy like the small boutique buyer where you walked into the store and you had your first initial conversation and you followed up with an email maybe later that day or the next day but that would you go through the same process that buyer…
Traceena: It’s the same similar process unless you live in the neighborhood, neighborhood of the boutique and you honestly are passing by pop in to say hello Ask them how things are going.
Heidi: Yeah. And so okay so I’m making all these increase but to rewind a little bit you said make sure you have a really, really healthy prospect list so you’re not over pestering the same people so how do we go about building that list I mean is it really just a matter of googling and finding these boutiques I mean that seems like a really manual process or there’s some tricks to building the right list?
Lauren: I’m a strong believer in helping Google however if you clearly do not have the time because you have tons of to do thing to do tasks on your list then you can buy you can actually buy list a list from a company.
Heidi: Okay and are there company is that pre legit way to go is are those list pre accurate they are pretty accurate but is that a good deal…
Lauren: They’re, they’re pretty accurate their pretty pricey as well…
Heidi: By how much we are talking?
Lauren: …it depends what you’re selling.
Heidi: Okay, depends on my category in my price point.
Heidi: What was the range? I would
Lauren: What would you say?
Heidi: What would be like a range?
Lauren: The list can go anywhere from 300 dollars up to the thousands depending on what you’re selling…
Lauren: …so if you’re selling some really extravagant gowns then and…
Heidi: It’s gonna be high.
Lauren: When I get into these beautiful stores and yeah it’s gonna be high.
Heidi: Okay. And where would I go to buy a list?
Lauren: So you can get lists through trade shows.
Heidi: Okay. So, if I find a trade show that’s kind of in my market then I could look on their website or contact them and see if I had their buyer list?
Heidi: Okay. All right so I built my list maybe manually using Yelp and just kind of continually searching and discovering new stores that I want to go to yeah go ahead…
Traceena: Sorry also I just want to say that designers can utilize other what other adjacent brands website and check out their stockiest and go on there and say where there’s see where they’re selling to.
Heidi: Yeah. I’ve actually heard that strategy before I forgot about that but go to your competition or maybe not competition I like use that word of Jason I like that a lot it’s like your complimentary products perhaps this competition but maybe not and see where they’re selling and then just pull theirs.
Heidi: Okay, all right. So then what was next so where were we so we’re doing a lot of follow-up once a month we’ve got everything on our calendar and then how are we actually like are we just continuing to call them and trying to get an appointment or to just get a step further what usually happens next?
Traceena: So you can show up or you can send press so send relevant press that shows that you’re credible if you’re sending press and again you want to trickle in press you don’t want to send I don’t know 20 articles we were featured you just you’re trying to show them that you’re credible.
Heidi: Okay so instead of just continually Hocking your product at then you’re also like hey look I got featured and that gives you validation?
Traceena: Yeah. Absolutely, and then I’m buyers they love industry news so if you have some legit industry news that you really want to share just share it because a lot of times it’s very hard to get out of their stores or when they are buyers for big-box retailers they’re in meeting after meeting after meeting so it’s really hard to stay up on industry news.
Heidi: Okay. So, provide them with some value at the same time that you’re doing this outreach?
Heidi: And do you is this all like manually one-off emails or do suggest like starting an email list using like Mail Chimp or one of the platforms out there?
Traceena: I was saying one-off emails.
Heidi: Okay. So, don’t add them to an email list?
Traceena: It couldn’t be good…
Heidi: Okay, and so then and so I keep sending them stuff and I don’t stop until they absolutely say stop contacting me?
Traceena: Yeah. I mean or you can send it depends on where you are financially if you can send a swatch book or if you have a, if you have a sample you can send a sample or if you have your line sheet and you want to send a sample of a swatch you can do that…
Traceena: …just so they can feel the fabric.
Heidi: Okay, and when I tell them I was gonna send that in an email or what I just blindly send it after I’d been in contact with them a couple times?
Lauren: No, always informed them so they can keep an eye out.
Heidi: Okay. So, just a hand that’ll be sending you this swatch for it within the next week?
Traceena: And I’ll call back to follow up on Monday at 3:15 p.m.
Heidi: Okay. So, you’re really specific with what you’re gonna do next and your follow up obstructions, okay.
Heidi: And so then what’s gonna happen hopefully we’re starting to get some appointments?
Traceena: Yes. So, if your prospecting list is healthy enough then you will start to see movement…
Traceena: …people will respond back to you you’ll start making appointments some people won’t respond back to you you’ll start adding new prospects to your list so prospects new accounts are the blood the bloodline to any organization it’s very important to always open new accounts so it’s very important to always keep that prospect list updated.
Heidi: Okay, and so I want to just really quickly you say a healthy list like give us an idea in terms of numbers like what might that look like for and there’s probably not like a formula but let’s say I’m a small designer and I’ve got a six piece collection what does that list look like is it a hundred is it a thousand prospect?
Traceena: I would say 150 plus…
Heidi: 150 plus okay. I gotta kind of continually adding?
Traceena: …you’re continually adding and again these some of them might be suspect some of them might not really be interested and once you detect that then you just you know take them off…
Traceena: …take them off because the last thing you want to do is waste your time…
Traceena: …you really don’t have time to waste…
Traceena: …you have a collection to get out of there to get out in the world because you’re designing the next season collection.
Heidi: Yeah. So, your prospect list is like a living breathing thing it’s constantly growing you’re constantly adding to it you’re eyes are basically always open for new opportunities to sell to?
Lauren: You’re always pounding the pavement…
Lauren: …always get out there to see I mean even if it’s just window shopping window shopping is so important to a sales role.
Heidi: Okay, and well, why is that like just to see what’s in the market and see what people are showing on the front lines of the stores?
Lauren: Absolutely to see what’s in the market to see the trends to see if you’re on trend…
Heidi: Yeah. Sales perspective but from a design perspective.
Traceena: …I mean especially if you’re designing your own collection…
Traceena: …and yourself in it.
Heidi: Yeah. So, just constantly be looking out okay so we have our list and we’re hopefully at this time booking some appointments and what it tells us a little bit about that what that process looks like the appointment process.
Traceena: So, when you reach how you ask for a meeting I like the word meeting compared to appointment…
Traceena: …it sounds very clinical can’t we have a meeting once you’re in your meeting it’s important to be prepared with your sales toolkit…
Traceena: …you should have your latest lookbook you should have your line sheet you should have your samples you should know your brand’s story and most important you should know your product.
Heidi: Okay. Which if you designed it and developed it you should hopefully be quite familiar with all of that?
Traceena: Absolutely, absolutely.
Heidi: Okay. Okay, and so you show the line and then is there some type of call to action or…
Traceena: So, you show the line when you’re showing the line visual merchandising is very important to when you’re showing the line if you have a line you and you’re showing it in a showroom you want to set the product set the product up from light to dark from light to dark…
Heidi: Oh, I’ve never heard that before,
Traceena: Yeah, yeah. Stand to the left of your rolling rack because you want the buyer to see the entire collection…
Traceena: …you want to not over talk when you’re in a meeting you want to always ask questions when you’re in the meeting so in the questions you want to ask is so what do you like so far?
Traceena: Ask you have something what do they like so they can’t tell you anything negative.
Heidi: Oh! I love that strategy that’s so cool.
Traceena: And so, when they tell you what they like you say fantastic and what you’re gonna do is pick it up and put it to the side.
Traceena: And so, they’ll tell you maybe about four or five items and you have those four or five items to the side because you’re gonna use those four or five items in the next few minutes so you’re gonna say okay so this is what you like I think it’s a great selection thus far you get your order pad out…
Heidi: Okay, so you almost just assume you’re like I’m ready to write this order up?
Traceena: …oh yeah. I mean as a designer is showing I mean sorry if a buyer’s showing up to a meeting that says a lot about your product…
Traceena: …that means they’re serious. So you two need to as a designer you need to be serious and have your order pad ready to write the order…
Traceena: …and then again you want to not over talk you want to let them talk more than you’re talking because you want to see you want to get their feedback because their feedback is very important for your next collection that you’re designing it’s important because you went after this store you like this store so you want to go after more stores that look like the store who’s the in the meeting with you.
Heidi: Yeah. Now what if you I mean because you can get an in-person meeting if you happen to be physically located within a reasonable distance but what how do you do this if you’re located remotely?
Lauren: The same exact way you send them samples if you can if it’s only legit…
Heidi: Okay you mail them a box?
Lauren: …absolutely and then once you do that you say okay Tim I’m going to call you Monday at 11:20 a.m. so we can go over the samples that I send to you.
Heidi: Okay, you talk to her on the phone?
Heidi: Okay, and you ask them okay well you’re taking a look at everything and tell me what do you like?
Lauren: …and then they’ll tell you what, what they like and again you’re there which are ordered pad and say okay well let’s write up to order these are the delivery date so what color do you want what sizing do you want and then that’s it.
Heidi: And then you just have to make sure you deliver?
Lauren: Oh, yeah. In on time.
Heidi: Talk a little bit about that because that’s a very scary space.
Lauren: It’s a very scary space delivering on time is very, very essential for many different reasons if you fail to deliver on time it can mess up the entire selling cycle so if you’re supposed to deliver in February and you deliver in June realistically the buyer doesn’t have many months to have the product on the floor so they might be hesitant to pick you up next season only because they didn’t sell your product they did have enough time to sell your product and so they’re left with so much stock and so next season they probably don’t want to pick you up again.
Heidi: Yeah. And so I mean a lot of this is quite a bit of work and…
Lauren: It is.
Heidi: …as we all know going into our own endeavors we’re all trying to wear so many hats so what do you guys think about trying to DIY all of this versus trying to outsource it like when is the right time to find a sales rep or when is the right time to hire some support whether it be on the merchandising side versus trying to learn how to do it all yourself where what’s that balance look like and what are some what some advice you can give to people out there?
Lauren: So. I mean in terms of merchandising I definitely think it you can DIY it yourself obviously we teach DIY sales and merchandising so we truly believe that you can you can do it yourself and most companies they will DIY their merchandising until they get a little bit bigger I mean I guess same for sales as well but you definitely see more people DIY in both to begin with and then outsourcing sales as opposed to outsourcing merchandising I would say…
Traceena: Right I agree.
Lauren: …yeah but I mean we always try to have our designers do sales of themselves because you’re not gonna find anyone that knows your collection better than yourself.
Heidi: Yeah, now I’ve heard that too and I’ve also heard that you know from a buyer’s perspective that’s really they really like to get to meet the designer sometimes that’s a really important part of the process is that true?
Traceena: It’s true and it’s very important to meet the designer because they’re going to tell you the brand story and once they do that you can relay that same story to you’re in consumer if you’re the buyer…
Heidi: Right. Nothing gets lost in translation?
Lauren: Yeah, right fires are looking for the next big brand and so when you, you know you’re just starting out and you’re actually the designer it’s kind of like a little bit more of like an exciting time you know what I mean as opposed to like if you are just hiring a bunch of sales reps that don’t even really know your brand or have the passion for your brand and things like that I just think it’s just a little bit more authentic to the whole process you know what I mean?
Heidi: Yeah. No, I do know what you mean and I think there’s a tremendous amount of value in that I think like you said at the beginning Traceena it’s this sort of strapping on our boots and going out there and pounding the pavement and getting ourselves comfortable going through with these interactions and gain and increasing our confidence that we can do this even if we don’t hear back or we get we hear no it’s one of those things you just have to keep moving forward…
Heidi: …as tough as that can be?
Heidi: Awesome! So, I’d love to just know from each of you Lauren what are some of the biggest mistakes you see designers making in their merchandising and how could they avoid those.
Lauren: The biggest mistake I see is probably when it comes to their pricing they’re not pricing their product appropriately so they’re either A: not taking into account margin enough like they’re not making any money or B: they don’t really know where their brand is being positioned so they’re not their prices are kind of like neither here nor there…
Heidi: They don’t just make up some price?
Lauren: …yeah and so you know when you’re trying to get to a specific store if your price doesn’t really make sense for the price points within that store it’s kind of hard to determine where your product is gonna fall in line in that store and so buyers you know they want it very simple they want to they don’t want to second-guess like oh how is this gonna fit into my store because this price point doesn’t really make sense for the product another mistake I can think of is perceived value so just because something just because something looks a certain away doesn’t necessarily mean that you can price it for that price point but at the same time they don’t take into account which is kind of a little bit more of an advanced strategy which is your weighted margin so kind of looking at your margin as a whole I guess it’s you can the way the best way to kind of describe it is your average margin because chances are there’s going to be some styles that you can sell for a little bit higher and make a little bit more margin and some that you can’t you know that you’re gonna probably take a hit on margin just because based upon the competition of the actual style.
Heidi: Right, and so it our goes out?
Lauren: Yeah. So I guess you know that all falls into not doing enough research essentially is the biggest mistake I would I would say for my shows…
Heidi: It really comes down to really looking at the market like you said at the very beginning of looking at the market figuring out what shops you want to be in and who you’re gonna sit next to on the rack and then blinking backwards from there from those price points?
Heidi: Okay, yeah, and then Traceena what about you what are the some of the biggest mistakes you see designers making in the sales process and how could how can we overcome those?
Traceena: Not selling the solution…
Heidi: Okay talk a little bit about that.
Traceena: …so it’s coming it’s common for fashion designers or sales reps to go on and list every single thing that’s great about their brand the features and the benefits while that’s all important the buyer really wants to know what’s in it for me it’s all about me yeah this sounds great but how will it benefit me if I buy this so the key takeaway I would say is be mindful and show them the solution and not just list all the features in the benefits it’s about them it’s unfortunately it’s not about us.
Heidi: So, is that with the thing that’s in it for them would that be that it’s like filling a hole in their store like it’s filling a spot on their shelf that no one else is filling but there’s a big demand in the market like what would that be?
Traceena: Right. So, that ties back to the question designers should be initially asking what do you usually look for remember what do you usually look for with my hats right so that’s filling that gap of what they look for or possibly what do you have what do you think you need that you don’t have and so that’s how you feel those gaps and you sell the solution and not just sell the features and benefits of a product that might not benefit them.
Heidi: Okay and so then when you when you ask that question what do you look for and then they come back with an answer well I’m looking for gray and navy fur felted hats I think was what you said earlier then you almost use that statement directly back at them and say hey I know you’ve been looking for some gray and navy fur felted hats here’s what I have for you?
Heidi: Did I say that I feel like I said that a little awkwardly?
Traceena: No, that was good.
Heidi: Okay. Awesome, and so you’re basically just turning around and giving them the solution that you already that they already told you they were looking for?
Heidi: Okay that’s fantastic. Cool! So, you guys have a couple courses and you teach designers how to do all of this amazing stuff that is so essential to industry and I love what you guys are doing because as I think we kind of mentioned earlier a lot of designers are so strong in the creative space and they build these beautiful garments and sometimes the second half of the equation which is really the make or break it portion is the sales and the presentation and the merchandising and it’s such an important part of the process to think about to make sure that you gain success and keep moving forward so I really think what you guys are doing is fantastic tell us a little bit more about what you guys offer and where people can find you?
Lauren: Sure. So, you can find us at the salesconcept.com and we offer a course called the sales boot camp and merchandising masterclass which basically teaches you everything you need to learn about merchandising and sales and you know as I said before the reason why we are so passionate about both of these topics is because we truly believe that you can’t have one without the other…
Lauren: …so I mean that’s just something really important to remember is if you aren’t really having results in your sales but you think you’re doing an amazing job you might want to relook at your merchandise and how your merchandising your collection because that’s going to be that a huge part of selling it so that’s why we teach those strategies.
Heidi: Yeah, and vice versa if you’re merchandising is really good but you’re not making any sales your sale strategy is probably have some holes in it.
Lauren: And that’s like it.
Heidi: Awesome! Oh, my gosh you guys this has been amazing I’ve learned so many awesome tricks and insights and I so many great takeaways for everybody listening and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Lauren: Yeah, thanks for having us we really enjoy it too.
Traceena: Thank you.
Heidi: Thanks for listening to episode 9 of a successful fashion designer podcast if you like to learn more about any of the resources mentioned in this episode visit the show notes at SFDnetwork.com/9 and since you made it this far you must have liked the episode if you can take 60 seconds to leave a review on iTunes it helps to show a lot and makes the podcast easier for people to discover it’s super easy to do and I’d really appreciate it visit SFDnetwork.com/review to leave your rating and thanks for your support and help.