Top 10 tips to get your product into a hotel
There may be times when you feel that you’re hitting a brick wall when trying to get your products into a hotel. You get stopped by the gatekeeper who insists that they have everything they need, thank you very much!! Here are my top 10 tips of what you could do to get yourself in front of the buyer and to give yourself the very best chance of clinching a deal. It’s the “sell me this pen” of hospitality.
1. Make sure your product fits
If you’re a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, you have something all hotels need. If, however, you’re a microbrewery specialising in regional ales you need to carefully choose which hotels to approach to avoid wasting your and the buyer’s time. Put together a wish list of hotels whose brand compliments yours and whose clientele you understand. Is it national or local, part of a chain or independent? You’ll have a much better success rate, and develop stronger relationships along the way.
2. Find out who you should be speaking to
Research who your best point of contact would be, as it may not be who you’ve been pursuing. Simply call reception and ask! LinkedIn also offers a wealth of information. Then persist! Call their office and follow up with an e-mail. Send sample products, everyone loves a freebie, but remember and label who it came from. Don’t pester, but put together a steady well-timed action plan that will get you on their radar.
3. Ask the right questions
You’ve managed to secure a meeting. Hurrah! Now, prepare prepare prepare. Think of open questions; rather than “Are you happy with you current supplier?” which leaves you with nowhere to go should the answer be “Yes”, say to the buyer “Tell me, what gaps, challenges or issues do you currently have?”. They will always think of something, guaranteed. Find out if they go through procurement reviews and / or renewals, get a good understanding of their processes and procedures, and get a good feel for the company culture. Make them buy into you!
4. Know your stuff
Ever watched The Apprentice and groaned at would-be entrepreneurs stumbling over their facts and figures? It’s easily done; you can always write everything down to refer back to and avoid looking foolish. Decide the lowest price you’d be prepared to go to in advance – hotels are all about the bottom line and they’ll negotiate hard. Stay firm, don’t trip yourself up and offer a fair price based on your competitor analysis and market research.
5. Be unique
This is easy if you’re offering high-end chocolate made with cocoa beans picked by a community co-operative in a remote corner of the Dominican Republic. Much harder if your product is standard, staple fare. Stand out from your competition by offering attractive terms and conditions or a simplified payment system. Or offer innovative packaging so that chefs can easily order by either weight or amount and quickly store the food upon delivery.
6. Talk features, but focus on benefits
One of the biggest traps a producer or food service supplier can fall into is confusing features and benefits. We often merely present a list of our product’s features, and that’s simply not enough to make a sale. The buyer wants to know what’s in it for them. How will it make their life easier? Attract more customers? Increase profits? Explaining how a feature will benefit them leads to the ability to engage on a deeper, more emotive level.
7. Listen first
No-one wants to be sold to, so a softer, more consultative approach is advisable. So don’t rush in and tell the buyer what you’re offering, ask them what they need then sit back, listen and take note. We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that ratio. This will not only allow you to match your products more with their requirements, but give you more time to suss out how the buyer operates.
8. Create an easy, comfortable relationship
Even with the onslaught of technology, the old adage that people buy from people still holds true. If you are genuine, confident in your product, can talk knowledgeably and illicit a few laughs, then you’re almost there. My favourite supplier is a guy called Kevin. I can barely remember what I buy from him, but I’ll always use him as he provides amazing service and makes me feel valued. I trust him and feel he always does right by me. Why would I go to anyone else?
9. Use Social media
Make a name for yourself by creating a solid on-line presence with a large following. Your Facebook page can feature photos and reviews, offering a potential buyer an at-a-glance feel for what you’re all about. Twitter is great for interacting with other businesses as well as customers, and can add to your credibility if used effectively.
10. Highlight your ethical practices
Hotels are under increasing pressure to improve their environmental performance. Detail any fair trade practices, ways you’ve cut down food miles and measures you’ve taken to reduce, reuse and recycle. It all helps the hotel support their own corporate responsibility policy and is one less thing for them to worry about.
By Andrew D Scott, Owner, Victus Consultancy