How I Use Trade Shows to Find New Suppliers for My Amazon Wholesale Business

One of the businesses that I own is an Amazon wholesale business and for that business to grow, my team and I need to continuously prospect for new suppliers so that we can add more products to our portfolio.

In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the process that I just used to maximize the benefits of my attending the Outdoor Retailer summer show last week in Denver.

Pre-Show Prep

The Outdoor Retailer show, like many trade shows, is massive and the number of exhibitors is huge. As a result, simply wandering around and talking to random manufacturers is a total waste of time.

Instead, the goal is to come up with a short list of 30-50 manufacturers that you know possess the attributes that you are looking for.

To prepare to attend a trade show, the very first thing I do is have our team of virtual assistants review the list of exhibitors and prepare a spreadsheet like the one below.

They use Product Discovery to analyze each brand’s total Amazon revenue. Next, I have them filter out all the companies who sell direct to Amazon.

Once that is done, I have them make an estimate of the amount of money we could spend with each company each month if they were to approve us to sell their products on Amazon.

I like to have this number handy so that when I’m in the booth, I can refer to it as a way to (hopefully) get their attention.

 

I also like to know how many FBA sellers are currently on the brand’s top selling product.

Ideally, I would like to see a number under 10 so that, if they approve us and we help them to reduce the number of sellers, we don’t have 30 to 40 other sellers to deal with.

The number of employees is important simply because I prefer to deal with smaller companies because getting a larger company to make a decision takes far longer than it does with a smaller company.

And finally, once we have all this data, I have my team sort the spreadsheet by booth number so that when I arrive at the show with hit list in hand, I don’t have to zig zag all over hell’s half acre to talk to the people that I want to talk to.

Using this approach, over the 3 days that I was at the Outdoor Retailer show, I was able to speak with 40 different companies (and yes, it was exhausting!).

Attending the Show

If you have done your prep as I have outlined above, you are now ready to make the most of your (limited) time at the show. In my case, I would start each day at 9am and simply start working my way through my list.

To start the conversation off on the right foot, I would generally say something like, “Hi, I’m Trent and I own a retailer in Boise, ID. We sell both online and offline and I’ve come to talk to you today about opening a wholesale account. According to the number crunching my team did, we figure that if we are authorized to sell on all the channels we normally sell on, that we’d be able to spend about $25,000 per month with you.”

Invariably at this point in the conversation, the topic of Amazon would come up and I would proceed to tell them that Amazon is our biggest channel.

I go on to say that over the last few years, we have built a successful business by partnering with our suppliers to help them get their presence and pricing on Amazon cleaned up by identifying and removing unauthorized sellers and the MAP violations they create.

At this point in the conversation, one of two things is going to happen.

Option 1: They tell you that they have Amazon locked down and they aren’t accepting any new sellers.

Option 2: They start asking you some very specific questions.

Option 1 is far more common that option 2 and this is where some salesmanship definitely comes into play.

Whenever this happens to me, I focus on asking them more questions to attempt to uncover pain points that they might not have thought of.

For example, some of the questions I will ask include:

  • Are all the companies you work with now committed to re-investing a portion of their profits into PPC campaigns?
  • Are they transparent enough so that you know they are doing it?
  • Are you interested in expanding to more marketplaces than just Amazon?
  • Have you considered having fewer sellers and working with sellers who specialize in the Amazon marketplace? (I have a blog post that explains these benefits in detail)
  • Are you aware of the risks of being the sole seller on your product listings? (I have a blog post that explains these risks in detail)

The most likely outcome from your conversations at the show is that you are going to need to continue many of these conversations after the show, and in order to do that, you need to ensure that: 1) you are talking to the right person, 2) you have made a memorable first impression, and 3) you have agreed on a next step.

Post-Show Follow Up

Once I’m back at my office, the real work begins.

This is the point in the cycle where the money is made (or lost) and following up on your leads is absolutely critical.

Knowing exactly what their Amazon presence looks like is also critical. More on that in a moment…

Here’s what I am doing this week:

First, I send each one of them an email to remind them of our conversation. This email also contains a few links to the blog articles that I referenced above. At the bottom of the email is a link to my calendar.

If anything personal or unique was discussed during my time in the booth, I’m sure to mention it in this email.

The other thing I include in the email is a picture of the power scooter that I rented so that I could roll around the show instead of standing/walking for 3 days straight.

The power scooter is my unique identifier. Everyone remembers it, plus it prevents me from having really sore legs and feet each day :)

Assuming that I am able to get my leads to schedule a call with me, my goal is to come to that call with a product listing deficiency report in hand so that I can do a screen share and walk them through what I hope will be a huge list of deficiencies.

If you don’t know all the specifics of how their products are presented on Amazon, you aren’t going to be very well prepared for the call and you will most likely blow it.

If you don’t know all the specifics of how their products are presented on Amazon, you aren’t going to be very well prepared for the call and you will most likely blow it.

Creating a Listing Deficiency Report

A listing deficiency report is no more complicated than it sounds. It is simply a list of everything that isn’t up to par on their product listings.

When we create a report, we look at the following attributes:

  1. Title
  2. Images
  3. Bullets
  4. Description
  5. Keywords
  6. Organic rank
  7. PPC rank
  8. Are negative reviews being responded to?
  9. How many FBA sellers are there?
  10. What has the price history been?
  11. What as the BSR history been?

The more deficiencies there are on their product listings, the better my case that their current sellers are doing a crappy job for them and when I have this report in my hands, the better equipped I am to make my point(s) on the call.

The goal of my call is always the same; to get them to sign our exclusivity agreement and let us place a trial order. If they are willing to sign, we have a deal. If not, we just move on to the next potential supplier.

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