Mistakes small businesses make supplying retail outlets

small business success secretsAre you a start-up or small business supplying products to retail outlets, and frustrated with poor sales?

Here’s a few possible reasons and some strategies around them.

The retail outlet just doesn’t know enough about you and your product.

Note: First check your product is properly displayed and the retail outlet is happy with how it’s packaged.

Do some secret shopping. You can get a friend, colleague or myself to call or conduct an actual visit to the shop, and ask if they have an XYZ that they can recommend. Then the fun begins! If they recommend a competitor product I quiz them on why they recommended it (and this is gold and very important to remember) and then I’ll say, “what about this one?” and pick up my clients product and wait to hear what they say about it.

This is the really useful part of the exercise. I love to hear what they say about my client’s product. It’s not uncommon for the staff to:

1. Not know enough about your product and why it is better than a competitor product, especially one that might be cheaper.

2. They don’t know you or your story and therefore it is just a ‘product’ whereas your competitor may be well known to them, they have met them and they like their ‘story’.

3. Your product has a flaw, a weakness that is killing it and it will never sell well. Better you know sooner than later and fix it or dump it!


If they don’t know enough about your product, ask them if infosheets, handouts or personal instruction would work best to help staff. I highly recommend FIRST talking to them to see what type of info they need and in what format they prefer. Don’t waste time and money producing something and then taking it to them.

For example they may want a one-pager summarising key benefits and your story. Don’t give them more than one page unless they specifically request it. For one of my clients, we made laminated one page info-sheets that were attached to his displays and they worked very well.

It is super important that you note the benefits they tell you or don’t tell you about your product and your competitors products. Use this knowledge to decide what to include in any info you give them. And if you know a key benefit they don’t realise or know about, make sure you tell them!

There is a lot of misinformation out there. I’ve had competitors tell retailers complete lies about a client’s product, for example it doesn’t last or doesn’t meet a certain standard or can’t be used in certain situations. All completely false but staff believed it to be true and wouldn’t sell the products – so beware. You want to be able to counter or beat or at least equal the benefits of your competitor products.

Caution! It is not uncommon to become complacent with our own products. We become insensitive, over exposed to them. We may overlook a benefit as being too small to mention. However customers, or at least some might consider this benefit a reason to select the product!  Better to mention the benefit than leave it out.

Be ready to offer info to attach near your product or with it. They may want brochures/handouts to give customers interested and it’s cheap these days to provide an in-store ipad/tablet with video demonstrating key features and how it works. But again, before you spend time and money doing this, check with the store first to confirm if necessary, how big, how many etc.

And staff change! So be prepared to do this every 6mo or more frequently!

Your Story
If they don’t know your story, get in the store and put a face to a name and share your passion for the product and how it came to be, and the care, passion and quality that goes into making it.

It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. If you bother to take time out of your day to visit them, they will feel you care about them, and they will care about your product. It will raise your product in their memory…providing you can make a good impression! Let’s be honest here. If you are not an extrovert people person that presents a suitable image, this task may not be the thing for you to do in person. Go with your strengths and recognise your weaknesses and find ways around them.

Give the store updates with any good news about the product, alternative uses for it, tips on how to use it, and especially how popular it is. We all gravitate to ‘popular’ items the masses trust – make sure they know it’s popular and selling well and loved by others! Assuming it is…

Your product has faults?
And if they are honest and admit it has flaws, weaknesses that are really preventing it from selling…workout if you can fix them (and please check regularly with the seller and the customer about the fixes and if they are good fixes – don’t develop fixes in a vacuum sitting in your office or factory!).

If you can’t come up with cost effective fixes, consider dumping it or selling it in a different outlet, different city, different state, or online, whatever.

Caution! I have to raise my red flag! So many times I meet business owners in love with their product especially after putting so much hard work and money into it, and they can’t let it go. And they keep spending money trying to make it a success.

You can’t buy more time in life. Unfortunately. A year wasted can not be regained. 5 years pushing a dud product can not be regained. When you also factor in ‘lost opportunity costs’ if you had changed to a better product sooner you are really behind by more than 5 years. Fail fast and fail cheap is my motto when it comes to developing and pushing products. Pivot points are something I’ll discuss in another newsletter.

It’s not the product but the payment or delivery method
Make sure you talk to the retail outlet owner or whoever is responsible for ordering your product. Check they are happy with your payment terms, delivery schedule, ordering system etc. Any of these could be souring your product and reducing their enthusiasm to sell it.

Caution! Don’t ever ever…ever…assume they will tell you these issues. Often they think you won’t change or can’t change the way things are. And they probably keep forgetting to mention it. Keep in mind your product is the centre of your universe but for them your product is one of thousands!

As always, here if you need help.

we tend to play one of three roles in our business

We Tend to Play One of Three Roles In Our Business

we tend to play one of three roles in our businessWe tend to play one of three roles in our business (including relationships and parenting). They are known as ego-states and can be either an Adult, Parent or Child. This is based on Dr Eric Berne’s seminal theory from the 1950’s – and is very useful for us business owners looking to improve staff performance, productivity, and profits.

This is the first in ‘Your Inner Game Series’ to help you improve results in 2016 by improving the way you think which in turn improves the actions you take in your business. It’s not circumstances that will dictate your success in 2016, it’s your actions.


In the adult role we take 100% responsibility and accountability for results. Reactions are based on facts and logic. We don’t blame others or pass the buck. We manage our emotions. We handle criticism and negative feedback because we accept it for what it is and don’t turn it into a personal wound.

We recognise we are responsible for the current situation or state of the business and as an adult we can fix it. We don’t hesitate to look at what we can do better next time. When dealing with staff we treat them with respect and trust and don’t play games.

The adult controls the parent and the child. To change the parent or child, we must go through the adult.


As a parent, we believe we know best and we treat staff and others as our ‘kids’ that can’t be trusted, need to be constantly told what to do or to be nurtured. We respond to situations in the way we have ‘learnt’ to from our parents therefore our reactions are not always based on logic and the facts.

We may not delegate well. It’s ‘our way or the highway’. As a parent we can tend to want to rescue staff, protect them, and if they don’t do it right or at all, we get annoyed and tend to jump in and ‘just do it ourselves’.

We may hinder staff growth and their ability to work as adults. We don’t hold them accountable and responsible.


As a child we just want to have fun and avoid responsibility. When the shit hits the fan, we say “it wasn’t me!” “It’s their fault”. “It’s the market” or the competitors.

We find all sorts of excuses for poor results or not doing something. But when things are good, we take all the credit. We constantly seek and need pats on the back for doing a good job, in other words we seek approval of ‘parents’.

We just want to play and as a business owner this can mean just wanting to spend the income without proper attention to taxes and other financial responsibilities or keeping the marketing going.

If we deal with someone playing a parent role and telling us what to do, we can feel offended, resentful, and become obstinate and not follow orders or quietly sabotage the person.


Next time you are in a less than positive situation, or if you have a current issue, explore whether which role you are playing – parent, adult or child.

Don’t worry about what role the others were playing. Be an adult and take full responsibility, no matter how much a part of you may hate doing this…and explore your role. If you were being a parent or child, explore how an adult would have handled it. How can you move forward as an adult?

Mindfulness in business is key.

Mindful that the outcome is only a product of 2 things: an event and our reaction.

Event + Reaction = Outcome

Recognising whether we are being a parent, adult or child significantly helps us modify our ‘reaction’. Which unquestionably influences the ‘outcome’.

Give it a go. Love to hear your outcome.

Trick Your Brain To Help You Succeed

Use these 3 powerful strategies to trick your brain into helping you succeed by unlocking the solutions it has hidden.

# Trick 1

Instead of saying “I can’t afford it”, rephrase it with “How can I afford it?”

I learnt this technique 16 years ago when starting my property investing and in three years I went from regularly saying “I can’t afford it” to finding ways to afford property in WA, Qld and VIC.

Try it. When you say “how can I afford it?” your brain gets on task and works to help you see ways you CAN afford it. Saying you ‘can’t afford it’ can only cause your brain to do one thing and that is confirm how you can’t. Apply this technique in business when faced with an expense whether it’s hiring, marketing, new equipment, training, whatever.

# Trick 2

“I don’t know” versus “I don’t know…yet”.

Try it. Repeat each one and note how you feel after saying it. Can you feel the difference?
First one shuts done solutions and is a deadend. Second one triggers the brain to unlock hidden knowledge.

# Trick 3

“I’m confused” versus “I’m seeking clarification”

First one reinforces an unhelpful state that is a deadend. Try them and note how you feel after each one. This is a great one to encourage staff to use. Whether it’s in meetings, daily activities or conversation.

Start using one of these today.

Moral of the story is watch your language! Our brains are like the internet. Our language is like the search terms we enter. If we google “how to…?” we get all kinds of random ‘how to’ suggestions. If we use more accurate and specific search terms, eg “how to make chocolate cake” we get the answers we are looking for. No brainer! 🙂 Our brains may be complex and amazing but they are actually quite simple to operate…once we know how.


You matter by volunteer houstonby David J Lennon

Three top core needs we all have as humans (whether its work, relationships, as a customer):

to belong,
to feel significant,
to contribute.

Applying this to your customer relationships and courting prospects, we can explore ways to make them feel they belong and are significant.

Seems a bit esoteric perhaps, the belonging part. But we like to belong to tribes. There is security and comfort in a tribe.

I think one ‘tribe’ your prospects can be offered to ‘join’ is the tribe of customers who have used your service or product and are absolutely loving it.

This is how businesses milk the power of facebook and customers posting how much they love the product. It satisfies the need to belong to a tribe, to feel significant and contribute.

How to promote your tribe??

You can do this by statements such as:
“Over 5,000 happy customers” or whatever the number is. Testimonials are another way to demonstrate there is a ‘tribe’ that use your product/service.

“<your business> is the preferred ??? by leading Melbourne ???”

This demonstrates there is a tribe that trust you and its safe to join.

How else are you promoting your tribe? Or could promote your tribe?

To feel significant. It’s good customer service. Whether a prospect or customer.

Every touch point with them can make them feel significant or insignificant. We all experience this every week. A simple greeting when walking into a business can make us feel significant or insignificant. Review your touchpoints (eg emails to new enquiries, calls, meetings, brochure wording, website wording and ease of use, forms, followup service, etc etc)

The small touches often have the biggest impact on helping us feel significant.

If you are looking to increase conversion of prospects, review what you are saying or sending to them and grade it’s level of ‘specialness’. How special are you making them feel?

How can you make prospects and customers feel more significant when;


Visualisation Not Affirmations Is the Secret

Are affirmations to think positive or get yourself motivated not working? Never really worked for me either. The secret is visualisation.

And not really surprising considering research shows that the brain can’t distinguish between an imagined event and real event and still changes body chemistry accordingly.

Visualisation Not Affirmations Is The Secret

I think it’s one of the best kept secrets. Might do the trick for you as well.

For example, if you need to get yourself into a positive mindset to tackle a business task, simply spend a minute or two bringing up a memory of a time when you were super motivated. A time that you were on fire and raring to go. Spend as long with that memory as you need. You will find your mood immediately changes.

Visualisation can be used for any mindset – confident speaker/trainer, loving partner, focused and productive, or confident and positive seller.

David Lennon
Troubleshooting Expert and Business Coach