5 Scripts For Awkward Chats With Retailers

What to say when your mind goes blank

Written by Clare

Today we’re talking about with retailers. Ones that make your mind go blank and your heart rate go PRRRAANG. It’s not easy to deal with this stuff, so before we begin let’s touch on two things that always help.

Give yourself time to think.

And, you know, breathe. Mr Oxygen is your friend in tricky situations. Don’t react instantly if you can avoid it. Also, work out where you stand first. When a stockist springs something unexpected on you, it’s easy to get swept up in what they want and need.

That’s always important, but you’re important too. Ask yourself what you want to happen. What’s the best way this could go for you? What feels like the right path here?

You know this, even if you think you don’t.

[Read: How to create a line sheet that makes selling easy]

Okay, ready for some awkward conversations? Yeah, you are. Stop clutching that bottle of cooking sherry. I won’t let the hypothetical shopkeepers get you.

When a retailer tells you they like your work but there’s no money in their budget.

“No money” can be code for “We’d never stock your quilts in a million years but I’m too polite to tell you.”

Or “I’ve already got two different kinds of quilts gathering dust on my shelves. I thought they’d be a big hit but my customers aren’t buying and now I feel like an idiot.”

Or “I bought a load of quilts last month and they flew out, but they were poor quality and now I’m having to give a ton of refunds. I’m angry and embarrassed.”

Or it can simply mean “I love your work but I’m wary of dropping that much cash on a product that’s completely untested in my store. I really don’t want to get burned.”

There’s no cast-iron way to tell why they’re hesitating. If they do intend to buy but can’t or won’t right now, you need to nurture that intention and keep it warm. If they feel valued and looked-after, they’ll warm up more quickly.

In other words, get your response right, and they might suddenly discover there’s money in the budget after all.

Try something like:

“It’s wonderful to hear you like my work! I had a feeling it would be a great fit for your shop. I know you’ve got to balance the books, so how about I put together a one-off tester package for you – at a special low price.

That way you get to share new items with your customers, find out which styles sell best and stay within budget.”

When a retailer asks “What deals can you offer me?”

If you’ve done your homework, you already offer a deal. That’s your carriage-paid level, which means if the retailer spends over a certain amount, you pay for the shipping.

Sometimes, though, retailers ask for more.

Try something like:

“My carriage-paid level is X which my stockists tell me is a good deal. It’s designed to help you get a reasonable number of items in stock without having to pad your order unnecessarily. Also, have you had a look at my summer starter pack? It’s a hand-picked collection of my earrings in summery colours which looks great on the shelf. It offers a saving of X over buying the same items individually.”

Or, if you’re not willing to offer another deal, say:

“My stockists tend to take advantage of my carriage-paid level, which is X. I don’t offer a lot of other discounts because I’m committed to keeping my wholesale prices down all year round. If you’re looking to buy a particular item in larger quantities, though, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”

When a retailer says “I don’t want to spend much but I still want free shipping.”

Sometimes a stockist will test your boundaries. Does that mean you have to roll over? Nope. Your terms and conditions are there to keep your business safe.

[Read: The truth about sale or return]

Try something like:

“I’m beyond pleased that my work’s going to be on your shelves. Seriously, I had to pinch myself when your order pinged into my inbox.

In terms of shipping, my carriage paid level is X. I always want my products to arrive in pristine, buy-me-now condition so they’re packaged, boxed and shipped with a lot of care. For orders below X, I can’t absorb those costs and still give you the same standard of service. So there are two options.

You can choose some more items to make your order up to the carriage paid level, in which case I’ll take care of the shipping. Or I can add my standard shipping cost of X onto your order as it stands. Let me know which one works for you and I’ll start packing up your delivery!”

When a retailer asks “Why have you started supplying my competitor?”

Competition between indie retailers can be fierce, which means you may need an exclusivity policy in your terms and conditions. And it’s important to abide by the rules you set out for yourself.

That doesn’t mean your policy can’t evolve over time, but it shouldn’t vanish into thin air the second a big store gives you the glad eye. That’s shady.

But even if you have the clearest policy and you’ve stuck to it like glue, you can still catch heat from stockists.

Try something like:

“My exclusivity policy is included in my terms and conditions, and is there to protect you as my partner. I appreciate the investment you make in my work and I want you to get the best from it. The policy is also there to protect my company and help it benefit from new opportunities. Feel free to review it here.

Hope this clears up the confusion. I can see this part of my Ts and Cs should be more straightforward and I’m going to fix that right away. And thanks for talking to me about this. I realise that can’t have been easy and I’m glad we can be straight with each other. I’m thrilled that my work is on your shelves and I look forward to serving you for many years to come.”

When a retailer says “A customer returned one of your products because it was faulty.”

If this hasn’t already happened to you, it will. No matter how carefully you make your product, no matter how tightly you control every detail, sometimes a customer will end up with a less-than-perfect item. It happens to everyone sooner or later.

They don’t call it the wrath of inanimate objects for nothing.

At some point, you’ll get a phone call or email like this. You’ll feel absolutely awful. Then you’ll fix it and move on.

Try something like:

“I’m so sorry to hear about this. As you know, all my products are carefully inspected before dispatch so problems like this are rare. Something obviously went wrong with this one, though, and I do apologise.

I’m putting a postage-paid returns envelope in the post. When it arrives, could you please send the necklace back to me? You’ll also receive a credit note / refund for the item in the next half and hour.”

Awkward stuff will always come up in your wholesale business. Usually when you’ve just settled down with a cheese toastie and an episode of Inspector Morse.

That’s okay. You can handle it.

Yeah, you can. With or without the cooking sherry.

Clare Yuille Bio Picture

Hello, I'm Clare Holliday. I'm a shopkeeper who's helped thousands of creative people sell their work to stores, galleries and regular customers all over the world. Now it's your turn.

Worry less. Sell more.