Caroline Stocks provides some advice for farmers attempting to supply top-end retail outlets.
1. Do your research
Knowing your product inside out is vital. Do some research into the market you’re trying to get into so you know what makes your product different from your competitors, what makes it so good, and why people would buy it.
You need to know your numbers too – from the cost of production to profit per unit, plus the volumes you are capable of supplying.
2. Understand your market
How will your product fit into a particular shop or restaurant? What kind of person do you think would buy your product, and are they the kind of person you think would go to the place you want to pitch to?
Make sure understand what type of customers a shop or restaurant has, what they are willing to spend on products, and how your food will fit in.
3. Find a buyer
Identify where you want to get your product into, then try to get a face-to-face meeting with a buyer.
This might involve being persistent, but make phone calls to head offices, use social networking sites such as LinkedIn and send emails to find the right person to speak to.
Bear in mind that restaurants can be incredibly busy, so ask what time is best to call the person responsible for buying produce.
If you do end up emailing a pitch, make sure it is concise, well written and outlines your product’s unique selling points.
4. Tell a story
Telling a story about you and your product will not only give a sense of your personality, but will also make you more memorable and help your produce stand out.
Briefly tell the buyer about you, your family and your farm, your product’s provenance, and why it is special.
Geoff and Kim Bowles, for example, process milk and cream from their Somerset farm which they sell to high-end shops including Fortnum & Mason.
Mr Bowles said all of the buyers he approached were looking for something different, and as he produced non-homogonised organic milk and cream on his family farm, his story appealed to them.
“Milk has become a faceless product, but we personalised at and they bought into the story,” he says. “We brought a face back to milk production.”
5. Practise your pitch
Preparation is key when you are pitching a product. Practise your speech, make sure you can remember your facts and figures without prompts, and be passionate without being pushy.
Remember to maintain eye contact, try to keep calm (if you feel that you’re speaking too quickly, take some deep breaths) and, if you can, take a sample of your product with you so the buyer can see and taste what you are talking about.
When you’ve finished speaking, ask if they have any questions or need more information.
If you’re not successful, ask for some feedback so you know where you can make improvements next time round.