Whether you want to increase your brand’s market exposure or you’re a newbie working to get your foot in the door, hospital gift shops provide a unique retail environment that can help you accomplish your goals. Due to location, your products will be introduced to a customer base that is both built-in and constantly changing. In addition, because store managers are typically solely responsible for merchandising, well-prepared solo entrepreneurs have the same opportunity as larger businesses to sell their products to hospital gift shops.
Relationship often determines the sale. Visit the hospital gift shops you hope to do business with several times before you try to sell your products. While there, envision your products displayed; consider whom they appeal to as well as where to best display them and why. These stores typically have small, tight-knit staffs; get to know them, including the manager. Don’t mention your product; just ask questions. Find out what sells well and what types of products they'd like to add and show a sincere interest in what employees enjoy about working in the gift shop and what challenges they face on the job. The time you invest will serve you well as you prepare your presentation.
Review Your Findings
Write down everything you learned from your visits to hospital gift shops. Note how your product fills needs the staff described as well as how it would attract and benefit a particular store’s clientele. Hospital gift shop managers are typically the sole decision maker, but they operate differently; some prefer you make an appointment for a live product presentation while others want you to drop off a query letter and catalog and wait for a return call. Contact individual managers to find out their procedures before constructing your presentation.
You’re ready to create your presentations; you need one for each gift shop where you hope to sell your products. You needn't reinvent the wheel for every store, but it's crucial you tailor your presentation to each store’s specific needs. Discuss how your product fills those needs as well as how it will enhance the experience of hospital patients and the loved ones who shop for them. Thinking of your presentation as a gift to the hospital gift shop will help you ensure your focus stays fixed on how your brand benefits them.
Call hospital gift shops you visited for appointments with managers. Don’t appear unannounced; it’s bad form and will likely lose you the edge gained building relationships. Appointments are crucial even if you’re dropping off your catalog; giving it to the manager minimizes the likelihood your work being lost behind the counter. Say thank you and ask for a follow-up appointment before leaving. Rehearse live presentations for a friend or in the mirror to boost confidence. You know the person you’re presenting to and they know you. So, relax, be yourself and make the sale.
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