Selling your product to restaurants requires you to make the case that what you offer benefits their bottom line. To do that, you’ll need to make it as easy as possible for them to see dollar signs emanating from your farm’s lettuce or your homemade desserts. With proper preparation and a compelling product, you’ll have a better chance of getting a meeting and making the sale.

Know the Restaurant

If you don’t know the details about the restaurant you’re trying to influence, the owner is unlikely to be receptive to your message. Know what types of food they sell, what they specialize in and who their customers are. Ask yourself how your product fits in with their existing model. Is it a dessert that they can add to their offerings, or a special coffee roast that can take the place of their current mass-market offering? Alternatively, is it something that is less of a natural fit, like an innovative kitchen gadget that helps prepare fish for a restaurant that rarely serves seafood? If it’s the latter, you’ll probably be better off moving on to the next prospect.

Use Social Networks

You’ll have better luck getting in front of restaurant decision-makers if you can make a personal connection with them. Use social networks to search for people you know who have relationships with the people you want to meet. Once you find them, ask for permission to use their names in your initial contact with the restaurant. If you serve other restaurants in the area, or have in the past, that can add to your credibility as well. If you don’t know anyone in common, look for other personal ties, such as a similar hometown or a shared job experience.

Get to the Point

Restaurant owners and managers don’t have much time to waste on other people's marketing exercises. Whether your initial approach is via a cold call or a walk-in, make sure your first 20 seconds count. Introduce yourself and your product, note any connections that would increase your professional or social credibility and ask them for a few minutes of their time. If you save all of the good stuff to the end of your pitch, you may find your audience has already tuned out or turned you away.

Help Them Visualize

Restaurants won’t buy your product if they can’t see how it helps them increase their business. Come prepared with recipe ideas based on the menu, or other ways they can integrate what you have into what they already sell. A good story can help market it to customers, so be sure and share yours, and note how it fits into the restaurant's menu and brand. For example, a business selling naturally-flavored honey from a local beekeeping operation may have a story that suits a restaurant catering to local foodies.

Bring Samples

No picture or marketing copy equals the power that comes when a restaurant owner and chef can see, touch, feel and perhaps taste your actual product. When you visit the restaurant, bring what you're hoping to sell them and prepare it for them if necessary. That personal experience gives them a much better sense of what your product can do for their business, which increases your chances of completing the sale.