Selling Your Products to Retailers vs Consumers

As a consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer or supplier, you have two main goals. One, create an amazing product. Two, and possibly more important, sell that amazing product.  

It’s a pretty straightforward plan, but selling can be the trickiest part of the CPG industry for some. Selling your product is not an endeavor you want to venture into without a solid sales strategy in place. And not only that, you, the manufacturer, need to make sure your sales strategy is appropriate for all of your customers.

Wait a minute, you’re probably thinking, with any luck we’ll have millions of customers—are you telling me I need to have a million strategies?


Just kidding. (Though if you can come up with a million individual strategies, please share your secret.) But you do need to consider the fact that your two main customers are very different, and thus will require different sales strategies. Who are these customers, you ask? None other than retailers and consumers.

Retailers vs consumers

There are some pretty obvious differences between retailers and consumers as customers. For example, one is a company with the job of buying your products and selling them to other people. The other is me. Or you. Or your mom.

If you zoom out to look at it from a higher level, selling to retailers means selling large quantities of your product, preferably to multiple stores under the retailer’s banner, and preferably on a regular basis. Selling to consumers, however, means selling comparatively much smaller amounts of your product, also preferably on a regular basis. Simply put, there is an order of magnitude of difference in selling to retailers vs. consumers.

But as different as they may be, there are some similarities in selling to retailers vs consumers. Ultimately, both parties want products that excite them, that are a good value, that are quality made, and that makes them want to keep building a relationship with you (whether directly, like retailers, or indirectly, like a brand-loyal consumer).

For a brand, understanding the differences and similarities between the two is critical to developing sales strategies that will work for each.

3 strategies to sell to retailers

Trying to get your foot in the door with a retailer is no easy task, and differentiating yourself from both the other products already on the retailer’s shelves, as well as the other brands vying for space just like you are is key to making inroads with a retailer. Here are three things to include in your sales strategy for selling to retailers.

1. Differentiate with certifications

Retailers are increasingly seeking brands with certifications that are more and more important to consumers. Non-GMO, organic, women- or minority-owned—those are just a few of the certifications that are rising in popularity. And because part of a retailer’s job is to meet consumers’ needs, they’re always looking for brands that can meet those needs. As a brand, underscoring the certifications you have is one way to set yourself apart from others.

2. Use digital platforms for discovery

In today’s challenging times of a pandemic that has many people working from home, business still goes on, though it looks a lot different than it has in the past. These days, rather than meeting retail buyers at one of the many trade shows where you can showcase your products, new product discovery is happening online. Platforms like RangeMe have been pivotal in bringing retail buyers and brands together, as have social media platforms that brands can use to showcase products. With so many people at home these days, the amount of time spent on social media—for both business and personal—has skyrocketed.

3. Train your staff on your products

Whether you’re meeting buyers in person or online, having a well-trained sales staff is key to sealing the deal with new retailers. When going through the six stages most common to the sales process, most organizations aren’t training their sales staff well enough to sell the buyers on the product. They’re not equipping them with what they need to break through the hiccups of the sales process when they should be helping their staff develop a profile of what makes an ideal buyer for their product.

3 strategies to sell to consumers

When you take the retailer buyer out of the picture, making the consumer your primary customer means angling your sales strategy just a little differently. Here are three ideas that can help you sell to consumers—any of them sound familiar?

1. Be where the consumers are, and grab their attention

Simply put, if you can’t find your consumers, how do you expect to find them? Knowing where your ideal consumer shops, and how, is the first step to capturing that new customer. And if that happens to be in a traditional retailer, then as a brand you’d better make sure your merchandising efforts are on point. Brands that put thought into what will catch consumers’ attention, and what will make them reach for the product are ones that truly know who their customers are, and what they want—and are able to give it to them.

2. Differentiate with certifications

Just like you would tout your certifications to retail buyers, you want to tout them to consumers as well. While to retailers you might show your certifications on your digital sell sheet, for consumers, it’s all about including those certifications on your brand packaging, and in the marketing of your product, emphasizing your certifications in your brand’s story.

3. Use digital platforms to drive discovery

Like we said before—more people are at home now, and they’re spending more time on social media, with an estimated 51 percent of people reporting they’re spending more time on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Because of this, brands need to ensure they are putting out content regularly, socializing their products to catch consumers’ eyes, whether it’s through an Instagram post or a Facebook ad a consumer sees while scrolling through their feed.

Selling to retailers and selling to consumers dovetail beautifully in the overall picture of CPG. But understanding and remembering their differences is also important, and tweaking your sales strategies to acknowledge and reflect those differences will better help brands be successful no matter where your products are sold, or to whom.