We are starting a series of articles for small and medium sized traders of video games and consoles on tips and hints on how to trade with large companies.
Many traders target those big companies as their potential suppliers or even customers, and hoping to get significant profits from such trade. It may be possible though there is a significant number of challenges and considerations on the way. We will go through some of these challenges and will highlight some problems from the other side, i.e. from the side of a distributor. We will indicate some most common mistakes and problems encountered by applicants, so that you are better equipped when you approach a large company in your industry next time.
As a general rule, it is good to have access to more than one supplier. This allows to have both a wider variety of products at any given time and better prices. Even if you already have an account with, what you believe, is the best supplier in your region, it makes sense to constantly monitor the market for other suppliers and always have a choice of them. In practice, as a trader you constantly look for other companies, not only for new potential customers but for new potential suppliers. Sometimes they may overlap. Search for companies is a constant permanent process, and for good traders it is very important to develop efficient technics for finding and researching companies.
First of all how to find them? Well, there is a number of obvious options in every territory, companies that everybody know about, such as Gem, Koch, CentreSoft in the UK, for example. There are many other distributors and wholesalers, and it is worth approaching them too. Internet is obviously the main source for searching companies today. Many of the companies would have websites where you can get the first hand information about them. Amazingly, many of these large companies would have very simple, unattractive websites, which lack any high tech sophistication and proper design. It is surprising to see how little attention many of the wholesalers and distributors may pay to their presence in the Internet. It is getting difficult to judge how good a company is nowadays, only based on their website. It is easy to build a fancy website and many, even very small traders may afford quite good looking professional websites, in opposite to some of these large companies who still use their websites, designed probably by the then CEO’s student cousin back in 1993.
In addition to company’s website, there are many other resources that can provide valuable information about the company, such as industry and sector associations, for example, or the company house database, yellow pages and company directories, and many other online resources. There are also many specific discussion forums in the Internet, with members who are small and medium size traders, like you, who share their experience and opinion in dealing with specific wholesalers and distributors. Recently the social networking sites, especially LinkedIn have become very good for getting additional information about companies. There is a wealth of information in the Internet. In many cases, you can do a cross-check, i.e. compare information about the same company from different sources. Significant discrepancies should be alarming. Unfortunately there are many companies or individuals in this particular industry who would like to pretend larger and more significant than they really are. Contacting and dealing with such traders would be a waste of time in the best case. In worse case, there are many fraudsters out there too. It is a good idea to do a proper research and some diligence before contacting potential suppliers.
Once you short listed companies that you would be willing to use as suppliers, it is time to contact them. Most of them would have a sales e-mail address for contacting them. First impression is very important, and a well written professional message is paramount for making that good impression. Your message should include at least the following components: greeting; the objective, i.e. opening account and receiving the stock list and prices; and brief information about your company.
The latest is the most important, because large companies may receives dozens of e-mails with requests every day, and messages from applicants that do not bother to properly introduce themselves have way less chances to be given proper attention and get responded. An e-mail message from a hotmail account, which would only say “hi I was wandering if i can open account with yourselves, thanks.” could be quite irritating. The information about you should ideally include your name, the name and address of your company, phone numbers, type of your company, are you an online trader, a brick and mortar retailer, or wholesaler, which countries do you trade in, how many outlets do you have, and an approximate estimation of product – games and console that you would buy per month.
If you can provide this information in your first message, it will quite positively make you different from many other messages that they have received that day. A very good idea is to have an e-mail signature with your company’s name, address, phone, website, etc., it looks more professional.
Keep it short though, a message with multiple pages would not make a reader happy, and leaves less chances that it would be read at all.
Once they find you suitable, most of the large distributors and wholesalers would require filling in their application form for setting up an account. If they are satisfied with your initial request, they will e-mail you their application form. Some of them may require submission of some other documents in addition to filling in their application form, such as for example your company registration certificate, your VAT registration certificate, a letter of introduction, etc. You will need to fill in the application form, sign, and send it back to them. At that point you may be assigned an account manager at their company, who will be dealing with you. It may take several days before they set up an account, and finally, oh miracle! you will receive an e-mail informing that your account has been set up.
What happens next will be described in our next Chapter.