10 ways wholesalers can increase sales in South Africa

In the wholesale distribution business? Need a wholesale growth strategy plan? We’ve got your back. Whether the sales aren’t rolling in like they used to, or you are looking for new ways to generate additional revenue, follow our 10 ways South African wholesalers can increase sales.  

1. Create a better wholesale marketing strategy  

This may seem like an obvious one, but one of the best ways wholesalers in South Africa can increase their sales is by promoting their business. To generate great quality leads you will need a fantastic marketing strategy that turns leads into loyal customers. So how are you going to do this? It’s a notion of the past to think that going to tradeshows, or relying on word of mouth is the way to go.  

If you want to reach new customers and maintain your existing client base you need to create a continuous conversation with them. Whether you are a grocery or hardware wholesaler, it doesn’t matter the industry you supply to; you will need some sort of marketing strategy. A myth amongst wholesalers is that because they rely on B2B to generate revenue, there is no importance placed on their marketing efforts. This couldn’t be further from the truth, your customers are likely using social media, checking their emails, online shopping and reading news daily – so why not reach them where they are.  

A couple of quick-win marketing tips for wholesalers:

  • Design a logo (if you don’t have one already)
  • Create an email newsletter
  • Send direct emails after purchases encouraging feedback/reviews  
  • Set up a Facebook page
  • Get listed in an industry-specific publication/directory

There are a couple of questions you’ll need to ask yourself when creating this marketing strategy:

  • What is your wholesale business’s vision?
  • Who is your target audience?  
  • What do your customers consider important when doing business with you?
  • What are your Unique Selling Points (what sets you apart from your competitors)  

It’s important to remember that implementing an effective marketing strategy is an excellent way of bringing on new customers and turning repeat customers into loyal ones. You want your customers to know that you care, and you want them to form a trusted relationship with you so that you can grow your wholesale business.  

2. Create a wholesale online store or website

Before diving deep into creating an online store or website for your wholesale business, the first step is deciding whether it’s the right fit for your business and your target audience.  

The biggest advantage of this step is that your competitors might not be as focused on building a website or online store. If you decide to go the online store route, both you and your customer will need to be e-commerce literate, meaning you’ll be able to successfully run the backend of the online store on your side, and the store will be easier enough to understand for your customers. The competitive advantage might open a new stream of revenue for you or tap into a new wholesale market altogether.  

However, if an online store is much further down the pipeline for you, then a website is a much quicker online solution for wholesalers. Keep it simple, SEO (search engine optimized) friendly and easy to use. With over 25,5 million smartphone users in South Africa, you’ll need to ensure the website is mobile-friendly, especially with a predominance of wholesalers and their customers using their mobile phones to conduct business.

3. Provide great customer service

From the moment you walk into a retail shop, you expect your experience to be great. With helpful shop assistants and an easy purchasing process at the till – customer service is a top priority in retail. However, wholesalers, often fall by the wayside when it comes to customer service. With B2B, wholesalers don’t do business with the end customer and often deal with the retailer directly. Because of this, they don’t see the need to go the extra mile retailers do.  

It’s important to remember that buyers are your lifeline, so you should always maintain professionalism. If a situation arises where you might lose a customer based on a bad experience, go above and beyond to turn the experience around even if it means losing out on some profits in the short term. Every one of your customers, no matter how much revenue they bring in, should be treated with understanding, you want to be personable but professional. Small gestures can go a long way when it comes to wholesale customer service, for loyal customers think about offering gifts leading up to year-end or the festive season.  

As mentioned earlier, don’t be afraid to follow up with your customer’s asking them for feedback on the goods, or their purchasing experience. This feedback is both useful to you in terms of adapting your business strategy and makes the retailers feel heard and valued.  

4. Offer Limited offers and discounts

If you want to push certain stock or need a quick business cash injection, as a wholesaler offering limited offers and discounts is a great way to generate revenue. Whether you are a hardware or homeware wholesaler, use this opportunity to convert retailers. If they are sitting on the fence, entice them to say “yes please” by stocking up on goods from your business.  

Retailers are already buying wholesale because they want a discount for buying in bulk, but if you want to further grab their attention, offer promotions for a limited amount of time. The percentage discount doesn’t need to be significant. It just needs to be goods that you know your customer will need and an amount that’s cheaper than your competitors. The offers can either be across all your goods, or they can be tailored to each product and the retailer you supply to.  

For example, if you are a steel pipe wholesaler, your offer could look something like this ‘receive a 10% discount on steel pipe orders over R20 000 until 31 March’ This offers includes the discount, the specific product, a set amount you need them to spend to qualify and a set offer period.  

5. Incentivise referrals

Don’t get us wrong, although a marketing strategy is essential in generating new revenue streams, wholesalers still rely heavily on word of mouth. Leverage these connections to bring on new buyers. Make it clear to your existing clients that bringing on new buyers will be financially beneficial for their business.  

A couple of tips for wholesale referrals:  

  • Use your marketing channels to promote your referral scheme
  • Set a monetary referral fee – either a percentage of the sale or a set amount
  • Create legally binding terms and conditions for the referral scheme
  • Set a cap (if needed), if the referral structure isn’t working for your revenue stream set a cap on the number of leads, or the referral cut your client can receive.
  • Say thank you – it’s important that you show gratitude to your loyal customers for bringing on new customers.  

6. Streamline operations

Retailers often want their business process to be as efficient as possible, and as much as possible they want the same level of efficiency from their wholesale suppliers.

As a wholesaler, it’s your responsibility to ensure your entire operations are streamlined, from taking stock of inventory and your finances to purchase order systems and shipping. Investing in a B2B inventory management system will create ease between both you and your customer.  

A couple of South African companies offering an inventory management system:

Having these systems in place will also allow for a much quicker turnaround time on supply and delivery ensuring you are generating revenue faster.  

7. Seamless wholesale ordering, delivering and billing using automation thinking

Now that we’ve nailed down the importance of streamlining operations, let’s get to a powerful tool that can further assist efficiency – automation.  

Automation is essential when it comes to running a successful wholesale business. You need to ensure that everything that can be streamlined is. Removing any complex steps makes the order fulfilment process much quicker, in turn freeing up time that could be spent elsewhere whether that be your HR department, customer service or business development.  

If you can put in place a fully automated end-to-end distribution system, you can increase your ROI drastically. How retailers order goods, get goods delivered or receive billing from wholesalers needs to be integrated as much as possible.  

A few E2E distribution/ERP system providers in South Africa:  

8. Give recommendations to retailers based on similar orders

Your customers want to feel as though you know their retail business well, one way of showing that you pay attention is by offering them recommendations based on previous orders. Although Amazon is predominately an online retailer, they are leading the way when it comes to the recommendation game as a sales growth strategy, so wholesalers should really follow suit.  

Here is an example in practice: your wholesale business supplies solar panels to solar panel retailers or installation companies; you need to think of other goods these retailers might need. These items could be things you already have the inventory of but know your customer might need in addition to the solar panels. These could include solar panel racking, inverters, solar monitoring systems.  

9. Encourage first-time buyers to be loyal customers  

Much like retailers do with offering vouchers if you open a store account or a discount off your first online purchase – wholesalers can jump on the bandwagon too.  

Let’s say for example you own a beauty wholesale business, where you supply nailcare products to several nail salons. Now you want to retain new customers? Along with your referral scheme, incentivise new clients to use your wholesale business by offering them a discount on their first order, or a percentage off if they spend a certain amount on nail care products.  

*Wholesaler business tip – ensure the T&Cs of the first-time buyer offer are clear and in writing so that both parties are aware beforehand.

10. Look into Wholesale Business Funding

If you’ve found yourself in over your head and need business finance to tide you over or increase sales, then look at taking out a business loan. First, you’ll need to decide what type of wholesale business finance you want, whether it’s purchase order funding, trade finance, a secured or unsecured loan. We’ll give you the rundown on each to see which one is best suited to your needs. At FundingHub our business finance marketplace will assist you with finding offers from reputable lenders.  

Wholesale business funding options:

  • Purchase Order Funding – if you are unable to fulfil a Purchase Order request and don’t want the risk  
  • Trade Finance – this is the finance of international and domestic trade transactions, transactions need to be around R3 million.
  • Secured loan –  is a loan granted to the business where the borrower then pledges some form of security or collateral against the loan.
  • Unsecured loan – is a business loan granted where the loan is supported by the borrower’s creditworthiness rather than any collateral or security.
  • Invoice factoring - Invoice discounting is a form of short-term business finance that enables businesses to borrow money from a finance provider based on the value of their unpaid invoices

We can’t promise that any of these steps are quick fixes to increase sales for your wholesale business. But with time and determination, you’ll be able to reap the financial benefits. Now all that’s left to do is put these sales growth tips into action...

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