Is your dream to sell your product to Walmart?
By Rieva Lesonsky
Small business owners everywhere dream of getting their products on the shelves at Walmart—and thanks to Walmart’s commitment to American-made products, that dream can become a reality. Back in 2013, Walmart pledged that by 2023, it would purchase approximately $250 billion in products supporting the creation of American jobs. Since then, the retailer has held a “Made in the USA” Open Call event every year.
Both current Walmart suppliers hoping to expand their product mix and would-be suppliers trying to get a foot in the door attend Open Call, where they have the opportunity to meet Walmart buyers and pitch their products. In 2018, business owners from more than 450 businesses visited Open Call selling everything from sportswear to salsa. The prize for getting approved: having your American-made products on Walmart store shelves or sold on Walmart.com or Jet.com.
Even entrepreneurs who don’t get approved at Open Call say they learn a lot about improving their products, thanks to the advice of Walmart buyers, and many come back to try again. Attending Open Call can be a small business’s big break.
Can you pitch your product at Open Call?
Before you apply for Open Call, you have to meet certain requirements.
- The Federal Trade Commission determines whether products qualify as “Made in the USA. Read about the FTC’s specifications for American-made products.
- Products pitched in Open Call must go through Walmart’s certification process to be certified as American Made.
- Businesses that participate in Open Call must meet Walmart’s requirements for suppliers.
Preparing to sell your product to Walmart buyers
To succeed at Open Call, it’s vital to know what Walmart buyers are looking for. Of course, since low prices are Walmart’s hallmark, price is important, but it isn’t the only thing buyers consider (or even the most important). The three key attributes that Walmart buyers look for are:
- Does this product solve a key customer need?
- Does the quality of the product exceed my customers’ expectations?
- Does this product provide customers with a good value?
Here’s how to boost your odds of a successful pitch.
- Be prepared: Have samples of your product ready. If it’s a food product or an item that needs assembly, make sure you have the selling unit and the finished product at the meeting.
- Know your costs: Be ready to offer your best price upfront. This isn’t the time to haggle: If buyers think you’re trying to pitch them something that’s priced too high, they won’t trust you. Start with the lowest cost so the buyer can immediately assess the value of your product and make a decision.
- Offer a strategy: Before you pitch a Walmart buyer, you must understand the stores, the website and how they merchandise products. Be able to explain how your product would fit into the store’s overall product mix and have ideas for where it should be placed.
- Provide insights: Can you explain why your product is important to Walmart customer? You need to show what problem it solves and provide evidence that this is a viable product that customers will buy. Demonstrating that you’ve done your homework helps convince buyers your product will sell.
- Be brief: Pitches may vary in length depending on how many items you’re pitching and how complex they are. Generally, though, most supplier meetings last about 30 minutes—and that needs to include any questions that buyers may have. Plan your presentation with that time frame in mind.
- Make it memorable: You don’t have a lot of time, so make sure your presentation includes images, costing, the history of your business and your contact information. This helps the buyer remember you and your product after the meeting.
Open Call helps U.S. workers
Some two-thirds of Walmart’s U.S. merchandise spending is for items made, assembled, grown or sourced in the U.S. Over the life of the Open Call initiative, Walmart estimates its commitment to American-made products could create as many as 1 million new jobs.
This year’s Open Call application window has closed. If you want to learn more and get ready to apply next year, sign up to receive Open Call updates. Applications are typically accepted beginning in March.
Supermarket image stock photo by Adisa/Shutterstock