“You might as well just ask” / “Just go for it?” / “What’s the worst they could say? ‘No’? That’s not so bad!”
I have read and given this advice a hundred times. It’s good advice. Mostly.
We don’t even think to ask for what we want, because a lot of times, we feel like if we ask, we’ll get turned down. There’s something else we need to do first: There’s some credential we need to get; we need to shoot some photos first; we have to put together the pitch or the catalog first.
There’s a window of opportunity and we aren’t prepared to go through it just yet.
So the advice is to just go through it anyways — barge in there with who you are, let them tell you “no,” and maybe let them tell you “yes.”
Is this advice any good? Should you prepare? Or should you just wing it?
When we first started the business, I would reach out to press and retail shops hoping to get coverage or make sales. I look back on these awkward messages now and I cringe: Did I really send those crappy photos? Did I really spend so much time talking about the our business, and so little time talking about the products? Couldn’t I have spent a little more time crafting our offering so we didn’t seem like such amateurs?
These bridges are probably behind me. I can’t reach out to them again even though our pitch is much more refined and optimal.
I went for it anyways, and because of that, I have a whole bunch of cringe-worthy pitches to companies who were, frankly, out of our league at that time in our business.
Having done that – the thing most of us are not willing to do – I lived, and I’m here to share the results with you.
90% of those pitches went unanswered.
Of the 10% who got back to us, probably 8% said something nice like “No, thanks. We’re focusing on [xyz other thing] right now.”
Of the 2% who didn’t politely decline, we’ve had mixed results:
- One was our first wholesale account, Marion & Rose’s Workshop, in Oakland, California
- One was Cowboys & Indians Magazine, who featured us and opened a whole new channel for us (the cowboy crowd)
- One was UNFI, the largest natural food distributor in the US, who started carrying us
Not one said “Get your fucking act together, you amateurs!”
That’s our worst fear, right? Well, that or the silent dismissal of people who think we aren’t even worth responding to… which arguably, that 90% could be interpreted as (it sure feels that way) — though it’s important to remember that it actually isn’t that way, we just imagine it is.
And of those 90% of people who didn’t respond, we are free to follow up again once we’ve got ourselves differently positioned. In fact, that different positioning gives us a great excuse to follow up: “Howdy! I thought I’d reach out since we have this new product line / set of photos / because I saw you recently posted about [subject that is related] and found your post very insightful.” Be nice, but be persistent.
I can tell you from experience, it is non-fatal to act before you’re ready, and you might even get some great contacts and results out of it!