Small businesses may dream of catching the Big Fish—the unexpected, massive order. It’s the big break that could completely change your business going forward.
The moment the order happens, it can be a euphoric feeling … that may quickly turn to fear after you realize you’re not equipped to handle an order of that size.
This exact scenario is realized by many small-business owners who get their big break with a major wholesale or online order, but then have to immediately face the pressure of meeting that order deadline.
But that feeling of sheer terror doesn’t have to happen if you take some advance precautionary measures.
My friend Jason Wade from Modena Watch was kind enough to give me some tips he’s learned over the years on weathering large online and wholesale orders.
Before we begin, don’t think for a second that these suggestions will save you from doing more work. There will likely be a lot of extra work and stress. These tips are ways that can help shave some of that extra work off and prepare for a huge order beforehand, so the order can actually go through on time.
Know Your Turnaround Time
It'll likely take you a longer time to fulfill a bulk order. Most (rational) buyers will understand this, so strike an agreement that gives you ample time. No need to stress yourself out before you’ve even started fulfilling the order by setting an impossible turnaround time.
Nail Down Your Return Policy
Having an ultra-specific return policy can help ensure that both buyer and seller are on the same page with bulk orders. Be specific in what an acceptable return is, and make it very visible with the packaging. A good idea is to keep it on both the invoice and the packing list.
Determine Wholesale Prices Ahead of Time
Having these numbers before a potential wholesale buyer actually comes knocking can be helpful. This can vary depending on the type of product being sold; general market value for the products; cost of materials, labor and overhead; shipping and other factors.
Develop Relationships With Temp Agencies and Local Help
Success in business is often more because of who you know. Consider developing relationships with key people before you need them, which can be especially helpful when the unexpected happens.
Do you have friends or family who could possibly help when a huge order lands in your lap? Talk to them ahead of time. You should also develop a relationship with the local temp agency to help with labor.
When a massive order rolls in, you’ll likely need more help than you think. Having these relationships and contacts in place can be a huge timesaver.
Develop Strong Relationships With Your Suppliers
Your supplier is another relationship that can make or break your first big order. This will be one of the first calls you should make when the Big One happens. Make sure you’re responsive when they contact you. Become very familiar with their policies and mode of operation, and get to know your point of contact. If you can visit them in person at some point, that may help, too. A face with a name can go a long way.
Set Up Autoresponders and Snippets for Frequent Support Requests
This is a favorite timesaver of mine, and it can be extremely helpful whether you’re in the middle of fulfilling a large order or not.
As you’re getting support requests, you can start making note of often used responses, and have them saved so you can quickly refer to them with future requests. Most CRM and support services like ZenDesk have this feature already baked in.
If you’re not using a third-party service for your support, you can use the “Canned responses” feature in Gmail to do the exact thing. Software like TextExpander for the Mac can allow you to save and quickly type these “snippets” with keyboard commands.
Make Sure Your Online Payment System Is Rock Solid
Stress test your online purchasing funnel many times, and have others test it, too. Test every payment provider and every purchasing scenario. There's a lot that can go wrong during the payment process, and you don’t want to leave customers with their wallets out. It’s like quitting a marathon during the last mile.
You should also take some time to work on your sales funnel, and look for anything that might keep the buyer from clicking “Buy.” Reduce as much friction as possible in this process.
Make Sure Your Website Can Handle the Traffic
If your company has a major media feature, odds are, people may follow links to your website. Talk to your Web host and ask how they handle spikes in traffic. (You’d be surprised at how many cheap Web hosts will just throttle your website when the traffic becomes too high.) Ask for anything you should do on your end in the event of that happening.