What a Sell Sheet is and how they are evolving to meet a more demanding clientele of buyers.
A Sell Sheet is a lot of things, besides a tongue twister. Ideally it should be a quick information delivery system that whets a buyers appetite for a sample of what your product actually is. It should also give them everything they need to on-board your product quickly and effortlessly.
But so much more often then not, they are unanswered questions. And clutter.
A few weeks ago, a beverage rep came into the shop and offered me a Sell Sheet, he didn’t have a physical sample on him and was only about as well versed on the product as the Sell Sheet allowed him to be. This allowed him to tell me what flavors the product was available in, what certifications the company had purchased and how it was being distributed.
That literally wasn’t enough information, I’m a picky bitch.
Sell Sheets have such a huge potential to be not only a physical, 2 dimensional elevator speech that you can hand off to prospective clients, but also a training tool for your representation staff. If they are handed a piece of paper that is an incomplete representation of your brand, but billed as ‘Everything the buyer needs to know’, then the body of information your rep sees as important will also be incomplete.
That Sell Sheet landed in the trash very quickly.
However! The story brightens. I went to Fancy Food this year and had the opportunity to see A LOT of Sell Sheets. I mean like several thousand. (I wrote this a while ago. It was FF2018 I think).
And I was really happy because so many of them, were really above average. I think that my positive experience had a lot to do with the fact that I only walked the ‘Natural Foods Pavilion’ and didn’t bother with Gen-pop because the Natural Food sellers knew exactly who their buyers were and what we wanted to see.
Lets talk about exactly what someone should see on your Sell Sheets
SKUs: Your Sell Sheet should be broken down by SKU, or item. If you are a small company and you make three products, one Sell Sheet is all you need. Each SKU will need to represented with an image, (glamour shot) of that product as well as some text and a bar-code. You should be able to represent each SKU with some space left over, a common area for information about the company as a whole.
Bar Codes: The reason for bar-codes on your Sell Sheets is so that after a successful pitch, the buyer or manager can scan the bar-codes with their POS and create a listing for your products in their machine. This prevents any delay between delivery and merchandising so sales can start immediately. So far they are the only commonality between all of the Sell Sheets of launched products I’ve seen. That’s because I think we can agree that everyone in this industry is SALE oriented and having your bar-code right there is the best way to facilitate quick, easy and efficient SALES.
Certifications: Whatever niches and standards your product fits should be listed both on your product and on your Sell Sheet. The example below from Wild Joy is a Pre-Launch Sell Sheet (so no bar-codes) that lists their seals in a really nice, subtle way. They are important, but they shouldn’t be the focus or the largest image on the page. To be completely honest, they also need to be infallible. If you are made in a facility with gluten, you can include the gluten free sticker. I’m using Wild Joy as an example of what to do but in this area, I found them flawed. In lighter news, I also really like the way that Wild Joy gets across their…
PERSONALITY: The entire front of the Wild Joy Sell Sheet is an image of their branding. They are going hard with that which is a really good idea for a specialty product. Some might say its a waste of space, but to me it just makes it clear that their priority is your ability o recognize their very bold packaging. The first and largest text you read is a PUN. Love it. Also their Flavor Text is so on point that you read it without even realizing how much RELEVANT INFORMATION you are absorbing. Which brings us to our next point
RELEVANT INFORMATION: This Sell Sheet includes the Ingredients List of each SKU, as well as the MSRP. I can’t stress enough what a pleasant surprise both of these things are in the sea of uninformative pieces of paper that I have been swimming in for two years. You literally should not go without these two things. In every case these two things will either help you get to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ faster. FASTER is the operative word.
A ‘No’ in two minutes might be better for you and your company than a ‘Yes’ that takes two months and four follow ups.
-Me, I said it. Just now. Write it down.
Okay, I’m winding down. There are a few more thoughts that I have on Sell Sheets and what they have to offer. I’m going to list them in a more rapid fire style down here.
Your Picture – If you are the person making the product and you are the person schlepping it from store to store, I can tell you that by including your picture on the sell sheet so that a buyer knows you aren’t just a rep is going to earn you an extra few seconds. From me at least. If you aren’t the person going door to door, it’s still nice, and when you inevitably make in-store visits, you might even be recognizable. It’s something that I only see brands with ‘celebrity’ owners doing but I think more people should take advantage of including their own image in their brand. Including a quote or a quick sentence about why you started the company or what you want for your customers is really nice too.
More Relevant Information – How big is your product? Do you offer it in multiple sizes? Where is your ginger sourced from? Whats every question you’ve been asked about your product that has ever made you say, ‘wow, what a good question’? Include as much of that info as possible in as few words as possible.
Claims – Avoid them at all costs. Big promises are technically illegal and anything that isn’t a statement can be skipped when it comes to this medium.
Fun Facts – We’re living in a world where we want to be able to understand everything on the ingredient list, but we’ve also got access to ingredients no one has ever heard of before. If you are using something interesting in your product, list your ingredients and find a fun way to inform the reader about what Lacuma or Yakon is.
Contact Information – Including contact info on the sell sheet makes your business look smaller/personal. It’s a choice. An email address is necessary but if you are expecting your street team to grow, leaving a phone number off so they can staple their business card is a better choice.
Something Fun – This is literally so dumb but you know how magazines can include peel off sticker patches or even scratch and sniff patches on their pages. You could do that on your Sell Sheet. Literally nothing is stopping you. And I can’t say that this is something that would make me buy a product I wasn’t interested in, but i can tell you that if I was interested, it would make your Sell Sheet and your brand stand out. I would also never throw it away.
Testimonial – Putting a testimonial on a Sell Sheet is not for everyone and I get that, but if you have a really unique product and you want to make sure that the way it is received in correct, adding a little quote from a customer in your demographic who ‘gets’ what you are doing, is a really good idea.
Authority – an alternative to a testimonial is including any little nugget of PR you have as a company and riding that baby all the way. If one flavor was featured in a magazine, give it a little seal. Canva can help you. *featured in Food and Food Magazine* *tiny text month and year of issue*
Size – if you have a simple company and a good graphic designer, you don’t really need to do an 8 1/2 x 11 sell sheet. You could print them in Rack Card size (usually 8×5) to save some $$ and by utilizing both sides of the paper, you’d be able to fit everything just fine. Maybe you use these at conventions and shows. Maybe you print these without bar codes and distribute them at demos and during big events. You aren’t trapped in a box with these. Doing some unusual, as long as it suits your purpose, will usually help you stand out.
Supplemental pages – For me, receiving a sell sheet along with a catalog listing sheet is exhausting and a really good example of why more relevant info needs to go on your Sell Sheet in the first place. Don’t hand me two pieces of paper.
One piece of paper goes in a drawer for later. Two pieces is HEAVY in my sickly little arms and may get “lost”.
There is more. This may be a fun post to do a part two for in a few months. It’s a lot of hot takes and some things are outside the box. But take them with a grain of salt and use it as encouragement to be unique, not a road map to be just how I described.