In this episode, our host, Corinna Bellizzi is interviewed by Sean Weisbrot, an American expat who has been living in Asia for over 12 years. He interviews a new leader each week to inspire entrepreneurs around the globe.
In this interview, Corinna discusses how she built Nordic Naturals and the other companies she worked with. They discuss leadership style, differences between masculine and feminine leaders, adapting plans for success, compensation structure and getting to the root of what collaborative leadership really means.
You can find Sean Weisbrot’s podcast, We Live to Build wherever you listen to podcasts. Here’s the link to his hosting website:
For complete transcript of this show, please visit the Care More Be Better website:
We Live To Build
Corinna Bellizzi: Hello, fellow do-gooders friends and regenerators. I’m Corinna. your host of the show today. I’m going to give you a bit of a bonus. This is an interview I completed with Sean Weisbrot on his podcast called we live to build he’s an ex-pat living in China who really focuses on entrepreneurship. And one of the many things that we talked about was what it takes to build a business, but that’s not.
What it takes to build a brand, what it takes to build a community and how you can be a better corporate. I think all of these are ideas that many of you will enjoy. So I hope you’ll give it a listen and check out. His show we live to build is available wherever you listen to podcasts. And I’ll be sure to include links and show notes.
Thank you listeners now, and always for being a part of this pod and this community, because together we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better and we can regenerate earth without further ado. Here’s.
Sean Weisbrot: Welcome back to another episode of the, we live to build podcast. I’m here today with Corinna Bellizzi, the CEO and principal advisor of a growing need, which is a natural products consultancy.
She’s also the host of care more be better, which is a podcast about sustainability. And the reason why I brought her onto the show. Is to talk about revenue, growth sales, getting your product on shelves, how to handle those relationships and a lot more. So I hope you enjoy this fantastic episode with her.
She’s very gracious and her experience is very abundant. Uh, I won’t spoil any of the details, but the impact she’s had on the company she’s worked with is a stout. And now let’s get to the show.
Welcome to we live to build. My name is Sean Weisbrot and I’m an entrepreneur investor and advisor based in Asia for over 12 years. Join us every week to fast-track your personal growth. So you can meet the ever-increasing demands of the company or companies. You are passionately. Time waits for no one.
So let’s get started. Yeah.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and Carina. I appreciate it. I loved your story about working in natural products and growing revenue significantly. So I’ll let you tell everyone about it. What makes you the right person to talk about growing revenue?
Corinna Bellizzi: I think I’m just as an individual, I kind of fell into the environment of sales and market.
I never really sought it out as something that I wanted to do per se. So if you really want to go back to the beginning, I started in retail sales and I learned to sell things like sunglasses that were super expensive and very technologically proven, got to a technical selling perspective early in my career while I was still in high school and college.
Right. And then when I went into the professional sphere, I took that same kind of method with me, where I was really focused on serving the needs of my customers, understanding the perspective that they’re coming from, and also using kind of an ethnographic approach because my schooling was on anthropology.
So I would think more about what the consumer really want. And then try to give it to them in the way that they wanted to hear about it. So I’d package everything essentially for them. So when I was selling directly to the consumer or directly to the retailer or directly to the business, I was able to kind of change my mindset in order to work with them and really think about how I could create programs that would enable sales before sales enablement was even really a term.
Sean Weisbrot: I’m not sure everyone listening understands the usefulness of anthropology and sale. I understand anthropology, correct me if I’m wrong to be kind of the study of culture from a historical person,
Corinna Bellizzi: not necessarily. I mean, it really is a study of cultures and people and how they react and interact in a variety of things.
So you have a culture within a company, you have a culture within a particular area of the United States. We have many cultures throughout the course of the United States. You know, somebody in Seattle has a different persona perspective and just idealism than you might see. Versus someone who lives in Manhattan in New York, there is just a different perspective from, you know, a variety of backgrounds, whether it be something that’s as simple as, oh, they’re from China, or, you know, they’re from a metropolitan city and these are the wants and needs and drivers of how they interact with one another.
I just think it’s a really important piece of the puzzle that often gets left out. When you’re considering the audience and how they’re going to receive the message that you’re working to give them. I’ve basically taken this perspective to every role I’ve had over the years, you know, with the screaming success, really being, uh, what I did with Nordic naturals, I joined them before I had any experience selling.
Specifically to retailers I’d only really sold direct to other businesses, selling ingredients or selling direct to consumers. But I understood the retail environment because I’ve worked inside of retail stores and my high school and college years. Right. So I was able to adapt my learning. And essentially say, okay, how do we target the customer we’re seeking to impress and ultimately went over.
And so I worked to build programs that would enable to us to do that in a more clear kind of pathway opened the road in front of us, create a blue ocean so that we could do something new. Unique and disruptive. And so we did that through creating disruptive experiences in the store by showcasing the effects of omega-threes to consumers and doing demonstrations of fish oils so that they could see firsthand that they didn’t have to be fishy, but they didn’t have to burp up anything unpleasant.
And that it could really be something of a unique experience while then still backing it up with all the scientific research to say, here’s the reasons that you want to consider taking an omega-3 here’s the study. The journal of American medicine association or JAMA, here’s this other study from NCBI, take a look at this.
This is why it’s important. It’s going to benefit your heart health. And look, it was pleasant to take. We can even create fruit flavored chewable capsules for little kids and make it a, an experience that they’ll look forward to. So we did this through retailers. We did this in the direct to consumer.
We’re ultimately able to showcase the unique benefits of an omega-3 while also making it pleasant, which was something that had not been done before. So what this enabled us to do over the course of my nine almost tenure record at the company was to catapult us from less than a million dollars in annual revenues to well over a hundred million and placement and over 37 countries around the globe at that point.
Within the industry we were seen as the leaders in omega-3 fish oil supplementation, and really commanded a shelf presence that enabled us to also carry with us, that brand presence, that shelf that speaks for itself when a consumer walks in, if they’ve never even seen the brand before. So all of that kind of led to us being able to continually succeed ratchet, get that flywheel spinning, and ultimately continue our growth.
By the time I left the company, we’d produced 20,000 demos in a single. So, if you think about that, as you know, a part of the whole, it was well over a third of our marketing budget. And I’m including in that every print material that we might have put into place, all of the digital advertising cooperative advertising elements, and even, you know, digital media and other spaces, trade shows.
Sean Weisbrot: mentioned in the demos. One of the things you were trying to do was demonstrate the benefits of taking the pill. How can you do that? When taking these kinds of pills, actually, you don’t feel any different on a day-to-day basis. So, how can you show that to them
Corinna Bellizzi: in the store? The reality is if somebody is deficient in omega-3, they will notice a difference and they’ll notice it really fast.
So what I would do is I’d say, you know, here take this teaspoon of Cod liver oil. Go ahead and do your shopping and come back by telling me how you feel. And the thing that people notice when they’ve been truly deficient of omega-3 is like, let’s say they don’t consume fish. They might not have a vegetarian diet.
They might, you know, really be eating the standard American diet of the burger and fries and not taking such great care of themselves, enjoying that ice cream Sunday, when they feel like at whatever that person, when they take an omega-3 it’s like yourselves finally say yes, because you can absorb the omega-threes that are in.
Rather quickly into your system. And what it will enable you to do is just like all of a sudden, it feels like your cells are firing better. You’re better able to create energy. You’re better able to utilize the nutrients and micronutrients that you’ve absorbed. And generally speaking, people will just feel a little clearer.
Um, when they’ve taken omega-threes for a couple of weeks, they’ll start to notice simple things like they’re not misplacing their keys as much, or that where are my sunglasses when your sunglasses are right on the top of your head? Doesn’t happen anymore. And so it’s something that I am super passionate about.
I mean, obviously I’ve worked mostly in the omega-3 space for the primary two decades of my career. I’m working in an allergy space now because I honestly believe that we can create better nutrition solutions that are more sustainable for the future by harnessing the power of algae, as opposed to relying solely and exclusively on fish or animal species less.
It’s just more. To those little critters, any right?
Sean Weisbrot: Oh, you don’t have to sell me. I agree. I think algae is the right way to go. And I, I personally donate fish, but I do take a vegetarian cap for omega-3 six, nine. So when you were doing the demo, this’ll get into the psychology a little bit. When you’re doing the demo, did you suggest to them that they were going to feel better?
All you did was say, try this out and just tell me how you. In like 15
Corinna Bellizzi: minutes. So you’re asking if there was a psychosomatic effect and the reality is, yeah, sure. There probably was. I mean, there’s a placebo effect. Even when you take a sugar pill, there’s probably some truth to that. Just getting into the psychology of how things work.
Yes. The suggestion is made. So ultimately, you know, when. Is taking something and then going through and spending 20 or 30 minutes shopping around the grocery store floor, they’ve had that power of suggestion, I guess you could say that might manipulate them into feeling like they noticed a difference and be more motivated to buy.
That’s true. I don’t feel like it was because I have literally seen people. Shift how they feel, how they think the reality is that so many people too will suddenly drop weight that they had been holding onto largely because everything in their body just starts working better. It’s the sort of thing that if I were working in an environment like selling tobacco or cigarettes, I might feel a little guilty about even saying something like that to them.
But the reality is I know I’m selling the benefits.
Sean Weisbrot: I appreciate the honesty. As long as you understood that there was a potential for that. That’s what matters. Yeah.
Corinna Bellizzi: I think there’s a potential for placebo. Anytime you expose somebody to just about anything, even an idea of breathing deeply to relax you.
I mean, there’s science behind it that shows that breathing deeply relaxes you and helps you manage. But even suggesting that automatically kind of instills that placebo effect as well.
Sean Weisbrot: When you started with the company, how did you come up with these kinds of ideas? How did you package them? How did you present them?
How did you get the go-ahead to try these things that led to this.
Corinna Bellizzi: Yeah. So I worked with your up Haim, who is the CEO and founder of the company. And I worked with him very closely. He was a graduate of Santa Clara. University’s MBA. I recently also got my MBA from Santa Clara university, you know, 20 years later thinking about that.
But you know, one of the things that we’re constantly test to do as we go through that program in particular is to think a little different. And to consider what it would take to disrupt the marketplace. I think he carried that with him. Initially. He also had developed a product that really begged to be tried.
And so if you’re trying to do something with consumers where you’re saying it doesn’t have to be fishy and it doesn’t have to be this and no, really this is different. They’re not going to simply just take your word for it and grab that product off the shelf and start taking it. You need to prove it.
And he understood that. And so as we went ahead and develop the programs, I mean, first we were starting with something as simple as we want to sell five bottles in a single demo, we’re going to run them for three hours. We’re going to pay a contractor, $75 to do that demonstration. They’re going to cover all of their other costs, but we’ll supply the marketing material.
The samples, the little sachets, the cups, whatever that they’re going to need to conduct that demonstration. And we’re going to track their performance and either, you know, say goodbye or hello to new demonstrators dependent on how well they did. And so I developed the entirety of the program and just scaled it up.
As we grew, for instance, I might work with a sales rep in a particular area. Test it and say, okay, I’m going to test this program in the Pacific Northwest and see how it does. And so we gave them five demos a month to start and then just grew, grew, grew, and then started to roll it out to other territories.
So a lot of tests, trial error, and then ensuring that we had a program that could ultimately sustain itself, that wouldn’t be overly difficult to manage. We did ultimately end up dedicating one head count specifically to just coordinating demos because we had at the height of the program when I was there over 300 demonstrators active at any given time.
So that’s a lot of people that are cycling through that need to be trained and that need to ultimately understand what it is that we’re seeking to do in every demonstration. One of the things that I think. Actually made the program as successful as it was, is that we were often recruiting demonstrators through our brokers, from people that worked at the store in general.
Anyway. So when they were an off hours, they were now educated on how to sell the product. And then when they go return to. Guess what you have this person who knows your product really well loves it is already paid directly by you. And then has this kind of incentive in the back of their mind to have that continual performance.
Like they’re not likely to go and sell a competitor’s fish oil then. So all of that I think played into the long-term success of the program. There’s one other thing that I did really differently though. As I led demonstrations for the company, I really worked to treat our demonstrators as if they were extensions of the company.
And much the way that I treated our brokers. This is something that I write about in a blog post that I did on LinkedIn. So many companies and the natural channel and elsewhere, they treat brokers as if they are, I don’t know, kindergartners are red hair stepchildren, choose your vernacular for this. They just don’t necessarily treat them like they’re part of the company.
And what I would always seek to do was ensure that. Brought them into this big decisions we were making even just to get their opinion, not necessarily that, you know, their viewpoint would end up being the one that we chose, but just to hear them out and ensure that I was continually farming the field for intelligence that could affect our decision-making.
So we’d make better decisions. Gave them respect. And I think when you show people that are working for you, whether they be contractors or employees that you treat them with that same level of respect, they’re going to do more work for you. Like that’s the side benefit, but there’s this piece to me that made it so important to do that.
And that was simply my viewpoint on my own can not be the thing that drives the success of the company. If I am not taking the perspectives from the field of the people that have their feet on the street in the stores every single day, Then I am not going to create the best plan for the company. I am not going to have my finger on the pulse of what is happening in the industry in the same way that I would, if I pulled them continually, if I show them that I had that level of respect for them and for the hard work that they do.
I also had one of the longest tenured broker forces where you really didn’t see a lot of volatility in the team. And many of the brokers I hired when I joined the company in 2002 are still with the company. So that shows you something I’m just very proud of that.
Sean Weisbrot: The getting the feedback from brokers.
So I was just interviewing someone earlier today and we were talking about customer experience and we got a little bit into employee experience and how it kind of extends into customer. And we were talking about feedback. He basically said the same thing that you did, which was, if you’re not getting feedback from everyone you’re working with, as you said, they’re the ones communicating with those people.
They’re seeing, like we say, it’s not fishy, but maybe like 20% of the people we demo to still feels like it tastes kind of fishy. Maybe we should rework our marketing or rework the formulation. So like you can get amazing feedback, not only on how you’re doing the sales, but maybe how the product works and whether it needs to be improved or not.
So it’s fantastic.
Corinna Bellizzi: I totally agree. There’s one other thing I will just say, language is really important. And when we talk about our brokers or our demonstrators or our field reps or our employees, if we use terminology like, oh, they’re just an employee or just a broker we’ve automatically kind of divorced ourselves from the level of.
Let’s say attention, we might need to pay to their perspective. I think it’s really critical that we shift our thinking overall. It has been the feedback I’ve brought in to almost every organization I’ve worked for. I’ll give you an example. I worked for Neutrik gold for a couple of years. I first joined as VP of marketing.
I was five months pregnant and didn’t have it in me to be on the road. As much as being in sales often requires this is going to be my second child and I loved what the company was doing. Very focused on creating the highest quality supplements that money can buy. And they put quality before just about everything.
The CEO of the company reached out to me specifically because of that article. I wrote for LinkedIn talking about how brokers needed to be valued. And he had hired somebody else to be the VP of sales and that VP of sales came in and did what so many. They are suddenly want to replace half of the broker force with salespeople.
They already know, or make a bunch of changes that could make them look good on the short term, but not necessarily have the payout over the longterm. I had counseled him to say, look, you know, I think you should take a little bit more into account, give them some time, make sure that you’ve evaluated the sales revenues of the company and the performance of representatives for at least six months, because even though six months could be.
A long time that first six months, when you come into a company is a critical period where you really get to understand the business. And once you understand the business, the decisions you’ll make will be much more rooted in really what will support the company’s long-term growth. It will also ensure that you’re not seen as a slap dash leader who is just not going to take their employees and continue.
As carrying a level of import with them. So I think it creates a much better, stronger culture where people will work for you and with you, as opposed to just feel like there are absolutely,
Sean Weisbrot: I recently hired a product manager when I handed over responsibilities for her to manage like the sprint planning and execution with alongside the development team in the city.
She went above and beyond my expectation. She started having one-on-ones with the developers and wanting to communicate with them about the ideas were getting ready to develop and see if they could figure out any problems that they might encounter before they start to develop any of it. And really spending a lot of time communicating with them before anything has actually developed or designed.
Allowed us to work much more smoothly because of it. And it’s not something that I really thought of doing. I mean, of course I want to empower everyone. It just wasn’t something that I thought to do. It was like, oh, I’ve written out the details. I’ve designed it. This is why we’re going to do it go. And then they would find problems and then it would mess up all of our plans and we’d slow down.
So like the way that she’s changed, everything has just made it operate much more. I am really appreciative for that. So I definitely agree that
Corinna Bellizzi: what you’ve revealed is that you gave her enough freedom to be able to execute with her own ideas. And if you tell somebody where you want to go and you give them some bumpers and you generally say, okay, here’s the end game.
This is the goal of where we want to head. You know, these are the things I think we need to consider, but you know, you have free reign to go ahead and design how we get there within X budget or whatever. Then suddenly that person is empowered to be able to bring their creativity to the job. And I think that makes life so much easier or both a leader and also for the person that’s there to execute because there’ll be more inspired to work hard and develop new strategies that you might not have thought of it before.
So I think that’s exactly right. Nice. How
Sean Weisbrot: long did it take to come up with the first part of the plan and get to
Corinna Bellizzi: test it? Not very long, a matter of a month, maybe. What
Sean Weisbrot: kind of a budget were you given? I guess there was already a marketing budget before you came in. Did they say we need to add to it or do they take away from what was already there?
How did you negotiate?
Corinna Bellizzi: It’s interesting because the CEO, in this particular case, he didn’t really want to give budgets. He just wanted everything to be very mindful. And so he would choose to say yes or no, if something made sense. And so as long as you could say, here is what I want to do as long as it made sense.
And so that might be as simple as me saying, I really want to do a cooperative advertising budget. You know, we’re still in this pioneering phase. So our brokers haven’t generated really enough sales to be able to, you know, have a good enough bank to be able to. You know, support this particular retailers, cooperative advertising.
So instead what I would do is say, okay, their past three months sales have been $500. Let’s just choose that number. It’s not a huge number because they’re just getting started out. They might’ve moved about 150 to $200 a month and product off their. Talking wholesale value. So double it for retail, right?
Let’s just assume that this retailer is going to order the same amount over the next year. They’re going to have sold at least a couple thousand dollars worth of product. Can I have a budget of a hundred bucks to put something and a local rag and their neck of the woods or two? Print a flyer that they’re going to put in every bag that they send through the registers as a grocer, you know, so that volume would be quite high and he just say, well, that makes sense to me.
Yes. And then we build, build, build from there. That’s not necessarily the norm for a lot of companies. One of the things I have tended to do is ultimately work from a budget of planned revenue. Well, if you’re looking at an entrepreneurial venture where you’re really in the beginning and you don’t have a lot of historical sales, I might build a plan where essentially says, look, you know, here’s our plan revenues for the year.
We need to spend at least 20% of what we anticipate of the revenues to build the market. And then here’s the planet. From that, if it’s an established company than typically, yes, you have a budget and you have something of perhaps 10% of revenues to be your entire marketing budget that might have to cover everything from training to education of retailers, to print materials, digital advertising, et cetera.
So you really just have to consider it as part of the whole, and then really try to show what the ROI is likely to be. So one of the things I always like to suggest to be done as small regional tests, because if you do a regional test, you can tell a lot from that you can extrapolate what the success might be.
And you can say, look, this is early days, our early successes aren’t as likely to be as strong as a future successes. And then. Go ahead and lay out what you think it can do over the course of the next year. And then just reevaluate on a continual basis. If not every three months, every six months, sometimes a particular project will need some time to get legs.
So keep refining, keep looking at the data and keep ultimately that creative hat on to say what’s working what isn’t and how can I improve this? Or how can I improve this effort when you
Sean Weisbrot: joined? Did you have it in your head that you were going to turn the company into a hundred million dollar company?
Or did you just go, let’s just see what I can accomplish or where you’re like, this is going to happen. I’m going a hundred X this company, like, what was your thought process when you.
Corinna Bellizzi: So when I joined, I was 25 years old, so I was a little bit fresh out of college. I had one big success under my belt already.
I had spearheaded an international division of a raw material manufacturer or an ingredient manufacturer. Right. They’re known as both things, depending on who you talk to. I had basically developed a company into a multinational organization from just a US-based organization. And by the time. That company 18 months later that accounted for 40% of their revenues and help them weather a storm within the natural products industry, where people stopped buying as many herbal extracts.
There was controversies around my Wong and kava, kava, et cetera in the marketplace. Some companies stopped formulating with as many herbal extracts by building the international business. I helped the company weather, the storm. It became 40% of the company’s business. And I was able to come to Nordic naturals saying, I can’t promise you the world.
I can’t say that we’re going to get to a million dollars in revenue each year. And, you know, the next year, what I can promise you is it I’ll put the same foot forward. And with diligence work to grow this business, and that I was willing to dedicate the next five to seven years of my life to it. When I said that I was quite serious, I was willing to dedicate the next five to seven years of my life to this effort.
And as a young twenties, I had a fire in my belly. I was very much itching to prove myself. And I put a lot of myself into that job every day, you know, A lot of business travel. My first goal was that I wanted to ensure we had nationwide representation and I’d put the internal goal on myself of trying to do that.
In six months we had an inactive broker force. Um, several of them wouldn’t even return my calls. And then if I did get in touch with them, was it. Well, who are you to tell me what to do? You’re just as fresh out of college, 25 year old or whatever. And yet I was going into the field with them and taking whatever learnings I could and putting all of my effort into it.
And I would still be treated with a little bit of disrespect. So I did have to make some refinements to our brokers. I had something like a three or four letters. I called them letters, but they were Wu the broker 1, 2, 3, of course, mostly just communicated via email. Right. But like to try and woo who I knew to be.
Sales representatives to come onboard the company without putting a carrot in front of them to say, oh, well, we’ll just pay you a retainer. And we’re trying to do everything purely on commission, which is really tough as a company starting out, but also something that’s kind of required when you’re in this bootstrapping brand build, right?
Like you don’t want to just pay someone a couple thousand dollars every month and have it just whisper to the wind. So I really focused on building the company and building the brand and building our reputation. I didn’t focus so much on a. By the end of the first 15 months, we had surpassed the leader in the industry.
And so I think there was something to not just focusing on a particular revenue number. If we had just been hyper-focused on a particular revenue number, as opposed to the build of the company and the build of the brand. I think we might’ve done things a little bit different. And we might have actually put training wheels on ourselves and kept ourselves from kind of the growth trajectory that we otherwise experienced.
We were focused on building that kind of, that emotional tie to the brand. We understood that if we could help people remember how we made them. That they would become emotionally connected to the brand and help us build. And so by treating all the brokers that we had, as well as we possibly could, by paying them a high commission by giving them accolades at every turn, by recognizing their achievements.
Like for instance, when my New York rep his first month sold $2,000, I sent him a card in the mail handwritten when he got to $20,000 in a month sales, I sent him another card in a small. And just like handwritten a little touch to say, you know, you’re appreciated, you’re doing awesome work. We still value you.
And these are things that I think many people overlook doing. They need to celebrate more, celebrate the successes. And if you had in this pioneering phase, when a brand is brand new, put a bunch of dollar metrics in place. What if somebody didn’t meet it? What if your goal was too lofty and suddenly the inspiration that they’d been carrying with them might be thwarted.
So while. Always important to have a number in mind of where you want to head being clear with what your objectives are as a whole is I think most important specifically when you’re in that pioneering phase, do you think that’s
Sean Weisbrot: the difference between how women and men operate? I feel like a man would come in and go, we’re going to have a hundred million in five years in like, let’s do this, not to say that what you did was wrong.
I think it’s fantastic. I also recognize that there’s a psychological. Difference. I think in the way we operate in the gender. Do you, would you agree with that? Well, I
Corinna Bellizzi: think that’s mostly true, but I will say hats off to the CEO and founder of Nordic naturals because this guidance also came from him. If anything, the goals I was creating for myself were even higher than the ones that he had considered.
And so every time I came to him with what I thought the plan should be, he was, you know, like, well, that sounds really good to me. And it’s not to say that he wasn’t aggressive in reaching. Once we had established the first two or three years of sales, we really got to the forward planning of saying, what is our overall objective going to be this year?
How are we going to get there? You know, what percent of revenues are we going to dedicate to sales, et cetera, et cetera. But I’m really speaking about that first launch phase because. Well, shoot yourself in the foot. If you put goals in front of people that, that are later determined to be unrealistic, sometimes I think especially entrepreneurs are, have very lofty goals and if they’re not capable of actually reaching those goals in the beginning, the people that they brought on the bus to be part of it could serve to be discouraged and even leave the company because, oh, well, they’re not reaching what they on.
Sean Weisbrot: What was the hardest thing about building this program and what percentage of the ideas you tried since,
Corinna Bellizzi: as far as what percentage of the ideas I tried succeeded, I’m always building what I think will work for a company I’m working with based on what I know and what I know is continually changing and improving.
And so even programs I have worked in. That may not have succeeded as much in the beginning, I would simply adopt and say, okay, well this piece of this program, isn’t working very well, but what is working within this program? Oh, well this, this and this are so therefore I should just tweak this piece on it.
Like just fine tuning to the point where suddenly you have a, let’s say sales program that is really motivating to the retailer or to the business that you’re working. You know, one of the things that you find in a growing business and the consumer products and goods space is that if you’re selling through retail shelf space is at a premium shelf.
Space is also critically important to the success of your brand, where you’re placed in the store. How many facings you have. So developing programs that motivate that particular customer to partner with you. Can we really, really important and doing them on a volume based perspective can work great for, let’s say many of the multi location chains, but maybe not as well for the mom and pop shops who might be moving a considerable amount of product on a per location basis.
So what I work to do from that perspective, Was create programs that would enable smaller retailers who dedicated more shelf space and who proved that they dedicated more shelf space either via their broker representative or photographs or whatever, similar levels of discounts that the larger chains might receive simply for their level of commitment, because that level of commitment essentially.
To their entire consumer audience. This is a brand we trust and love when it’s placed at eye level or on an end cap and consistently promoted with really nice shelf presence. Then that’s something that should be, let’s say acknowledged and rewarded. You know, some of that was trial and error figuring out, you know, what that level should be based on how many skews you have.
Let’s say in a lay person’s term, how many products you had, sizes shapes, flavors, since things like that. You mentioned
Sean Weisbrot: something really interesting. So I want to get into it a little bit more. The idea of working with retailers, probably a lot of people listening to this have also watched shark tank. I imagined and on shark tank, they’re like, I can get you into Walmart.
I can do this. I’m going to, for people who don’t have those connections, how do you convince people to give you a chance and give you shelf
Corinna Bellizzi: space? A lot of times that is through just making sure that you have a really solid. Background on your company, like you have developed your sales pitch, you have developed something that resonates with that particular audience.
You have packaging that is appealing. You have a promotional strategy that the retailer knows can work for them, and that you’re willing to showcase for them that you’ll make it. So one of the things that I often did when I was presenting to chains like GNC or vitamin Shoppe or whole foods, or Walgreens was developed what I called, like the partnership pitch, you know, what you were willing to do and what you wanted to ensure was part of your baseline agreement.
And that might be as simple as saying, we want to ensure that. Participating in four promotions every year at X percent. And we’re willing to back those up with off shelf placement, which you’re usually paying for, with a lot of these large retailers in addition to participation in your webinar program and, and, and, and just make sure that as a package, it looks like something that could help your brand to succeed in this.
Because if that piece is left out and it’s just presented like, oh, here’s our product and isn’t it. Great. Sure. It’s great. But look at what, you know, these competitors of yours are doing to help me move the product that gives me faith. That they’ll move the product. If it’s a press clipping where you were mentioned and women’s world magazine or on Oprah, or, you know, whatever, like whoever the media giant is at that particular moment in time, you could showcase that in your presentation and, you know, really understand that being succinct.
But also providing enough detail to show that you’ve thought it through is very helpful when you’re trying
Sean Weisbrot: to get a chance with a retailer who doesn’t know you, do you go for like the owner or do you go for a manager? Like who do you target to really get their attention? Like, who’s the most likely person in that organization to actually make it possible for you to get to a yes.
Even if they’re not the one saying. That is a
Corinna Bellizzi: question that sometimes hard to figure out. And that’s where I have always leaned back on the sales reps who work that particular account. Um, this is why it’s so critical and important that you hire people, even if they are on a contract basis that really know their accounts and partner with their accounts that have a good relationship with that account.
And sometimes I’ve just networked with other. Companies in my industry to say, okay, I’m having trouble getting into this particular retailer. I’m just going to use a mother’s in Southern California. They’ve got a chain of about seven stores. They were recently bought as in like in the past five years by a conglomerate.
And so they’ve gone from being independent to not so much. So their buying systems changed a bit, especially for a period there. It was a little tough to get new products approved, whereas before it would happen, like snap, snap, snap, I had to connect with other men. Who had really strong sets in their stores in order to ensure that I was apprised of and knew who was actually making the decisions so that I could then target that particular person.
This is one of the reasons I’ve always thought it was really important to keep friendly relations with other brands, whether or not they were competitors, because the reality is, I mean, you’re in this together, you’re in this industry together and you don’t know where you’ll end up and where that valuable intelligence could come from this next time around.
So I always even developed strong partnerships and relations. The people that were in my competitive space specifically in omega-threes. And that’s
Sean Weisbrot: why through the podcast, I’m building a CEO community. I mean, I’ve already got almost 200 CEOs of varying industries and varying sizes in different countries.
I mean, I don’t know if any of them are going to provide any value in the future to me, but maybe they’ll provide value to each other. And that’s what I’m looking for is to help them
Corinna Bellizzi: help. Commiseration is not undervalued. Like sometimes if you’re just having a tough time getting through, getting to a guest, getting to the right person, even just talking to someone who’s been there, if it’s even with the same account can help you to kind of, oh, well, I hadn’t thought about doing that.
Interesting. Yes. Maybe I will go look at LinkedIn for the six people that report to them. Kind of create a soft sell approach to them. I don’t know. It’s just, you know, who do you need to develop advocates? Where do you need develop advocates in order to ensure that you’re successful in that presentation with a big retailer, like Walgreens or Walmart or something to that once
Sean Weisbrot: you’ve started working with a retailer and they can kind of see you performing, how do you convince them to give you better shelf presence?
Is it something that they offer to do or do you have to ask for it or do you have to pay for it with an ask? How, how
Corinna Bellizzi: does that. That varies so much by retailer. So I can’t answer the question in a blanket statement, but what I will always say is it never hurts to ask and sometimes asking is all it takes.
So, you know, why are I have a lot of familiarity with the vitamin shop? The vitamin shop is a retailer. Doesn’t really set brands necessarily together, right? If you have an omega-3, so they make a three section, but your prenatal DHA, that is also a mega three, isn’t going to be with the will be in the prenatal section.
You’re not going to get cross merchandise. Right. But some retailers will cross merchandise you and they will give you an entire omega-3 set. And then also placement in the prenatal section. Ultimately, typically they make those decisions based on performance and more and more going straight to metrics like, oh, how well is this brand doing?
I am having trouble keeping enough inventory of their product on. And in the backstock because I only have two skews and a certain set of how much I can have in the backstock inventory. So if I give them more shelf space, I’m less likely to run out of inventory, which will positively impact my revenues.
So there’ll be more open to doing that. And sometimes it’s just learning to talk in their language. Like, are they like Walgreens looking at performance per square inch? Or are they looking at. And so you need to understand what the perspective of that retailer is, and then frame your ask with regard to what that perspective is.
Sean Weisbrot: I’ve never been in physical products. So this is all very new and interesting to me. You said earlier, you sometimes had goals that were loftier than the CEOs. Did you think you were going to do a billion and you hit a hundred? Did you think you’re going to do 50 million and hit a hundred? How did your goals match up with reality
Corinna Bellizzi: over time?
You know, my projections were always really close to accurate because I was basing it on not only cycles of seasons, but what I knew the pipeline to be, you know, I’m talking about the broader scope, right? Like I might come in and say, You know, I really think we can achieve 20% growth this year. And my CEO would say, I think 15 is realistic and attainable, and 20 might be our stretch goal.
And so he’d say, look, I’m willing to dangle another carrot for you. If you can hit that 20, you’ll get this extra bonus. However. You know, I was also a very ethically minded sales person and I wasn’t someone who would suddenly go okay, in a year, I’m going to just, you know, push, push, push, and get that number.
You know, I think that instilling something like that with the wrong person in charge could lead you to pull sales into one year out of the other. Or if you were so far off from reaching that goal, you might push it into the future year. So I think from a compensation perspective, those in the executive seats need to be wise about how they incentivize their sales team.
I have known my brokers when I gave specific goals and stretch goals to kind of keep sales and back pocket and push them into the next month, if it was going to mean that they’d reached the objective more easily in the next month, if they were a little too far from goal this month. And so I just, I think you have to keep all of those things in mind.
I think I kind of introduced a new topic there though. Didn’t I. Sales compensation, how you motivate people. It is
Sean Weisbrot: something I haven’t really covered on the show
Corinna Bellizzi: yet. There’s so many ways to compensate people and to keep them accountable. And you have to really, when you’re structuring a sales comp plan, you have to be very mindful of where people will take advantage or not.
And I guess the broader stroke for you is as simple as saying, you know, I was often looking at the bottom line and. Look, we’re paying our brokers 15%. We really could at this stage, reduce their commission to 12. I think that would make sense for us. And I was reporting to a CEO who, who was like looking at the market and saying, you know, we can afford to pay 15 and I want to keep their focus at the level it is.
And he could have been right. We continue to succeed. So even the goals I was putting in front of myself were like, okay, we can refine this. We can build a more profitable model with that extra 3%. I could do more X, Y, and Z from a marketing perspective. And that went. To achieve this other objective. So I just think it’s all where your headset is, in my opinion.
And you know, my goals weren’t ever so lofty that it was like, okay, we easily could have attained another 120% of objective or something like that. It was just typically a little bit more aggressive even than what my CEO would want
Sean Weisbrot: from me that I can find someone like you that’ll have larger goals than me.
Cause the goals I have are already quite low. I
Corinna Bellizzi: look at it like this, this comes down to psychology too. I studied showed a Khan karate in college, and one of the things they say is they’re not ever aiming to hit your target, you’re pushing through. And so you aim beyond your target. If you take that perspective to everything you’re doing from a selling perspective, then you’re more likely to reach the objective.
And so I think that just is natural to me. To want to exceed the expectation, not to under promise and over deliver, but to be realistic and to then seek to just smash that objective.
Sean Weisbrot: Was there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share to kind of help close out the
Corinna Bellizzi: episode? I’d just like for people as they.
Consider their lives and business to think more broadly about the people that they’re connected to and how they collaborate and understand that. If you take the approach of seeking to understand before putting a new plan in place of seeking to understand before commencing an initiative of seeking to understand.
Background or their culture before implementing anything that you’ll have more success just generally speaking. And that could be on a sales call that could be in developing a marketing plan that could be in hiring a new set of employees. If you keep an eye on the human element of what you’re doing, you will be more successful.
Sean Weisbrot: words. How can people follow up?
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I am on LinkedIn. They can connect with me there easily. Uh, I also have a podcast called care more, be better, and this is my personal initiative. It’s a social impact and sustainability show. And I really just feature the stories of inspiring individuals and conscious companies that I think deserve more airtime.
And this is a passion project for me. It’s not monetized, it’s not anything I gained money from, but if there are people that are in your listener set, they’re doing. Well things I might want to tell their stories too. So I would encourage them to check out the podcast and that’s firstname.lastname@example.org and on LinkedIn I’m Corina blizzard.
Uh, linkedin.com/in/c, but Lizzie it’s barely. All
Sean Weisbrot: right, great. So if you liked this episode, definitely reach out to Corrina. I’ll have all the ways to contact her in the show notes. Don’t forget that entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. So take care of yourself every day, and don’t forget to take care of the people that help you sell your products, because if you don’t, then you won’t have people to sell your product.
And then you won’t have a brand for very long, 100%. Thank you Corinna. Thank you.