Get Sales Rolling In 2021

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March 13, 2020 was the day COVID-19 “arrived” in the U.S. and shut everything down. I had just come back from a client lunch meeting and a text came across my phone that said my kids’ schools were closing indefinitely.

It was all over the news—business closings and shelter-in-place lockdowns were effective immediately for at least the next two months. Sound familiar?

Within 48 hours all orders (and inquiries) stopped. My promo sales and book of business came to a screeching halt. No emails. No phone calls. All my projects in the pipeline were cancelled. 

I absolutely freaked not knowing if, or when, I would make another sale. Fortunately, I have a very supportive team and a wife (who can walk me back off the ledge when my freak flag starts to fly), plus with more than 25 years in the business and a few tricks up my sleeve, I knew we would be OK.

But then I thought … what about those distributors in our industry who don’t have access to the resources and support network that I do? What about those who go month to month without a partner, community or coach/mentor to help them? None of us had ever been through a pandemic before and many of us were like deer in headlights. Something had to be done. Thirteen days later, we did something.

On March 26, 2020, “Distributors Helping Distributors” was born. It is a webinar series my business partner Michael Mahoney and I host for distributors to help them stay positive and informed with expert guest panelists and best-practice sharing to help them manage through the pandemic.

We started off with 20 distributors joining us and today our community is close to 1,000 strong. We have helped each other not only navigate, but thrive, in these most unusual and difficult times. Collectively, as a community, we have achieved hundreds of Paycheck Protection Program loans received, millions of personal protective equipment (PPE) items sold and thousands of promo friends helping one another. On January 20, 2021, we kicked off the year with a look at this year’s economy and what the future holds for promo businesses with our guest, nationally-known economist and futurist Roger Arnold. 

With a new president and congressional leadership in place, changes are coming. What will those changes be and how will they affect our economy, our industry and our sales? 

What we learned from Arnold is that the economic outlook, while promising, is something our industry should be paying very close attention to as workers go back to offices, the economy re-opens (after vaccinations) and the “new normal” changes what it will look like to serve corporate America.

And here’s the not-so-little secret: PPE is here to stay in our industry for a long time. So if you have gotten on the PPE sales bandwagon, keep riding it. If you have not yet sold PPE, it’s definitely not too late. 

Now, more than ever, it’s about seeing what’s coming around the corner and getting ahead of the curve. The days of being an order-taker are over. If you want to crush your sales in 2021 and beyond, it’s time to be proactive with your sales strategies and efforts, and to seize the golden opportunities that are in front of you as a promo distributor.

Here are three key takeaways from our January webinar to help you jumpstart sales this year:

PPE is here to stay (beyond 2021): The “permanent new normal” includes businesses, governments and communities using PPE for at least 20 years. So learn to sell PPE. It’s not too late and the opportunities are only going to increase for you and your promo business.

Target geographies: Target businesses and buyers by geography, as U.S. consumers, businesses and buyers will continue to move away from less-friendly business states—California, for example—to more friendly ones such as Florida and Arizona. As for the ripest industries to target now, focus on health care, work-from-home, technology and businesses, and services that accommodate an aging society (specifically, Baby Boomers).

 It will always be alright: Carry this confidence and mentality into your client relationships. Fear is rampant in our society and positioning yourself as an expert resource who can help your client manage through that fear, with products and services that help them, will help you separate yourself from the competition and build loyal client relationships.

Where do you start? Don’t worry, just do it. Here are three steps you can take now to accelerate out of your post-pandemic slump and get things rolling on the sales front:

Sell PPE: Our industry suppliers have pivoted to this category of products and so should you if you haven’t already. There are countless product options available from U.S.-based suppliers to help your clients outfit their employees and offices to reopen safely. And they will definitely be ordering, especially as their teams return to offices and shared spaces. They are either going to order from you or someone else. Make it you. I cannot tell you how many dozens of distributors I know in our community who had record sales in 2020 because of their PPE sales. Get on board.

  Leverage your network: Long-standing client and business relationships, friends and family need to know what you are up to. One thing I like to do is an annual update on my business (sort of like a State of the Union) to my network via LinkedIn, telling them what I have been working on and my big goals for the year. Then I ask them to help me. If we don’t communicate, how will they know how to help us? And trust me, your network wants to help you if you tell them how.

Get strategic with your sales efforts: The days of order-taking are long gone. If you are tired of being priced out against buyers who search the internet, and selling for low margins, then drive your sales. Build long-term, loyal client relationships by targeting a specific industry and becoming an expert in servicing those industry buyers. I have sold tens of millions of dollars with great margins by leveraging this approach. You can, too.

You know what is coming around the corner. And now you know what to do. Things will get back to a “new normal” and when they do, be ready to seize the opportunity. If you prepare now, you will experience tremendous sales growth and success in 2021.   


Josh Frey is founder of Falls Church, Virginia-based distributor On Sale Promos and the Swag Coach Program. He is a 25-year industry veteran and front-line sales coach. Visit to register for the next Distributors Helping Distributors show and to view past shows.

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