Sales: Keep It Classic

As I sat in my car a couple of weeks ago, woefully stuck in traffic, I began to reminisce. I thought about how doing business is so much different today than it was 20 years ago. Back then, clients were happy to get a phone call returned within a week, as opposed to today where a 20-minute delay can sometimes make or break a deal. Back then we had to mail in artwork using UPS or FedEx, whereas today art is sent all day, every day by email. And deals were closed back then with a face-to-face conversation, not over the internet. As I laughed at myself for sounding so ancient, it occurred to me that many of the fundamentals of our business are still very relevant, and practicing them can help set you apart from the competition.

Never Be Late Or Just On Time. Arriving on time to a client appointment is late and it doesn’t reflect well on you. Make sure to arrive at your client’s office or meeting location 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time. This gives you time to gather your materials, walk to their office and arrive five minutes early. You would be amazed at how greatly such a small detail matters to your client. It tells them that you respect their time and thus you respect them.

Dress To Impress. You don’t have to wear a suit but just because your clients wear jeans to work every day doesn’t mean you should wear jeans to a meeting with them. The way you dress and present yourself becomes your identity—let it be a professional one. The old saying still holds true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Know Your Client. Research your client, not just the company. Prior to a meeting, check out your client’s social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. If he or she has a new baby, recently adopted a dog, went on a fabulous vacation or celebrated a win for their favorite sports team—these are great openers to a meeting. Acknowledging personal news goes a long way in letting your clients know that you are invested and interested in them as people—not just wanting their marketing dollars.

Be Prepared. Know what you are presenting prior to going into your meeting. What are the order minimums, pricing, production time, etc. on the products you are suggesting? More importantly, be prepared for possible snags or objections. It’s ok not to have all the answers, but you should have most of them without having to pore over a catalog or search a website with your client present.

Engage Your Client. When you arrive at a meeting, don’t just dump samples and catalogs on the client’s desk. As you are asking questions and presenting, if the client seems engaged in a product or idea, that’s the time to pull out a sample and talk about how it can be incorporated into a marketing solution. By being more purposeful in your presentations, you come across much more as a professional and less like a salesperson.

Limit The Choices. Don’t overwhelm your client with too many product choices or options. When choosing products to show clients in a meeting, limit them to no more than eight hardgoods and four apparel items. This allows you to guide your client in the direction you want them to go and for them to feel that you are coming in with true solutions, not just guessing at what products they will pick.

Ask For Recommendations. If you are presenting to a large group of prospects and clients for whom you have done previous work, ask a few to share feedback with the rest of the group about their latest experience with you. When others see their peers having great experiences, they may be encouraged to consider working with you as well.

Email Their Favorites. As soon as you get in your car after a meeting, send your client a quick email with a note of thanks for their time and attach pricing and pictures of the items they were interested in. This will remind them of what they liked and encourage them to place the order.

Handwrite Thank-You Notes. After an order closes and you know the client is happy, send them a handwritten thank-you note using a quality notecard or stationary. A personal note has so much power but is seldom used today so it will stand out among all the digital clutter in their world.

Remember Birthday Cards. Whether you use the postal service or an automated online service to deliver birthday cards, this small, personal gesture really does set you apart from those who simply post birthday greetings on Facebook.

This is not a profession where you can just call it in and expect extraordinary results. Success takes a purposeful intent on your part. Put your best foot forward every day and take the time to do the things that will make a difference. You will see the results.


A True Story Of The Power Of Promo

Unlike other advertising media, promotional products are much more than simply a way to publicize a business or brand. Their physical presence and long-lasting usefulness increase recipients’ engagement with the item, reinforcing the logo or message through multiple impressions. But beyond promotion, promotional products can play a part in life-saving campaigns—such as the infant sleeper imprinted on the front with "This Side Up" that was used in a hospital program to remind new parents that the safest sleep position for babies is on their backs.

Promotional products can also save the day for less critical but still important situations. Take the recent case of a lost purse.

Renée Jones, MAS+, CEO of A Creative Touch, Inc. in Wilmington, North Carolina, received a voicemail from a man asking if she had lost her purse. She was about to delete the message until he mentioned her business’s name. Evidently, he had found a purse with a business card holder inside that had Jones’s phone number on it.

As it turned out, the purse didn’t belong to Jones but to one of her clients. The business card holder was a self-promo item Jones had given to clients. Since the purse was found in Texas, Jones immediately called one of her Texas clients and asked, “Any chance you lost your purse?” The woman answered, “Yes! How did you know that?” Evidently, the client’s purse, along with several others, had been stolen the previous night. And although the wallet was missing, the imprinted business card holder was the clue that connected the purse with the owner. And that’s another reminder of the power of promotional products—and a story with a happy ending.


Michelle Sherwin, CAS, is the southeast account executive for Vantage Apparel, Inc. She is also the current president of the Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals. With over 20 years in the industry (18 years as a distributor and two as a supplier), her knowledge, experience and passion for the industry is contagious.

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Comments (1)
Bob Hafertepen
January 10, 2020
Well said Michelle! These fundamentals still hold true. It is still the personal touch that creates long-time, loyal, satisfied customers. If I may, I'll add one more - Never, never take your customer's for granted. We need to prove ourselves every chance we get.
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