Wow Your Prospects And Earn Their Business
The best part about being a salesman in this industry is that it gives you the ability to work with any business, large or small. That potential is what originally attracted me to becoming a promotional products professional while still in college. I saw that this business would allow me the ability to work with companies I grew up admiring—the sports teams I always cheered for and the biggest and most revered brands in the world. With the right strategy and a little bit of gumption, I was convinced that I could get in front of my dream clients and win them over. I was right.
Starting out, I felt my biggest weakness was my age. I was right out of college and I thought, “Who would trust a young guy with a $50,000 order?” I decided to change my mindset and became determined to earn clients’ trust. My first trophy sale came three months later when I signed the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team.
To get that first sale, I strategically focused on sports teams. First, I created a master list of every Major League Baseball team, including owners’ names, ticket box numbers, suite directors, marketing directors and, in some cases, foundations associated with the team and/or owners.
Having grown up outside Washington, D.C., the Nationals were my favorite team, so I made my first call to their office. I called every person on my list who was associated with the team. The assistant to the wife of the CEO finally took my call and asked questions about me and my business. After a lovely conversation, I thanked her by sending her an Edible Arrangement (at the time I didn’t know enough about promotional products to use them for this purpose), and shortly thereafter she connected me with the team’s buyer. My agency was given the opportunity to create season-ticket holder gifts, and the team also eventually ordered home plate-shaped leather mousepads.
I’m 29 now, and my distributorship, Whitestone Branding, recently celebrated its fifth year in business. What I’ve learned over those years is that it’s important to build and implement a multi-channeled sales strategy if you are going to create and maintain a seven-figure book of business. We’ve been able to determine the strategies that work for us—and those that don’t—in terms of getting in front of new target businesses. Our most successful tactics include traditional cold calling, preparing sequenced mass email campaigns, and walking into prospective businesses to introduce ourselves and what we do. And never forget the significance of following up the old-fashioned way—by phone—and the benefits of engaging in creative campaigns that separate you from your competitors.
Above all else, the key to wowing your prospects is communicating that you’re thinking about them. Simple follow-ups such as sending thank-you cards, taking the time to remember a birthday or anniversary, and sending a gift or branded self-promo are all small things salespeople can do to make a lasting impression.
Recently we created our best campaign to date. It’s called “Let Me Get A Slice Of Your Time,” and is by far the most unique and successful campaign we’ve ever run. Here’s how it worked: We designed and had printed 100 specially-branded pizza boxes. Then, using a list described below, my team of seven and I personally delivered pizzas to 100 prospective businesses we aspired to work with.
We are lucky to be in the Big Apple near an almost limitless number of target brands; however, building the list of prospects was easier said than done. We began by targeting industries we identified as good fits for our business. Weeks of planning went into building the lists, determining the most efficient delivery routes and timing the delivery schedule. Our goal was to create awareness of our services and set up a meeting with the company.
We made our deliveries around 9 or 10 am, rather than lunchtime, so we could more easily catch our prospects in the office. We also did not ask for any time with our prospect then, but many times we were able to set up a meeting for another day.
The promotion attracted a lot of attention. Even the pizza shop where we bought our pies has since inquired about having us help them with an extensive rebrand for the launch of their new family franchise.
The overall response to this campaign has been sensational. Not only did we wow our prospects initially, but we got what we wanted. Nearly 80 percent of the companies that received our pies agreed to a meeting.
Landing a meeting is one thing, but getting the breakthrough sale must be earned. Many times, getting to write that P.O. comes from forming a bond of trust with the prospect.
One of my favorite things to mention when speaking with a prospect is that we understand that existing relationships are likely in place. With that in mind, we pledge to work harder, be more creative and offer a higher level of service to win their business on merit. Having that mindset has motivated me to come up with ways to turn any weakness into a strength, and to back my words with action.
Differentiating our business from other distributors and product sources is also important. For example, we are careful to avoid making product presentations the way other distributors do. One of the many ways we wow our customers is with custom-branded catalogs for almost every opportunity. Even if a customer simply wants 100 ceramic mugs, rather than sending links to supplier websites or making a SAGE presentation, we prepare custom PowerPoint presentations with four to six options already mocked up and priced based on their artwork. Going above and beyond to wow customers with service and originality makes a difference.
While the industry is becoming more and more consolidated with larger distributors and online options, my experience is that buyers—especially the big clients—tend to prefer a relationship above all else. Just because their annual sales are growing doesn’t mean you will become obsolete. At least not anytime soon.
Wowing your customers is all about performance. Showing your customers that you are willing to earn their business, go the extra mile and differentiate yourself from the competition will make you stand out and shine. With a little hunger, a little patience and a lot of practice, you can find your own unique way to wow your prospects and turn your dream prospect into your dream client.
Joseph Sommer is president/CEO of distributor Whitestone Branding with offices in Newburgh and Brooklyn, New York. A native of Bethesda, Maryland, he earned his Bachelor of Entrepreneurship from Johnson & Wales University.