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Sales Strategies
Twelve Ways To Get More Revenue Now
By Shane Dale and Kenneth Hein

1. Prove ROI Of Promo Products

The basic ROI formula for the ad specialty industry, according to Gerry Barker, president of Barker Specialty Co. Inc. (asi/132690), is to subtract costs of the promotional campaign from the campaign’s objective, then divide that number by costs again: (objective - costs)/costs.

"For this formula to work, the objective and the costs must be both stated in either dollars or in some other category, but they must be the same," he says.

Here are two examples:

1. Safety Program: A company wants to reduce employee accidents over the upcoming year after incurring five accidents out of 10,000 man-hours worked last year. It institutes a safety program using a promotional product campaign that costs $10,000 for the year. At the end of the year, there were only two accidents at the company. Based on the reduction in accidents, the company determines via its insurance company the reduced premiums for the coming year. If premiums would have increased by $60,000 if not for the program, the calculation is ($60,000 - $10,000)/$10,000, for an ROI of 5, or 500%.

2. Sales Achievement: A mailing that includes a promotional product is sent to 500 people and results in 25 of those people calling the company and placing an order. Each order is valued at $100, resulting in $2,500 in sales (25 x $100). Since the mailing and products cost a total of $1,000, calculate ($2,500 - $1,000)/$1,000 for an ROI of 1.5, or 150%. Also, use ASI’s Ad Specialty Impressions Study (download a copy at www.asicentral.com/study) to show that the cost-per-impression of promotional items is far less than almost all other mainstream advertising media. – Shane Dale



2. Upsell a T-shirt 

Danny Tsai, vice president of marketing for Tri-Mountain/Mountain Gear (asi/92125), says the key to upselling T-shirts is to convince clients that plain, basic cotton tees are now widely considered "cheap giveaways" that customers are more likely to dry their car with than wear in public. "We all love basic tees, but sometimes, depending on the setting, whether it’s a corporate retreat or a golf tournament, you need something a bit dressier," Tsai says. "That’s where performance styles come in, because they’re casual and yet perfectly appropriate and presentable for any event involving activity or the outdoors."

Steve Garst, owner of Proforma Promotion Consultants (asi/300094), says distributors must concentrate on the fact that retail fashion tees are popular with the targeted under-30 demographic. "The 17- to 25-year-olds really like the alternative styles," he says. "I just think they’re more familiar with the brands, and fashion tees are fit more for their body style."

Comfort is another key to selling the more upscale T-shirts. "The finer-gauge fabrics are selling for us, along with the softer tees," Garst says.

Selling clients on the importance of going green is a winning strategy, too, as bamboo or organic cotton fashion tees are a hit with the younger crowd. "Everyone’s green conscious, and there are a lot of good trends there, too," Garst says. – Shane Dale



3. Sell High-End Apparel Decoration 

Four ways to convince clients on the use of more expensive decoration techniques, from Deborah Jones, founder of www.myembroiderymentor.com, and Joyce Jagger, the Embroidery Coach (www.theembroiderycoach.com):

1. An embroidered garment is more durable than a screen-printed item, so the customer will be wearing it to the mall a year from now, instead of wearing it while mowing the lawn.

2. An embroidered item is easier to care for than a screen-printed item. It can be washed like any other garment without turning it inside out or removing it early from the dryer.

3. Adding one-of-a-kind or exclusive designs to apparel (such as a custom monogram) will raise the value of the item and give customers the feeling of wearing designer clothing without the high-end price tag.

4. Offering uncommon add-ons such as sequins to a pair of jeans or a denim shirt can increase the item’s perceived value much more than a normal embroidered design and can command a much higher retail price. – Shane Dale



4. Motivate Sales Reps 

Keeping reps motivated during leaner times is not only essential for company morale, it’s crucial for many businesses’ survival.

One way to keep them performing is to get their competitive juices flowing. An incentive program, formal or otherwise, can help keep reps focused on the task at hand. Tonia Allen Gould recently challenged the sales reps at Tag! The Creative Source (asi/341358) to bring in five new accounts. Those who do will qualify to receive a new laptop. Quickly, one rep opened two new accounts. Gould says the program serves a dual purpose: "It’s to get new orders, plus some people have dying laptops. It’s good to give them what they need to do business."

"Salespeople by nature are very competitive," says Robert Tuchman, author of Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur’s Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own. "That means they are very competitive with each other. A simple wall of measures or sales office scoreboard can bring out a lot of energy and motivation from salespeople."

Linda Bishop, author of Selling in Tough Times, says the rewards don’t always have to be about the money. "Not all reps mind making less if they receive other benefits, like extra days off or flexible hours." – Kenneth Hein


5. Sell A Pen To A Pharma Client 

With recently-tightened PhRMA guidelines that disallow doctors from accepting promotional writing instruments as gifts, industry reps have had to come up with alternate strategies. "The days of handing out various products to offset the cost of physician’s office supplies have left us, and as a result, it’s required that promotional product distributors and their suppliers are creative and design, pitch, sell and manufacture an original concept that’s beneficial to both the physician and their patient," says Jason Emery, vice president of sales for Logomark (asi/67866).

Since filling a new prescription typically requires a piece of paper, a signature and a trip to the pharmacy, Emery says this provides distributors with the opening they need. "Providing a detailed piece of literature to send home with the patient has always proven to be helpful for those who are prescribed medications," he says. "The writing instrument is now inserted into a custom folio made exclusively for the drug being prescribed."

Emery recommends a metal pen, rather than a plastic one, to ensure that patients will keep and use it. "In these cases, the folio will be die-cut to suit an anatomical model or chart," he says. "One should include a writing instrument as well as an informative CD or flash drive describing the reasons as to why the drug was recommended, a detailed explanation of the symptoms incurred and possible side effects involved."

A branded notepad or stationery that allows the patient to take notes during the physician’s explanation of the medication is another great addition to the folio. "A well-thought-out and exclusive package will ensure the commitment of a pharmaceutical company to the recipient, as well as provide confidence to the doctor when discussing the medication with their patient," Emery says. – Shane Dale



6. Add Five Hours Of Weekly Selling Time 

ClockFour tips to ensure you’re spending more time selling, from Scott Gingold, CEO of consulting firm Powerfeedback (www.powerfeedback.com):

1. Get up early. A lot of businesspeople you deal with today are starting earlier. A lot of times, people have to get out of the mindset that the business day starts at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. It doesn’t. It starts earlier than that. I try to schedule myself a 6:30 a.m. coffee, 8 a.m. breakfast, another 10 a.m. coffee and 12:30 p.m. lunch.

2. Don’t sit at the computer all day. It’s easy to fall into the trap of checking e-mail every two minutes rather than setting up a schedule for it. Have selling time, whether it’s on the phone or face-to-face.

3. Consolidate appointments. If I’m getting in the car and have to drive 10 miles, I’d better be looking at that map and saying, "Who else can I see?" even if it’s just a courtesy call. If you’re right there, you might as well meet a current customer.

4. Reinforce a positive attitude. If you’re getting doors slammed in your face, pop in somewhere that loves you and loves your company. You’ve got to keep pushing that rock up the hill. – Shane Dale



7. Schmooze A Client With A Frozen Budget 

Piggy BankMany end-users in industries like auto, finance and real estate simply don’t have the dollars to spend like they used to. In order to coax the remaining dollars out of them, as well as keep them as a client when their marketing budget has thawed, distributors must stay in close contact.

Michelle Rallo, president of Corporate ID (asi/168943), does this by sending gifts. "One of my target accounts is frozen until the end of May, so I sent one guy a Fairways and Greens polo with the Dr Pepper logo on it," she says. "I still try and keep in touch with them to let them know I care, whether they’re spending money or not. I’ve also done a couple of lunches here and there."

For others the goal is to convince them that inaction is the wrong action, says Andrew Miller, president of ACM Consulting. "Show them the value they are losing by not making an investment," he says. "Talk to the client about what will be lost by not acting now. Identify the issue that would make their business better if it were resolved tomorrow and show the client the risks of not doing anything about it."

Having business metrics helps, says Jason Black, president of Boundless Network (asi/143717). "If you can speak in metric terms and how the solution that you’re proposing will help them with retention, development or acquisition, you’ll be more successful," he says. "It’s not about the cost, it’s about the opportunity."

Or go after an area they do not currently have a program for, like safety awareness, says John Festa, independent sales rep for Geiger (asi/202900). "It’s not about ideas anymore. Tell them you have a concept and they’ll go ‘Whoa, he has a concept.’" – Kenneth Hein



8. Provide PR Services For Clients 

Many distributors now consider themselves full-service marketing agencies. Rather than just being "the place you go to order some shirts," they are providing some of the services that other traditional agencies offer – like public relations help.

PR can prove daunting to those who have never been in the industry. However, just a few basic strategies can get you started. First off, understand that news organizations, whether it’s the local newspaper or a national magazine, love a good story. If your client has a case study or unique yarn to spin, share it.

Start by deciding which organizations you want to approach. Then find out the name of the proper editor and send them an e-mail with your pitch and contact information. Keep the message brief and always include art. Follow up with a phone call to see if they received your information. If it wasn’t good for them, ask if there is anyone else you should contact. To cast a wider net, try a wire service like PR Newswire to distribute your information to journalists across the country.

"Luckily, the media continues to need stories about interesting companies, offerings and ideas" says Dan Wiley, the head of public relations firm Lone Wolf PR. For both the distributor and the client, "Media stories can attract attention and then be used to distribute throughout the company to increase morale and create sales opportunities."

The same holds true for speaking engagements. Conference organizers are always looking for people to tell a story that can educate their audience. Pitch your business or your client as a featured speaker. – Kenneth Hein



9. Use Product Safety As A Selling Point 

As a distributor, it's crucial that you understand product safety laws and your clients know what is at stake.

The first step for any distributor is to get a handle on the products they are selling. Tonia Allen Gould, the head of Tag! The Creative Source (asi/341358), says, "I always play with items, especially the quirky ones. I received this squeeze solar flashlight and it fell apart into a zillion pieces in my hands. That will never get shown to a client."

Understanding which factories produce what products and their testing procedures is important, says Michelle Rallo, president of Corporate ID (asi/168943). "A lot of factories are making products free of toxins. I haven’t had trouble finding safe products that people were looking for."

"In this commodity industry, where customers can buy the same product from virtually any distributor or supplier, knowledge of product safety and compliance is a critical distinguishing factor and a major value add," says Rick Brenner, president of Prime Line (asi/79530). "In this environment, the distributor who understands product safety and compliance issues thoroughly and can impress upon the customer that he or she will protect their franchise – their good name – by making sure that any products sourced are safe and compliant, will have a huge leg up on its competition."

Also, simply understanding the regulation is a competitive advantage. – Kenneth Hein



10. Communicate A Price Increase 

It’s never an easy conversation when telling a client that you are now going to have to charge them more money. But, these days many are likely expecting it. This makes the discussion slightly less tenuous – however, distributors need to approach the situation cautiously.

For starters, it’s important to play up all of the positive aspects of your company beyond price. Dan Wiley, the head of public relations firm Lone Wolf PR, recommends highlighting the positive while downplaying the negative. "Show them all of the benefits, features and advantages of your company, products and services and downplay the increase," he says. "Focusing on all the wonderful things you continue to provide your clients is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down."

Also, make sure to give your clients plenty of notice. John Festa, independent sales rep for Geiger (asi/202900), suggests easing the information into the conversation by alerting the client that for their next order there will be an increase. "You need to explain it," he says. "They don’t want to be razzle-dazzled. They just want the truth."

"Explain your reasons and ask them for their understanding and support," says Lisa Hamaker of Kaliday Consulting. "Loyal customers who are working with your company for reasons other than price will appreciate your honest, direct approach and be less likely to move to your competition." – Kenneth Hein



11. Respond To An RFP

The request-for-proposal process is one that distributors need to be prepared for – especially these days when clients are trying to pinch pennies. Eric Gelb, a CPA who runs business Web site www.revenueminer.com, recommends putting a database of successful RFPs together. "Make a library of great RFP answers," he says. "Then adapt your experience and expertise to demonstrate why you are a great value add for this company. Also, budget your time carefully and prioritize the assignments you want to win." The Web site www.morebusiness.com offers this template:

Go over their requirements.

Discuss, in detail, each item in the RFP and how you intend to attack it.

Create a schedule. How long will each task take and when do you plan on starting?

Map out the cost. Include payment terms, discounts for early payment and other information.

Provide supporting information about similar projects that you have completed and include the results. Testimonials from clients and clips of any press generated from the program should be included.



12. Ask For A Referral

ReferralsReferrals are (dare we say it?) the lifeblood of any distributor’s business. Still, getting the referral tap flowing often takes some effort. Ann Latham, president of the consulting firm Uncommon Clarity, says, "First you need self-confidence. If you think your product or service has improved your client or customer’s condition, ask for a referral."

Be specific when making your request so you can make it easy for them to help, she says. Before approaching them, think "Who would I like to meet? What are the first three names that come to mind? Someone from a particular company? Someone with a known need?" Don’t make them try to select the perfect referral without sufficient information.

Hank Shaw, chief marketing officer for The Phelps Group, stresses the ability to read your client’s comfort level in providing referrals. Give them "an out if you think they might be uncomfortable providing the recommendation," he says.

For example, tell them, "We would appreciate this reference, but we understand if it against your company’s policy." Shaw suggests making the policy the bad guy, so it’s not a personal decision. – Kenneth Hein
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