How To Overcome Common Client Objections

Don’t be flat-footed when customers challenge your pitch. Be ready with thoughtful answers that have the power to turn no into yes.

No matter how solid your company’s sales and marketing strategy is, every organization inevitably comes up against discerning customers who simply lean more toward ‘no’ than ‘yes.’

What’s most frustrating is you might not get an explanation – just rejection. Sure, it’s true that sometimes clients just aren’t interested, but other times they just might not be well informed. It’s your job to show them value. With that in mind, here are some of the most common client objections – and advice for how to change their minds and ultimately earn the sale.

“Promotional products don’t give me enough bang for my buck.”

Years of data from ASI’s annual Ad Impressions Study ( – which measures ROI and buyer behavior – show that promotional products stack up quite well versus other ad media. The cost per impression of an ad specialty item is about half a penny. That’s less expensive than TV commercials, radio spots and print ads – and on par with the cost of newer media like Internet marketing.

Of course, ROI is only part of the cost equation. In many cases, customers have a limited budget, meaning you need to creatively craft a promotion that fits price-conscious clients. Margaret Von Gersdorff, owner of Premiere Promotional Products in Purcellville, VA, assures customers that she’s an expert at finding the right product for the right moment.

“Give me your audience, give me your budget and give me your timeline,” she says. “I’ll show you what will work for your price point. I will find that perfect piece because of my knowledge. I’m not going to sell anyone anything that’s going to break because I’ve physically touched all of the products. I’ve seen them before.”

Don’t forget, though, that many clients will appreciate seeing additional options that are slightly higher priced than what their budget allows. They might be willing to pony up more money if it means getting exactly what they want.

“Sorry, I really need to prioritize my company’s Web presence.”

It’s easy to scroll past an online ad and never think about it again. In fact, many Web ads get in the way of people browsing sites, streaming shows or playing games. Promotional products, on the other hand, are helpful to people. Pens, bags, T-shirts, power banks – the list goes on – they all have value. It’s also pretty hard to ignore the logo on the promotional product you use every day.

“Something I emphasize is the number of times something’s seen over and over again,” says Norbert McGettigan, COO of Impact Dimensions (asi/230321) in Pennsauken, NJ. “Think about the TD Bank logo on those green pens. Every time someone uses one of those pens, it subliminally reinforces the logo.”

A Facebook ad simply does not have that kind of staying power. If a client still needs convincing, remind them that even big dogs like McDonald’s and Pepsi use promotional products. “One of the best points that we reference to ambivalent clients is that all of the largest Fortune 500 companies use our industry to help deliver their message to the market,” says Ned West, senior partner and co-owner of HDS (asi/216807) in Pittsburgh. Not even the biggest brands can rely on their Web presence alone to build loyalty and increase sales.

“Who needs another promo product, anyway? People toss them.”

Logoed USB sticks, mugs, tote bags – everyone has them. ASI data shows the average American owns 10 promotional products and keeps each one for about eight months. Why? Because they come in handy. In fact, surveys show usefulness is the top reason why people hold on to ad specialties. Joan Doyle, principal and owner of the Philadelphia-based retail consulting firm Doyle + Associates, says, “The irony is that the things I tend to keep tend to be the things that are the least clever. Clever is nice, but something I’ll actually use is even better.”

Along those lines, whatever information appears on the promotional product has to make sense. People need to look at the product and understand what company it represents. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how useful that product is; it won’t make the necessary impression.

“Promotional products look cheap and I’ve heard some stuff is even unsafe.”

As a smart distributor, you need to test out every promotional product you pitch – or at least screen items through industry services like ESP. Being able say you use an item will usually quash concerns that a product is flimsy. “Quality doesn’t always have to be about price,” says Steve Goldberg, president of retail consulting firm The Grayson Company. “Quality means a lot of things. A quality product feels substantive and it’s made reasonably well. Its afterlife must succeed it being handed out.”

You also shouldn’t be blind to the fact that recalls involving promotional products can and have happened. “Distributors are becoming more vigilant regarding product safety,” says Margit Fawbush, communications manager at BIC Graphic (asi/40480). “Some product categories like power banks or skin care items require reliable product testing documentation to give clients peace of mind.”

If a customer has doubts, showing them proper safety documentation should calm their fears. If you’re selling promotional products that children might use, it’s best to get this documentation from suppliers early on in the process.

“I can find items for less online.”

This may be the most common objection of all. In the age of Amazon, consumers are quick to search online for the best deal they can get – and compare the price to other retailers. Within the ad specialty market, firms like Alibaba, Vistaprint and Custom Ink provide the toughest online price competition for distributors. End-buyers might not even know these companies sell promotional products, but a Google search will usually rank these sites fairly high.

Remember that you can sometimes prevent an online price comparison by offering an array of integrated products that can be built into a campaign. In essence, what you’re providing is a bundle of products and services. Customers are less likely to search online for a group of products if you’ve successfully presented a promotional package instead of singular products.

If customers are specifically interested in one product or a very small quantity, they may well look into Custom Ink and Vistaprint. The misnomer is that these sites are always cheaper – they aren’t. If you’re confronted with an instance when those sites can offer a better price, your primary counter should be this: you can offer a personal touch that online sites can’t. You can show clients, in person, samples of different fabrics, imprints, styles and finishes, plus serve as the direct point person for the order. If customers order from you, there’s no waiting on hold after dialing a 1-800 number or being backed up in the queue of an online service chat. Let’s face it – online proofs can be a challenge. Some customers want to take that hurdle out of the equation, and you can help.

In the case of Alibaba, know that its weakness in the marketplace right now is its track record of selling counterfeit products across its sites. Don’t be afraid to point this out. Stress to clients that you source from reputable manufacturers who review the quality control of each order. Your ultimate goal should be to play up the positives of what you can bring a client: in-person samples, better service, constant communication and a real person to follow up with. A website can’t offer that.

“People are just going to grab this off my expo table and forget about it.”

Sure, there are some people who scour trade shows purely in search of freebies. But your client’s promotional product doesn’t have to be just another item in the goody bag. Encourage your client to connect with their audience at all public events. Instead of handing out tumblers and stress relief balls and ending the audience interaction there, urge them to have a plan to communicate.

“At trade shows, you should always present yourself as inviting and approachable,” says Linda Milano, a promotional products and marketing collateral expert at CFB Promotional Products, a Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) dealer in New Jersey. “Don’t put up barriers, like having your people standing around and talking, ignoring the public. Be welcoming.”

Milano suggests that clients eliminate physical barriers between their representatives and their trade show audience. Instead of placing reps behind a table, place them in front of it. Also have reps actively engage with the audience. “If there’s a game at the booth, ask questions while the wheel’s spinning or someone’s tossing a beanbag,” she says. “If there’s a survey, don’t just hand someone a piece of paper and walk away. Learn more about why someone stepped into your booth.”

A great conversation will reinforce a great promotional product.

“My logo is too complicated or expensive to imprint.”

Here’s where it pays off to know good decorators. They can walk you through exactly what they need to produce a quality logo – and can let you know what decoration techniques work best with certain fabrics. It’s possible some logos won’t work well for shirts or jackets, but hard good suppliers do offer considerable options that can satisfy clients.

“A 3-D logo may look fancy on a website but end up being too expensive to print on a promotional product,” says Swire Ho of Garuda Promo and Branding Solutions in Los Angeles. “But there are a number of items where the supplier includes full color.”

If full-color printing isn’t included, there are ways to translate, say, a seven-color logo into a two-color logo. Providing the printer or decorator with a two-color logo from the start can cut setup costs. What if a two-color logo won’t do? Nudge the client to make the investment in the promotional product that makes the most sense for their target audience.