Honda, Nestlé, Time Warner, TD Bank and Boeing – they’re all household names and Fortune 500 companies. What else do they have in common? Terri Yamate’s firm, Beyond Zebra (asi/138945), has earned orders from each of them. “All of Beyond Zebra’s clients receive the same high level of service,” Yamate says. “This is the secret to our success.”
Of course, Yamate concedes, making the right connections at corporations helps, too. “If we’re looking to get into a new company, we’ll generally focus on a specific individual with targeted calls and pitches,” she says. “After we’re established with a client, it’s always a good idea to make as many contacts as possible. Personnel change constantly, so it would be a disaster to develop only one good contact and then learn they’re leaving for a completely different, non-buying position.”
Working with Fortune 500 companies offers lots of opportunities for promotional products distributors. What are Yamate’s keys to success? Read on to find out.
Q: How do you sell to Fortune 500 companies?
A: We pride ourselves on assisting our clients throughout the entire creative process. We gather as much information as possible about the company and its projects, and make sure that the merchandise we provide fits the program. Marketing dollars are stretched thin these days, and we want to make sure that our products make the best use of every dime.
Q: What types of services, beyond promotional products, are large firms looking for?
A: Product safety has become a huge issue in the premiums world. We encourage our employees to educate themselves on the ever-changing CPSC and FDA regulations. We also keep abreast of social compliance standards, product integrity issues, environmental concerns, corporate synergy programs, copyright and trademark infringement and even royalty issues so that our contacts don’t have to worry about these things.
Q: Do you find your firm has to respond to lots of RFPs?
A: RFPs were really a huge issue about five years ago, with most of our Fortune 500 clients requesting them on a regular basis. We’ve found that they seem to have plateaued in the past few years with most of the requests coming from government offices. We don’t have a particular trick to winning RFPs, as these programs cut out any creativity and focus solely on price and delivery. We win our orders based on our creative development and tailoring products for specific parameters.
Q: How do you effectively negotiate with purchasing managers who only want the lowest price?
A:We always provide options. We find an item within the required parameters, but then we also suggest other items we think would work better for their program. Plus, we offer explanations as to why we have included them with a bid. Sometimes our reasoning will highlight the difference in quality or possibly an added safety factor. This way the purchasing manager can make a more informed decision.
Q: What’s the trick to retaining Fortune 500 companies as customers?
A: We teach our staff to always be honest and straightforward. There have been instances when we have referred a client to their own internal resources, and the client has returned to thank us for helping them save precious marketing dollars. In other instances, we’ve gracefully turned down orders that we felt were in conflict with a client’s corporate mission statement and would hurt the integrity of their brand. This way, clients come to understand that we’re not just trying to make a quick buck, and that we are looking to develop long-term partnerships.
Q: How do you thank your large customers for their business?
A: Most Fortune 500 companies have corporate gift policies in place that prohibit vendors from giving lavish gifts. We make a point of getting to know our contacts’ likes and dislikes so that we can target offbeat items that appeal to them personally. If a client is a health nut who is known to keep high-energy snacks in the office, we might have a glass dispenser customized and then fill it with their favorite trail mix. It’s not really about sending a lavish gift. The gift is about making a memorable impression.