Selling Tips for Promotional Product Distributors

You are your strongest selling point. But you’re also your greatest villain.

In an industry where competitors often have access to the same products as you, your success depends on your ability to connect with clients – to build relationships, deliver creative ideas, and provide service that makes customers’ lives easier. When things are going well, you thrive. When you fall into a personal or professional funk, though, your sales will undoubtedly suffer.

So how can you stay motivated and energized – even in the face of constant life and work challenges? Well, you’re going to need a guide, and this is it. Follow along as we present 21 tips to inspire you to be at your very best and stamp out negativity for good.


Define Personal Success

It’s impossible to hit a target if you don’t have one. It’s up to you to tack up the bull’s eye and take aim. That’s where success starts – in knowing what you want. So before laboring through another day, do some soul searching. What does success mean to you? What do you want out of life? Write down answers to these and similar questions. Then, develop a plan for reaching your goals. Dig into the details, and come up with specifics for how you’ll meet objectives. One goal might involve sales quotas, while another might be making it to your daughter’s dance class every Tuesday. You get one life. Make it good and make it your own.

2. Embrace Obstacles
Everyone faces roadblocks on the path to their goals. But instead of bemoaning the fact, take action. First, recognize that obstacles are a reality. Then, anticipate what they’ll be and plan for them. For example, if you know an order is totally customized, realize there could be design or factory issues. Work with your supplier to have a backup plan in case there’s a product holdup. It sure beats being stuck in a last minute scramble drill. Once you clear the hurdle – whatever it is – reflect on what the experience taught you, good and bad.

3. Sssssshhh!! Listen
You know the saying about two ears and one mouth, right? Well, take it to heart. Salespeople who listen closely and fully understand clients’ needs often generate commission tallies that create envy, so work hard on becoming an exceptional listener.

For starters, focus on making eye contact. “Don’t stare at the person dead in the eyes as this can be seen as too intense or even intimidating, but rather, look slightly off center to the left or right eye,” says Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist and executive coach.

Next, ask open-ended questions, paying close attention to clients’ answers rather than thinking of how you’ll respond. While the person speaks, says Alpert, listen with empathy. Put yourself in their shoes, and pepper in phrases like “yes” and “I understand” to show them that they’re being listened to. Also, avoid interrupting and jumping to a conclusion.

4. Stop Slouching!
Your kindergarten teacher was doing you a solid when she demanded that you sit up straight. A range of studies have shown that proper posture yields a wealth of benefits. They include reduced stress, better breathing, less back/neck pain, improved memory function and more. Plus, carrying yourself with an open, straight-backed posture stimulates increased feelings of power and assurance – an energy sure to be felt by prospects who are always more apt to buy from a confident professional.

5. Ditch the Debbie Downers
You know who we’re talking about: The perpetual whiners. The people who look for the one cloud in an otherwise blue sky. These energy vampires can suck the color out of your world. Distance yourself from griping, gossiping coworkers and helicopter parents who love to complain about the tee ball coach. Spend your time with positive people who smile and make you laugh.

6. “Don’t Sell, Serve”
Recast your thinking about sales. Don’t go into a meeting with a prospect driven by the thought I’ve got to land this deal. Instead, go in thinking I’m going to use my expertise to help this person be as successful as possible. When you think this way, you’re best prepared to carry out a consultative strategy – one that puts the client first. That often leads to sales taking care of themselves. “Don’t sell, serve,” says Marilyn Suttle, a success coach and business author.

7. Strengthen Your Strengths
As the owner of a fast-growing residential real estate firm in Georgia, Peter Vekselman knows a thing or two about sales success. His advice for invigorating sales? “Improve the skill set you are best at – whether it’s cold-calling, selling one-on-one, prospecting, networking, negotiating or closing,” he says. “You can turn your strength from a 75 to a 90 with a little work and effort. By focusing on what you do best, you can sell more and become more profitable.”

8. Set Aside Daily Soul Time
Motivational speaker Tom Ingrassia believes that when you’re happy in your life, you’re most capable of helping others – something that’s vital in today’s world of consultative sales. To maintain a healthy, happy state, Ingrassia recommends blocking out time each day for soul-satisfying activities. “Meditate, listen to music, run/walk, read, work in your garden, hide or daydream,” says Ingrassia, president of the MotivAct Group. “You will clarify your goals and envision the road map to get from where you are to where you want to be.”


Get Up Earlier

Make it a goal to pop out of bed at or before 5:30 a.m. Then use the time productively to do things like exercise, meditate, get a head-start on work and more. By rising well before the sun does, you minimize external distractions. The jolt of empowerment you’ll feel from accomplishing tasks early will invigorate you throughout the day.

10. Be Unselfish
Perform random acts of kindness daily, help colleagues and friends in need, and consider volunteering time for worthy causes. “When you feel a lack of motivation, the best thing to do is to help someone else,” says John Paul Engel, a motivational speaker and entrepreneurship lecturer for the University of Iowa JPEC program. “You’ll get an immediate shot of motivation. You’ll realize, ‘If I can help them, then I have the power to help myself.’”

11. Believe In What You Do
Promotional products work. You know that firsthand from the results you’ve engineered for clients. Keeping these positives in mind will motivate you and boost your confidence in prospecting. “When you offer a product or service that you genuinely believe will be of value, it takes the ‘take’ out of selling,” says Marilyn Suttle, a success coach and business author. “You can’t help but feel inspired to make a difference through your work.”

12. Write Daily To-Do Lists
A list of things you need to accomplish on a given day keeps you on track and even helps reduce anxiety. Whether the night before or early the morning of, write down the tasks you intend to tackle. Prioritize, putting essentials at the top and devoting your efforts there first. Of course, life may get in the way and you could have to deviate a little from your plan, but having a roadmap to work off of will make you more efficient and productive.

13. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Not much of a reader? Challenge yourself to read three self-improvement books before the Fourth of July. Something of a couch potato? Make it a goal to walk for a set amount of time each day. Reality TV junkie? Take a few trips to museums and art galleries. The idea here is this: When you break routines and get outside your comfort zone, you gain new perspectives and make discoveries you never would have otherwise. That’s energizing. It helps you grow as a person, and has the potential to make you more relatable, creative and attuned to clients’ needs when you’re on the job.

14. Stay Quenched, My Friends
Staying properly hydrated gives you more energy, allows you to think clearer, and can even help you lose weight by reducing the urge to snack. “The ‘eight-glasses-a-day’ rule isn’t hard and fast, but it’s a nice benchmark to aim for,” says Julia Miller, a nutrition specialist and health coach at LifeDojo. “Keep a water bottle handy when you travel, plus one on your desk to reach for throughout the day.”

15. Step Up Self-Promotions
Prove your marketing acumen – and the brand-building power of promo products – by executing savvy self-promotions that incorporate merchandise with your branding.

For instance, come up with cleverly themed direct-mail campaigns that include new products that will appeal to recipients – be they existing clients or prospects.

Don’t underestimate in-person self-promos, either. Annually, Kimble Bosworth and her team at Proforma Printelligence (asi/491390) fill Proforma-branded bags with about $200 worth of promotional products – items that represent the various product categories they sell. Through the course of the year, Bosworth and her coworkers take the “Random Bag of Ideas” on in-person cold calls and leave them at various businesses – a tactic that leads to a bevy of quote requests.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with branded items you can give away at a moment’s notice. For example, keep microfiber screen-cleaning cloths in your car, and hand them out at networking events and social functions where you meet prospects. Anyone with a mobile phone will appreciate the cloths.


Just Do It Already!

Chronic procrastinating can kill your career. One tip executive coach Jonathan Alpert recommends for conquering procrastination is to break large tasks and goals down into smaller ones. Then, he suggests, write down a reasonable plan for accomplishing what you need to do. “This will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed,” says Alpert.

Additionally, visualize the positive outcomes that will result from taking action. “Draw a line down the middle of a page,” says Alpert. “On the left side, list how life will be better should you accomplish your tasks. On the right, list how it will be if you don’t. This will yield powerfully motivating information.”

Alpert also thinks language matters a lot to our psyche. That means we should “avoid phrases such as ‘I can’t’ and ‘I have to’ and replace them with ‘I will do this now’ and ‘I choose to do this,’” he says.

17. Ask for More Referrals
Everyone knows you should ask for referrals. But how often do you?

If you could be more consistent, then commit to increasing the number of referrals you earn. After delivering on an order that pleases a client, ask him to refer you to another person who can benefit from the services and solutions you provide. Another thought: be generous about giving referrals to clients and others in your network – that encourages them to reciprocate the favor. Also consider starting a referral incentive program in which you reward clients who connect you with new customers. Rewards can include anything from gift cards to discounts on a future order. Just make sure these incentives lead to personal introductions. Anything less and you’ll likely be wasting your money.


Expand Your Network

Participate in networking groups and events that let you connect with people and entrepreneurs from a variety of fields. “This brings the multifold possibilities of joint venturing in ways previously uncontemplated,” says David T. Fagan, author, speaker and CEO of Icon Builder Media. “Use the momentum and increased exposure from those new connections to open new doors for yourself and your business.”

19. Try Yoga
The popularity of yoga is exploding. There are ample reasons why. Yoga benefits include everything from increased flexibility, strength and tone to improved respiration, cardio health, energy, weight loss and protection from injury. Also, note that yoga practitioners recently made more than $16 billion worth of yoga-related purchases in a year’s time. That means there’s a chance you could meet professionals you can turn into clients while at yoga class. Namaste.

20. Leverage LinkedIn
Sure, you can use the platform for networking, staying top of mind with clients, connecting with prospects and learning from the content others post. But even more fundamentally, you need a decent profile because prospects are going to check you out on LinkedIn. Make sure what they find shows you at your best. Feature a well-lighted, high-resolution headshot. Share your values in the summary section and post accomplishments in the experience section. Endorse others and get endorsements in return. Include testimonial videos. Consider writing long-form posts and other content that will be of value to clients and prospects.

21. Celebrate Success
Daily demands often leave little time for enjoying successes. Even so, you risk burnout by plunging from one task to the next. So, from time to time, especially when you reach a lofty goal, celebrate achievements with gusto. “We need to reward ourselves once in a while,” says Michael Annese, author of the personal leadership development book The Victory Cycle. “It’s critical that we enjoy ourselves along the way.”

Christopher Ruvo is a senior writer for Advantages. Tweet: @ChrisR_ASI. Contact: