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Promo Talk: Vicki Clayman, Partners N Promotions Inc.

Candid opinions from industry pros.

Vicki Clayman

  • President, Partners N Promotion Inc. (asi/350153) in Olathe, KS, and Brilliant Impressions LLC, Oklahoma City, OK
  • 33 Years of Industry Experience

What I Wish I Knew When I Started …
When I started at 27, I wish someone would have told me that I was not as smart as my fellow polyester-leisure-suited male peers, selling out of the trunks of their cars. What did I know? In 1984, I thought I was supposed to dress in a suit and heels, be professional and educate myself on the products. Nope, just put together a bunch of cheap promotional items, nothing over $3, and say, “Do I have a deal for you!”

What Frustrates Me the Most …
The most frustrating moments are when I present extremely creative ideas, samples and even specs to a client. Then Mr. or Ms. Loyal Customer calls me to say, “Mr. John Q. Promo Dude down the road dropped by today and said show me Vicki’s ideas and pricing and I will beat it any day of the week.” Oh by the way, Promo Dude feels samples and creativity are really overrated: “I just come in after the presentation and underbid everyone.” Promo Dude is like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz – if only he had a brain!

I’ll Never Do That Again …
Early on, I was sitting in front of a customer showing a Lucite easel clock. He asked me if it was a sturdy desk item for the price and was made well. Of course, being a reassuring salesperson who believed in my products, the answer was a strong yes. He then slammed the clock on the tile floor and looked directly at me for my reaction after it burst into pieces. It took everything I had not to flinch or look shocked. I did finally get the order.

If I Were Queen of the Industry …
I thought I already was! I have been called Queen Bee many times by suppliers (they know who they are), hopefully affectionately. I do hold people to promises. I feel that giving our word or promise should be taken very seriously.

What I Wish I Could Say to a Client …
“I didn’t order samples, come to your office, do a PowerPoint presentation and deliver your products just for my health. Pay your bill!”

Best Advice I Received …
Back in 1998, I read an article that stated beginning in the millennium, companies focused on a high level of service for their client base would be the most successful. Even as technology has become more prominent, I believe it will never replace human interaction. Relationship-building is much stronger when you’re interacting with a living, breathing human that can be spontaneous, laugh at jokes, look puzzled, ask questions and watch expressions. A top supplier recently came in and said, “Business goes where it is invited, and stays where it is appreciated.” How can you build that over email?

What Suppliers Can Do Better …
Do what you say and say what you mean, because one thing leads to another. We love our supplier reps. They come to see us, they show us new ideas. We get very excited, and then sometimes we find out, oops, there’s no stock! We love you guys; please love us back by not showing us product that won’t be in for months.

Stereotype About Salespeople I Hate …
We are self-serving, pushy, dishonest extroverts who are loud, disorganized, replaceable, manipulative and never stop talking. Sometimes we can’t help but tell customers what they need or want, because they just don’t know. Is that really manipulation? I like to call it persuasion.