A Little Something Extra: How to Add Value to Your Promo Orders
When people hear the term “upselling,” they might think of a sleazy car salesman trying to throw in some useless warranty or extra bells and whistles. Or maybe they remember their restaurant worker days of trying to get customers to add an extra shot to their margarita pitcher or a skewer of sliders to go in their bloody mary.
In the print and promo world, it’s a bit of a misnomer that does a disservice to what a distributor does with their customers. “Upselling” is really just helping both parties add value to their order. Yes, the distributor will get a bigger sale, but the client is coming out with more than they might have known they needed. That, in turn, can create a better impression with the end-user, and everyone wins.
So, let’s not call this a feature on the “tricks” of upselling. Let’s instead rebrand that process, and review some helpful hints to optimize the selling process for yourself as a distributor, your customers and the end-buyers.
To help, we spoke with Marc Hawkins, owner of HP2 Products & Promotions, Phoenix, about how he would recommend a distributor go about it.
Know Your Own Product
For starters, you can’t offer more (or better) products than what’s being asked about if you don’t know what you’re selling. That doesn’t just mean knowing your basic inventory. You need to know what makes each product special, and how it can best be applied to a promotion. With that, you can recognize when another product is a better fit for a project than what the client is requesting.
Take, for example, when a client asks for a specific pen. You, as a distributor, know that there are other pens on the market that might offer better value for the money.
“For instance, that client has a pen and it was China ink, you would basically turn the wheels and think you want to give them German ink, because German ink lasts longer and is a better ink,” Hawkins says. “I think the knowledge of products and the knowledge of working with suppliers to get that knowledge is one big way to upsell an item, because you have the knowledge to be able to do that and give them a better value or give them a better item for their money.”
Keeping with the topic of pens: Aside from offering clients a better item or a specific feature that they might not have inquired about, you can also throw in complementary products with that original ask. In this case, items like notebooks, notepads, pen cups or padfolios all go well with writing instruments.
Hawkins says that kitting remains all the rage, so giving your customers the option to create a full branding experience with multiple products, rather than one, can make a big difference.
“I think [kitting is] one of the big successes that’s happened with the COVID situation,” he says. “Basically, we were able to work with different suppliers and figure out how we can get a kit, how we can do an at-home kit or back-to-school kit, and I think that’s been a really big success. We did a kit for working at home, and basically what it was was a phone stand, it was a drinkware item, [and] it was a blanket, and I think those little things work together hand-in-hand.”
Hawkins points to other products that can be piggybacked on top of one another, like drinkware and coolers, chargers and power banks, and collections of apparel.
“I think that once we start getting back into the office, you’ll see more of a collection in regard to the colors or the brands,” he says. “Basically, what I’m talking about is, you have that hat, you have a T-shirt, you have a polo shirt, you have a ladies’ cardigan, and you have a jacket that work together as a brand and as a unit.”
An order like that could start with a company asking for T-shirts for employees working from home looking to feel connected, or as a welcome-back gift. Instead, it becomes a full apparel experience where the recipient not only feels even more appreciated by their employer, but the customer gets more brand visibility in the long run. And, ultimately, the distributor gets a better sale.
Know How to Present the Sale
The key in these situations is to make sure your customers know that you’re a partner in this process, not someone just looking to make a buck.
“I think it’s the perception, I think it’s how you’re selling it,” Hawkins says. “How you’re understanding the client, but also giving them more value and teaching them that you’re not just
there to order-take. You’re there to help them out and be successful with their brand and their products they’re trying to promote.”
To do that, he says that providing spec samples can take many deals across the finish line. Hawkins’ approach is to first address the client’s original order, while working with his supplier partners to showcase some other items that might be of interest. It’s hard to argue with his results.
“I’ve been in the industry for about 25-plus years, and it’s taken some time for me to understand that specs do sell,” he says. “They write checks. Basically, if somebody wanted an item, I would take care of that item, but then on the backside, what I would do is get some virtual, and I’d also get some ways of showing them that there’s either a great price on an item, or get some specs from ... any of my suppliers that have good programs, and send them a couple of those different specs. I would say probably 70% of the time, you’re going to get that order because it’s right there on the desk.”
At the end of the day, though, it’s about letting clients know you share the same goal: To create the best promotional campaign possible using the products available.
“Any supplier that helps, any item that helps, any way that you can create a vision or create a new identity, I think that helps with a client’s trust and their idea of getting some other items versus the one that they wanted,” Hawkins says.