How One Distributor's Cold Call and Persistence Turned Into a Long-Term Customer
It’s no secret that a lot of successful sales relationships are built on personal touches and making the effort to show clients that you care. But, in the age where communication is so easy it becomes impersonal, making sure to give your customers a little face time (and making them feel important) can go a long way.
Kevin Lloyd, a consultant for Safeguard, Allentown, Pa., landed a long-term client based on his attention to their needs and personal effort.
Promo Marketing: Do you have a promotion stands out as one of your best?
Kevin Lloyd: As far as dollar volume, our average sale isn’t very large. We do a lot of small orders—checks, small promotional product orders, small apparel orders, things that a lot of vendors don’t even want to bother with, so it’s kind of our niche. But we do have some big customers and we do have some online stores. The one that sticks out in my mind is, we had our local hospital I was calling off and on. The person was receptive—she was a nice lady. For about six or seven months, I was just leaving information and catalogs. One day she called me and it turned out we got the account. And it’s been our top customer for probably the last eight or nine years. Their sales vary. Some years it’s as low as $30,000, but others it’s as high as $100,000. We do a lot of business with them, and it was basically just a cold call situation where the lady appreciated me stopping by, and one day her promotional products guy in New Jersey got aggravated, so she said she wanted to deal locally. ... It wasn’t one specific promotion so to speak. It was more of getting a customer who had a wide variety of needs. They get promotional products—anything from tents to cinch bags to apparel, shirts for their employees and staff. Just outside of our normal customer profile, and it was a good account for us.3
PM: When you started working with this account, did you run into any challenges?
KL: Just the long process of trying to get them as a customer, because you throw a lot of bread in the water and some of it hopefully floats in. You’re just kind of taking a chance, and that’s part of the situation when you’re in sales. You have to realize at some point to cut your losses. It’s kind of a judgment decision. That was more of the fulfilling part of it. Every six months or so I’d stop by, and eventually they wound up ordering from us.
PM: What advice would you give distributors in a situation like this where they want to get a new account?
KL: I think sales, even with the computer and online availability, is still a thing of relationships. And when you’re dealing with promotional products and apparel, there’s not a lot of price difference (sometimes we’re even less than what the internet would charge). And you actually get to meet the customer and go over what they need, because it is kind of a physical thing, rather than ordering a form or some abstract piece of paper or something the customer really doesn’t need to see—as opposed to wanting a certain type of Dri-Fit shirt or certain type of a water bottle. A lot of times they want to see samples, and if you form a relationship, that’s where you have an advantage over competitors. There seems to be more loyalty.