Writing off the Cheap Talk
5) Get Samples for the Client Too
Samples, of course, are useful for more than your own personal education. To get clients to see past an item's price-point, consider sending them a few samples to feel out. "Always request samples, and let your customer hold and write with them," said Lisa Newell, vice president of national accounts for Gold Bond Inc., Hixson, Tenn. "Once they like the way a pen feels and writes, price becomes secondary to value."
6) Know Where Competitors Cut Costs
As points three through five express, knowing as much as you can about your own products is vital in overcoming commodity pricing; however, knowing about your competitors' manufacturing choices can be just as important. "Education is key—and understanding what the differences are in quality and how that impacts value," said Margit Fawbush, communications manager for BIC Advertising & Promotional Products, Clearwater, Fla. She highlighted a number of areas where other suppliers will typically try and cut cost, such as roller-ball quality, retraction mechanism durability and imprint standards. Fleming noted other elements to check, including the grade of any plastic or metal used in the body, the amount and quality of the ink, and the overall weight of the pen (with some plastic pens, a lighter weight can indicate a mold adjusted to use less plastic, resulting in a weaker body).
7) Build Relationships
Emphasizing your marketing skills and knowing your product inside and out may be enough to avoid price problems, but it's also important to remember that our industry is one based heavily on customer/buyer relationships. A strong relationship with a supplier can be worth a lot in a tight pricing situation. "Don't forget people like doing business with people they like—whether it is the supplier/distributor or distributor/buyer relationship," said Fleming. "Distributors that develop a personal relationship with the right pen supplier can guarantee their orders will be given the care they deserve." This "care" could be anything, from a few cents or a few days shaved off an order, which could be just enough to win over a tough client.