Gotta Love These Supplier Best Practices
I’ve been in the promotional products industry for more than 25 years, both selling products and programs, and coaching and educating distributor sales professionals. I've seen a multitude of changes in that time, but one thing remains the same: our reliance on quality suppliers.
Sure, I've had my share of bad experiences working with the wrong suppliers, but this article isn't about to go negative. Instead, it’s a love story to our many outstanding suppliers, their staffs and their best practices.
SUPPLIER BEST PRACTICES
In today's highly competitive environment, distributors have their challenges and so do suppliers. Below are a few suppliers and their best practices that will help you, the distributor sales professional, to sell more, sell better and sell faster.
FREE VIRTUAL SAMPLES
Supplier Admints and Zagabor, Bellmawr, N.J., (recently purchased by Hit Promotional Products), offers free virtual presentations. Send it art from your top prospects and it will create a free virtual presentation for you. Clients love seeing how their logos will appear on a product, and these presentations have helped me secure more than my share of great orders. The turnaround is quick, the support staff and follow up is great, and working with them is a pleasure. Take advantage of free virtual samples that Admints and Zagabor, and many other suppliers, provide. It’s a great way to increase your sales.
FREE POST-PRODUCTION PRODUCTS
Here's another best practice that is a big help in increasing sales. I love when suppliers send a post-production sample of the product with its invoice. This practice has helped me secure more than my share of new orders. Suppliers Americanna Company, Plymouth, Mass., and VisionUSA, Rahway, N.J., are two suppliers that routinely do this. I'm sure there are others.
When I call on a client, I can show them samples of what's been done for other clients in non-competing industries. When they can see and feel an actual product, it helps them to have a better understanding of how this can work for them. Also, VisionUSA sends complimentary products with the original order so that the client can start a continuity program. For example, if a coffee mug was ordered, VisionUSA will then send a pen/pencil caddie with the invoice to create a continuity program.
Have you ever needed an answer right away and the sales representative was out to lunch or away from his or her desk? Years ago, apparel supplier Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J., instituted a fast-answer service. If your rep is out, its fast-answer person is always available. These days, more and more suppliers are routing calls to the next available person.
QUICK RESOLUTION OF PROBLEMS
If you've been in the business more than a few years, you know that mistakes sometimes happen on orders. The thing that will stay cemented in your client's mind is not what happened, but how the problem was handled. Recently I had order arrive at a client's location in not the best of condition. Supplier Leed's, New Kensintgon, Pa., assigned a person to immediately handle the issue, who offered a resolution that the client and I were very happy with. Resolving the issue quickly and satisfactorily is what will be remembered.
INSIDE SALES REPRESENTATIVE
This is different than the customer service person for your area. The inside sales representative is specifically there to help you increase your sales. My inside sales representative, Teri Cullina at Norwood, Clearwater, Fla., has always come through for me with samples, virtual proofs, extra support and great deals that make me look fantastic to my clients. Check with your favorite suppliers to see if they have inside sales representatives for you.
MULTI-LINE OR OUTSIDE SALES REPRESENTATIVE
Many suppliers have outside or multi-line representatives that will come to your location with product samples, catalogs and case histories, and can be a great resource for you. In the past, I've had outside representatives go on challenging sales calls with me. The samples they provide, their product knowledge, and their ideas and case histories have been invaluable in increasing my sales. If you are looking for a more personal connection and want some extra care, ask if your top suppliers have multi-line or outside sales representatives that can meet with you. One of my favorites is Steve Mitchell, a multi-line representative who has always been available to help me bring in more sales.
END-USER FRIENDLY EMAIL BLASTS
I get tons of email blasts every day, as I’m sure you do. If I see something that is great for one of my clients, I love how quickly I can remove the supplier contact information and send it off to my account. PromoCorner.com, North Kingstown, R.I., makes this easy for you by offering end-user-safe email blasts. Recently I sent an end-user-safe catalog of made-in-the-U.S. items from PromoCorner.com. It helped keep my name and company visible in front of a client that will only buy items made in the U.S., and I know it will help secure more orders. Many email blasts have options for end-user-friendly blasts. If you’re not taking advantage of this service, you are missing out on increased sales.
I would love to hear from you. What supplier best practices do you enjoy?
Rosalie Marcus, The Promo Biz Coach, is a promotional products business expert, coach and speaker. Combining her skills and years of experience in promotional sales, she helps her clients sell more at higher profit margins and dramatically increase their incomes. Get a free special report: "10 Big Mistakes Promotional Professionals Make and How to Avoid Them" at www.promobizcoach.com. Reach her at Rosalie@promobizcoach.com or (215) 572-6766.