Prospecting is the lifeblood of your business and it needs to be tackled with enthusiasm, both when it's working and when it is not working. I'm sure that sales must be a roller coaster in most businesses, but it seems extreme in ours. The key is to keep doing the things that work and to stop doing the things that don't work.
What you want to work on is developing your skills around framing all discussions around problem solving. Not many companies have a promotional products problem. Finding promotional products and finding them cheaper is not a problem for most companies. I often say that nobody buys promotional products. They buy celebrations, commemorations, communications. They buy increasing sales, increasing response rates, increasing employee and customer engagement. They buy safer workplaces, lower insurance costs, bigger order sizes. They want to reactivate old customers and attract new ones. Think about what it is that you are really selling. It's not what a product is. It's not even what a product does. It's what a product means.
When prospects are buying and bidding promotional items, your value-add becomes difficult. When they are looking for solutions to a problem, you take price out of the equation and you create value for yourself. Your ultimate goals are to become indispensable to the client and to make them look good. Help your clients get promoted.
This takes an "education-based marketing" approach. It's much harder for someone to stall or brush you off or put you in a category of "stuff" sellers if you ask for the initial appointment by telling them that you and your company have done some research that you would like to share with them about Five Ways to Reactivate Former Customers or Three Ways to Build Your Facebook Fan Base, or Seven Ways to Lower Insurance Costs, or some other direct benefit.
This approach will make it easier to get appointments, establishes you as an expert, creates more loyalty. It makes the client feel good about you as a vendor partner. They feel like they're hiring/dealing with a professional.
It does require some work on creating the content but it should work across many industries and for many different types of prospects. I had a client—Krylon Spray Paints—and I was their "sales promotion agency." My client spoke disparagingly about a promotional products distributor who, in his words, "he's always just trying to sell me coffee mugs. What do I need coffee mugs for?" I thought about his question and developed a campaign to communicate the Krylon difference and competitive advantage. To educate consumers on the fast drying nature of Krylon, I sold him the "Take A Krylon Coffee Break" campaign. It told consumers that in the time it took for them to take a coffee break, the paint was ready for a second coat or dry to the touch. I sold them over 15,000 coffee mugs that day. No, wait a minute—I didn't sell them a single coffee mug. I sold them on a communication and advertising campaign that resulted in 15,000 in-store displays and sold over a million cans of spray paint and increased Krylon's market share.